Sunday, December 12, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 295: Rachel Bonds
Hometown: Sewanee, Tennessee. It’s a little college town in the mountains.
Current Town: Brooklyn, NY. Greenpoint, specifically.
Q: Tell me about Michael & Edie.
A: Michael & Edie actually began as a short story about a guy who worked at a pizza joint on the West Side of Chicago and had a crush on his co-worker, who always seemed distant and sad. He made pizzas and pined away for her during the day, and at night he visited his dying sister in the hospital, sitting up next to her in a chair and reading through every book on the list of The 100 Greatest American Novels. And he would go out on the roof of the hospital and smoke cigarettes and think about the girl in the pizza place.
At some point I started experimenting with how I could make this story theatrical—I started wondering what would happen if I put the characters in real time and real space and made them talk to each other (or to themselves, in Michael’s case). And the story shifted quite a bit as I found its theatricality and delved into the possibilities therein.
It remained a story about grief, though—about living with grief and the corners and crevices of escape we create in our minds. And though the story deals with the possibility of romance between the two title characters, I was more interested in the idea of a “near miss,” in something more human and wonky—something lovely and brief between two people that passes and is gone.
Robbie Saenz de Viteri, who directs the show, and Matthew Micucci, who plays Michael, came to me over the summer and said, “Hey, remember the play we did a reading of 2 years ago? Let’s do that play.” So I dug out the script and made extensive revisions and we worked to produce it, along with our friend/co-producer John DuPre. It’s been a fantastic process, one of my favorites, and the script has made leaps and bounds through the rehearsal process, with the help of our very smart cast, who have cared for the story as their own.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I’m working on revising a new full-length called The Noise Play, a play I’ve been working on with director Portia Krieger. We staged an excerpt of the piece at New Georges in November, and we’re aiming to further develop the script in the near future. The play explores the idea of living with fear—and centers around Ellie, who, while falling in love with Amos, finds herself haunted by The Noise, a dark creature that plagues her at night.
I’m also working on a new short play called Ghost Life, about a young man, George, who becomes deeply infatuated with a stranger visiting his town for the summer while his mother is simultaneously losing her mind. It’s a play about obsession.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: My dad always used to tell this story to describe me: When my sister and I were growing up, we lived on a street that was a circle. And my dad would walk us around this circle—and while my sister liked to walk a little bit, turn around, inspect something, turn back around, wander a bit, explore something else, etc., I liked to walk directly around the circle in a straight line, very focused, without stopping.
I relate this to the reason I like to run---it’s something about the need to push through something and get to the other side. I approach my writing in this way. It’s athletic.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I wish producing plays was simpler. I wish productions happened more frequently. There are so many incredible writers and not nearly enough organizations to produce their plays. I’m interested in finding more ways to produce produce produce—as I think it’s the best thing we can do for our scripts.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Oooh. I have a lot of heroes, some people, some places. It’s a running list: Pig Iron, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Tim Crouch, The Bushwick Starr, Linsay Firman, Susan Bernfield and New Georges, ERS, Ellen Lauren, Melissa James Gibson, Jenny Schwartz, Lisa D’Amour, Bill Irwin, Billy Carden, George Bernard Shaw, Wedekind, Caryl Churchill…
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I’m interested in the marriage of theatricality and simplicity. Like, if someone on-stage held up a plastic shopping bag and shone a flashlight on it and called it The Moon. I love seeing things transform like that.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Make time to write, even if it’s just 30 minutes every day. Carve out that time. Even if it feels like a waste and not a real job and you feel guilty. It’s not a waste.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Michael & Edie runs through December 19th at Access Theater in Manhattan. We’ve just been named a NY Times Critics’ Pick---so seats are filling up fast! You can get tix through our website: www.greenpointdivision.com/michaelandedie