Thursday, November 25, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 288: Lally Katz


Lally Katz

Hometown:
I was born in Trenton New Jersey. But we moved to Miami when I was three, and then to Australia when I was eight and three quarters.

Current Town:
Melbourne, Australia.

Q:  Tell me about your upcoming play with the Production Company.

A:  In the play, the internet has its own cities. They're cities you can physically go to. The city this play focuses on is Myspace New York. It's about this girl who leaves her hometown for Myspace New York, and when she gets there, she falls in love with someone who's not capable of being a true part of life anymore. The play follows her journey in Myspace New York. It's kind of a comedy and kind of a tragedy. Oliver Butler, the director from the Debate Society is directing it. He's really very brilliant. I'm loving working with him and the cast.

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  I've got three premieres coming up in Australia next year, they're called 'A Golem Story', 'Neighbourhood Watch' (which is about the 84 year old Hungarian lady who lives across the street from me in Melbourne and is kind of my best friend and sometimes enemy) and 'Return to Earth'.

Q:  How would characterize Australian theater?

A:  Gosh, there are so many different kinds of Australian theatre. But I think that a lot of Australian theatre that really works kind of subtly sidles into what it's doing- so that you don't realise where it's going until it's there.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  Sorry this is really long!

When I was about fourteen years old, I want caving (spelunking) with my outdoor education class at high school. We repelled deep into this cave called the Punchbowl. It was dark and you had to negotiate your way down, wearing a headlamp, and bouncing off of and scrambling down a forty meter (don't know what that is in feet or yards) cave wall. Once in the cave, we went for all these adventures. In the dark. Through chambers full of bats. Sliding down a wall in a place called The Ballroom Chamber where it sounded like music was playing because of the voices of the bats. Over never ending holes in the ground, that you had to kind of edge around or jump over. After these adventures we went back to the base of the forty meter cave wall that we had repelled down. The only way up, was by climbing a very thin, shaky sort of silver metal and chain ladder. I was very scared about this. At the bottom of the ladder, was a sort of grave, made of rocks. Our teachers said this grave was fake and a joke that spelunkers had made. But the longer I was down there, at the bottom of the ladder, the more I began to feel that this grave was real.

I started to think that the grave was for this half bat, half man creature that now roamed the cave, looking for young girls as victims. I got more and more frightened. It became kind of an intense claustrophobic feeling.

When it finally came my turn to climb up the ladder, I was terrified. I was pretty sure I would fall down it and die. But I was sure that if I didn't climb it, then the I would be killed by the creature from the grave.

When I finally reached the top of the cave wall, I sat down, so relieved, in the opening of the cave. It was mostly closed in, but from the top, I could see the sky and all the bright, bright stars. I guess I was kind of halluncinating. Because when I sat there, watching the remaining students climbing from the pitch black, up out of the cave, I would see the light of the headtorches gliding over the cave walls. And I could, so clearly and realistically painted into the cavewalls portraits of young women. Their faces, their expressions, their personality. And I knew these were the young women that this half bat, half man had kept in the cave, sacrificing so that he could taste life and light. I was so sure it was real.

When I got home, I wrote about this giant bat/man creature sacrificing a girl in the cave. For some reason, I decided to write it as a play. I'd never written a play before. But it just seemed right. I haven't stopped writing plays since then.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I guess I would change it so that mainstream theater was made for audiences of all different ages, of all different demographics and that we trusted that audiences wanted to launch off into places they haven't been.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Here are just some- I have more- but it will start getting crazy if I list all the people and companies I admire in theatre: Mac Wellman, Robyn Nevin, Caryl Churchill, Thorton Wilder

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  It doesn't matter what style it is. As long as it's true to itself, has a pulsating heart that you can feel, and that humbles you, changes you, challenges you.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Just put on a play. Get anyone you can- even if the only people you can find aren't quite right- just get them and put something on. That's how you learn. By seeing and hearing your work. Also, see as much theatre as you can. Go and see all the theatre- every different type as often as possible. Also, read your own work outloud to someone you trust- it helps you to know exactly what it is, what parts work and what parts need work.

Q: Plugs, please:

A: Plug for 'Goodbye New York, Goodbye Heart' at the Here Center:
http://www.productioncompany.org/productions/goodbye.shtml

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