Tuesday, November 16, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 284: Lynne Kaufman
Hometown: The Bronx, New York City
Current Town: San Francisco
Q: Tell me about Acid Test.
A: After having written and produced some twenty full length plays, I've written my first one person play. I wanted to get back to uninterrupted story telling . ACID TEST is inspired by the life of Ram Dass, aka Richard Alpert. It explores his life from being a young, tenured psychology professor at Harvard in the 1960's, where, along with Timothy Leary, he ran a legal experiment using psylocibin, to his being fired by Harvard, and, with Leary, starting the psychedelic revolution.
The play traces Alpert's pilgrimage to India, where he meets his guru, and experiences spiritual enlightenment. Alpert returns to the States as Ram Dass (Hindi for Servant of God), becomes a revered spiritual teacher and sets up several major philanthropic organizations. And then he is 'stroked', paralyzed on his right side, and stricken with aphasia. Once again he has to reinvent himself.
ACID TEST interweaves the journey of a singular life, a time of cultural change, and an attempt to understand 'the big picture.' It just had its first staged reading in Independence, Kansas, where I and Adam Szymkowicz are playwrights in residence at the William Inge Theatre Festival. Simon Levy directed ACID TEST and Jonathan McMurtry played Ram Dass. It was a joy to work with such talented collaborators and the play was very well received. It will get its next outing at The Throckmorton Theatre in Mill Valley, CA. on Dec. 8th.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: Starting a new play,"Quick, quick, slow" about a couple on the verge of divorce who, in a last attempt to save their marriage, head to Buenos Aires to take tango lessons. Their teachers, a young Argentinian couple, have major relationship problems of their own.
How does the magic of tango 'the dance of love' change their lives.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: When I was 8, I got my first library card and I could check out 10 books at a time. I carried them home, closed the door of my room, and lost myself in the books...The Bobbsey Twins, Little Women, Fairy Tales. Transported to another world. I became someone else. That's why I write.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: A return to regional theatre when local theatres produced local playwrights. Every working playwright needs a home.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Checkov. Shakespeare. Ibsen. Tennessee Williams. Arthur Miller. They speak to me loud and clear.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Theatre that makes me think and feel and remember.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: See and read as many plays as you can. Hang out at your local theatre. Get to know the folks there. Enter contests. Join or form a playwrights group. Keep writing. Hone your own voice. Follow your own passions. It's worth it!