Featured Post


1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Feb 24, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 124: Sharr White

Sharr White

Hometown:  I grew up in Orange County, California until I was twelve, then Boulder, Colorado through high school.

Current Town:  I now live in Cold Spring, New York, which is an almost unbearably quaint little village on the Hudson River, an hour north of Manhattan.

Q:  Tell me about Sunlight, the play going up as a National New Play Network "rolling world premiere." What does that mean? Where are the productions and what is the play about?

A:  On the surface Sunlight is about an epic ideological power struggle between a liberal but abusive university president, and his conservative former protégé who is now dean of the university’s law school, and whom performed work during the Bush administration focusing on interrogation policy. The play unfolds in real time, and depicts the last hour and a half of the president’s tenure at the university. Word has come to Matthew (the president) that that Vincent (the protégé) is under investigation by the Defense Department for permissions given in 2002 that inadvertently resulted in the beating death of a teenager in Afghanistan. Matthew has stormed across campus and, in an impotent rage, has destroyed Vincent’s office. This is the last straw for the school faculty who have been abused by Matthew for years, and, on the night of the play, are across campus casting a vote of no confidence against him. The play takes place in Matthew’s residence where his daughter, Charlotte—who is married to Vincent—and Matt’s longtime assistant, Maryanne, are preparing for Matt’s exit from the university. What the play really is, though, is a kind of mourning piece for what we lost on the morning of September 11, both against our will, and willingly. And how the choices we made as a nation marked a tragic turning point for us. It’s really about the fact that nothing will ever be the same for us again.

The National New Play Network is a coalition of theatres who’s goal is to give new plays as wide a premiere as possible. Every year they select a handful of scripts for consideration, each of which comes with a small stipend for any Network theatres interested in producing. It’s a really, really wonderful way to launch a play. You don’t have to fear the property being killed by a New York launch you may not be ready for, and it allows you to modify the script right after its initial production and see how it plays immediately following. Sunlight premiered at Marin Theatre Company, and is in rehearsal at Phoenix Theatre Company in Indianapolis and ArtsWest in Seattle, and will be performed again this summer at New Jersey Rep. All because Marin Theatre Company introduced the play to NNPN.

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  I’m workshopping a new play in New York called The Other Place, which is about a medical researcher whose sudden appearance of early-onset Alzheimer’s Disease allows her missing daughter to suddenly come back to her. It’s told in the first-person, and as the play unfolds we realize at the same time as the main character that nothing she says can be trusted.

I’m also writing a new play, which is a commission for South Coast Repertory—I’m not yet exactly sure what it’s about.

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

A:  I grew up in a very chaotic household. I’ve got a brother and four sisters, and my parents divorced when I was twelve, and I was relentlessly bullied when I was in grade school. When my mother moved us to Colorado I was able to reinvent myself, escape the bullying, even fit in a little. I think all my plays have central characters who are both a part of their surroundings and yet because of what they’ve been through, also quite lost. An acquaintance of mine told me a few years ago that my plays are about people who become found by others. And in many ways I think that’s true.

Q:  In your opinion, what is the purpose of theater?

A:  Human beings have a deep need not just to experience catharsis, but to experience catharsis together. On some level this is what has powered the building of group identity, of societies. Haiti, the China earthquakes, New Orleans, all the way down to local news stories that cause outpourings of emotion. Without minimizing the true depth of the human suffering that is actually happening, there is a reason for this secondary reaction, the reaction of those of us hearing about the news which creates subsets of societal identity. And what theatre does is allow for this catharsis and this identity to be experienced and tapped into without the experience of actual tragedy. For me, privately experiencing catharsis within a group of people, each of whom is privately experiencing exactly the same thing as me, is what makes that rare breathless silence in a good night of theatre so stunning; we’ve all agreed on some profound emotional level to stop breathing at the same time, and it’s glorious. And then someone in the audience chokes on their gum and ruins everything. And that’s life.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I’m really excited by anything experimental, with a lot of risk, a lot of humor and really big stakes. With one caveat, which is that I want to see it work. I’m not saying I won’t like a new piece if it doesn’t work, but I’m mystified by really tough pieces that actually do work. It’s like a really good magic trick; years later I want to be able to say “How did they do that”?

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

1. On output: Slow and steady wins the race. It doesn’t matter how much you write in one sitting, it only matters that you write every single day. A page; an hour; a half hour. Don’t bother with saving up your ideas for the few times in a year you can escape for long periods of binge writing; you’ll just procrastinate, and plays take time to develop properly. And I’m not talking about “writing time”, I’m talking about calendar time. You have to live with a play, make it a part of your life, before you begin to understand what it’s really about.

2. On Money: Don’t ever count on making any as a playwright, so find something else to do for money, and let yourself truly understand that you will be doing that something else for a long, long time. Make sure it’s something that lets you live and have a life—a good life—and that also lets you write. In my money life I’m an advertising copywriter. I didn’t think I could do this and be productive, but I’m more productive now than I’ve ever been, plus I can get my teeth cleaned for free. When I landed my first corporate job, my life got better. And my writing got better. I think of it as a sort of personal corporate subsidy of the arts.

3. On the savior myth: I think so many artists operate under a savior myth, which is that one day their lucky break will come—always in the form of some life-changing chunk of money or some incredible benefactor—and that everything in their lives will change. And so we wind up waiting and waiting for our windfall, until our lives are over. Here is the cold truth: There is no savior. There is no cavalry. You are your cavalry. Even when your plays become good enough to get a fantastic agent, or a few very good producer contacts, none of that matters unless you are writing, writing all the time, and writing well. And even then a good play will take years to reach market, and the payoff from a single property will be small, so you must have many, many good properties in order to even flirt with making a living. Which means write, write, write, write, write. This is a fact and must be added into the equation of your life as a playwright.

Q:  Plugs:

A:  If you’re in New York, plan on seeing Yank!. http://www.yankthemusical.com/

David Zellnik is a genius writer and a wonderful person, and he does deeply imaginative, connected work that I as a writer try to study.

Feb 23, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 123: Michael Lew

Michael Lew

Hometown: La Jolla, CA

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about microcrisis.

A:  microcrisis is a play about the next financial crisis. It's about what happens when bankers exploit microcredit, the small charitable loans to Third World entrepreneurs meant to alleviate global poverty. It's about bankers lumping microcredit into complex financial instruments that ravage the international economy. It's also a bonkers comedy. Stylistically, I'm trying to reconcile the wacky, senseless style of my short plays with the more serious intent of my full-lengths. I'm hoping to take the sensibilities I've honed in my shorts and use comedy as a weapon. I've also been thinking for the past several years about how to write an effective political play - how to do theater that reflects what's going on in the world without falling into the usual traps of preaching to the choir, defanging the truth, or making "expendable art" that's ripped from the headlines but forgotten tomorrow.

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  microcrisis has been occupying most of my brain space lately. This is a workshop production, so I've been rewriting throughout the process. But after this ends I'm hoping to start up a new play for a couple of actresses that I like, and collaborate on a new musical with former Youngblooder Matt Schatz.

Q:  Tell us about Youngblood. Who are they what do they do, etc.

A:  Youngblood is an incredible incubator of emerging talent, housed at Ensemble Studio Theatre. It's a writers' group for playwrights under 30. We meet weekly to go over drafts in progress, do workshops like the one microcrisis is getting, produce a ton of short plays, go on artist retreats, and we do a monthly Sunday brunch series where the audience watches a series of new short plays all written on the same topic (while eating pancakes and drinking Bloody Marys). Youngblood and the Ma-Yi Writers' Lab have been my greatest fronts of support over the past several years as I continue trudging through emerging writer hell.

Q:  You had a short in Humana. What was that experience like?

A:  Yeah, I had a short last year (Roanoke, about re-enactors at the Roanoke Living Museum) and the year before that (In Paris You Will Find Many Baguettes But Only One True Love, about a sad sack and her best girlfriend who falls in love with a Parisian street mime). Both of those shorts actually got their start in Youngblood and premiered at Humana. Being at Actors Theatre of Louisville was incredible. The theaters there are so gorgeous, and the support system is astounding. To see these ridiculous plays getting fully produced was joyful and a little surreal. For instance, Roanoke had a huge teepee and an arrowhead display as part of the set, and one of the girls wore a breakaway skirt that she shed for the final dance number (which Matt Schatz composed). When Roanoke was first done at Youngblood, there was no set and I think the actors had to hunt through their closets for costumes. The Humana Festival itself is also quite fascinating. The plays themselves are really solid, but I'm also interested in how the machine of it works: the way the apprentice company does round the clock set changeovers to cram 10 different shows into 3 theater spaces. Or the way the entire theatre industry descends onto Louisville. It was really interesting being a gnome among giants and watching this whirlwind of drama onstage and off.

Q:  You're engaged to be married to another playwright. I'm married to another playwright and know a few other playwright couples, but we're rare. What are advantages of being a playwright couple?

A:  I am engaged to Rehana Mirza, whom I met in the Ma-Yi Writers' Lab. What's funny is that we want to accomplish VERY different things in our writing and yet we have a profound respect for the other person's work and a deep understanding of their writing mechanics. Oftentimes we'll suggest edits or lines that are absolutely in the other person's voice -- things that we'd never dream of putting into our own writing. I think the biggest advantage of being a playwright couple is always having an advocate - someone who knows your work inside and out and who's always willing to engage with you and keep pushing you to get better as a writer. I think another major advantage is an innate understanding of the difficulty of this career path. We're able to celebrate the small victories together and weather the many challenges. For instance, this is the second year in a row that I've been in rehearsal over Valentine's Day. Rehana didn't even blink. She gets that when we're in production it's a rare and lucky moment, and so what might seem like an obstacle or an inconvenience to anyone else is actually a cause for celebration to us.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  As I said early, lately I've been hunting for plays that attack the political world in a way that's nuanced, honest, and longlasting. I also like plays that transport me to other worlds, either through the language or through the writer's unique logic. I love plays with a good sense of humor. My favorite writers are Steve Belber, David Lindsay-Abiare, Julia Cho, Julia Jordan, Lloyd Suh, Qui Nguyen, and my fiancee Rehana. My favorite productions over the past few seasons have been Passing Strange, Blasted, and Princes of Waco (by fellow Youngblooder Rob Askins). I'll tell you what really excites me: plays that reflect our multicultural world and that depict a unique perspective. So often I see plays that portray the same kinds of people, that offer the same viewpoint, and that speak to the same kind of audience. It's as though year in and year out the titles change but I'm seeing the exact same play over and over again. I think that if this art form is going to be viable against other forms, we need to mount work that is vital and immediate. We need storytelling done in a form that's unavailable anywhere else. But above all, we need to hear stories from diverse artists, told from a different perspective.

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

A:  1) Surround yourself with a talented peer group (actors, directors, designers, and especially other writers). Talented peers will motivate you to sharpen your craft and step up to their level. 2) Learn the business side of theatre - definitely fight for what the theatre should be. But take a good, hard look at what the theatre is. 3) There's a limit to how far internships and schooling will take you. There's no shortcut for getting your hands dirty. 4) Aw, what the hell do I know about starting out, Adam? I've never even had a major full-length production. Nobody ever taught me anything that made this slog substantially easier. Some people love theatre so much that they're willing to slog on, and some people don't. It's all just an endurance game, no?

Q:  Plugs:

A:  last 2 performances of microcrisis at EST (52nd betw 10th and 11th) Thurs 2/25 and Fri 2/26. 7pm.

Feb 19, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 122: Craig Wright

Craig Wright

Q:  Tell me about Blind, the show you have going up at Rattlestick.

A:  It’s a play about Oedipus and Jocasta. It takes place in the period of time during which they’re both offstage in Sophocles’ play, and it assumes that the story Oedipus eventually tells the people of Thebes — that he found the queen dead and put out his eyes — isn’t the truth. It uses Oedipus’ relationship to Jocasta and the kingship as a metaphor for our culture’s relationship to economic privilege, and the economic and social crisis in ancient Thebes mirrors the crisis in our own land and time.

Q:  What else are you working on right now?

A:  I have a few pilots in process in the world of television and my new play THE GRAY SISTERS, which deals with four sisters handling the fallout from prolonged sexual abuse by their stepfather, premieres at Third Rail Rep in Portland, OR in April. They commissioned it.

Q:  You have had success both in TV and theater.  How do you find the time to continue to do  both?

A:  My son’s all grown up and in college. There isn’t much else to do besides work.

Q:  You most recently worked with, among other people, my friend and theatrical darling Sheila Callaghan on the Showtime show the United States of Tara.  What was that experience like and doesn't Sheila rock?

A:  Sheila is an immensely talented writer and a lot of fun to work with. Alan Ball, when I started at SIX FEET UNDER, told me I could have a future in television if I wanted one. I told Sheila the same thing about herself. What she chooses to do next remains to be seen, but whatever it is, it’ll be funny, provocative, and amazing. That’s just what she does.

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

A:  There was a street the kids called Bloody Lane about three blocks from where I lived when I was five. It was called Bloody Lane because the man who owned the house at the end of the street — it was really just a very long driveway — poisoned the squirrels in the trees, so there were always dead, run-over squirrels laying around in the rocks. Some 7th-graders on my street decided one day to ride their bikes down to the end of Bloody Lane and see what was there. I asked if I could come along. A gun came into play over the course of the adventure and I ended up with a badly broken leg, a good story, and the kind of protracted convalescence that tends to turns people into writers.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  My taste runs to the avant-garde: the Wooster Group, ZT Hollandia, Teatr Zar — these are companies that make work that inspires me.  At the same time, David Cromer’s perfect production of OUR TOWN was the best thing I’ve seen in a long while. I also just saw a show in Los Angeles called AN OAK TREE by Tim Crouch that was amazing. I like theater that doesn’t pretend to be simulating reality, theatre whose primary mechanism is what I would call “ceremonial” or “invocative.”

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

A:  Endeavor to be the most intrepid and honest person in the process when it comes to making the play itself better. Don’t settle for what other people will let you get away with. Don’t blame the actors. Make it better.

Feb 15, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 121: Laura Jacqmin


Hometown: Shaker Heights, OH

Current Town: Chicago, IL

Q:  You're going to Sundance.  Congrats!  Can you talk about the play you're bringing there?

A:  Sure! The play is called "Look, we are breathing." It's about the death of a teenage boy and how the three main women in his life - his mother, his AP English teacher, and his most recent party hookup - just aren't sad about his death. I was planning to write a monologue play, but I cheated almost immediately: less than one page in, Mike (the deceased) shows up, and he continues to influence the direction of the play. I wanted to explore the death of a young person and the conflicted feelings those closest to him might have felt - particularly if this kid was pretty much a stranger to everyone. I thought I was a fully-formed person when I was a teenager, but I know better now.

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  A weight-loss thriller comedy. No title yet. And DENTAL SOCIETY MIDWINTER MEETING, a hypertheatrical ensemble comedy about dentists set at the Skokie Marriott. Also, trying to chug through Chicago's endless winter - it always feels the worst in February.

Q:  What theaters or plays should I check out when in Chicago?

A:  There's no simple way to answer this question. Simply put, there are a million theater companies in Chicago and the fact that even the best rental venues are shockingly cheap means that there's way too much going on for a person to see even a small sampling. I'll be checking out Steppenwolf's Garage Rep next month (three shows by itinerant companies in the Garage space). Other exciting companies include Redmoon, Teatro Luna, The Strange Tree Group, and my home base, Chicago Dramatists.

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 sister and I loved radio when we were kids, so we would plug a microphone into the stereo and record our own radio shows on cassette tapes. We would do fake interviews with each other and pretend to be bands (I thought I was a truly excellent singer in third grade) and describe what we had done that day. I would never listen to what we recorded because I hated the sound of my own voice. Also, I liked to ask my dad to put on something by Stravinsky (usually Pulcinella or The Rite of Spring) and do "ballet" on the living room rug in a fake ballet outfit. I had no dance training, but I was absolutely convinced I was doing it right.

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

A:  Less fear. More honesty.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like story. I can sometimes be amused by gimmickry, but unless I have some concrete story to latch onto, I get exasperated. I also really enjoy being frightened by theater, which happens very, very rarely. A friend of mine directed a program of Beckett's shorts in college, and during "Not I" I just freaked out. It was terrifying and wonderful.

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

A:  Do your work, and work hard at it. Know where you're going with a project before you begin it, or at the very least, what you want to say. And don't get bitter; it's a time-waster and it never leads anywhere.

Q:  Plugs:

A:  I'm so proud of my fellow At Play Productions company members Harrison Rivers and Colette Robert, who will also be at Sundance with me, working on Harrison's play "When Last We Flew."

Feb 12, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 120: Stanton Wood

Stanton Wood

Hometown:  Southern California

Current Town:  Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about these one person shows you wrote for library tours. What are they about and how did you come to write them? Where can I go to see them?

A:  I’ve written three shows specifically for Urban Stages on Tour, which is a program that tours small-cast plays and arts-in-education projects throughout the New York City public library system (New York Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library, and Queens Public Library). At the Pole is about the discovery of the North Pole; Gates of Equality is about Martin Luther King; The Silkie is a collaboration with director Jon Levin that uses shadow and hand puppets and live music to tell a modern Brooklyn version of the Celtic legend about the sea people – seals who can shed their skin and walk around as people. The first two are monologue plays, and The Silkie is basically a story theatre piece with two actors and a violinist. Each show is about 30-40 minutes long and has to be simple and self-composed in its theatricality. It has to be transportable on the subway or a car, and the spaces radically vary – some performances are basically in a corner of the stacks, while some libraries actually have theatres with stages, and an audience can number anywhere from 9 to 130.

I ended up writing these because of my ongoing relationship with the company. Urban Stages produced several of my plays for young audiences on their main stage. One of those plays, my adaptation of The Snow Queen, had already toured the libraries as a staged reading, so I was familiar with the program and a natural fit when they decided to commission new work. You can find dates/times/locations on the web sites of the specific library systems (Queens: http://www.queenslibrary.org

Brooklyn: http://www.brooklynpubliclibrary.org

and New York: http://www.nypl.org

I try to keep a list on my web site (http://www.stantonwood.com ), and Urban Stages also keeps a list. I’m very fond of these projects. They probably have a truer cultural impact on my community than anything else I do.

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  I’m working on an adaptation of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for director Edward Elefterion and Rabbit Hole Ensemble, where I’m a resident artist. This is my third adaptation for them – I did a version of Dracula (The Night of Nosferatu) and last summer a version of Voltaire’s Candide (Candide Americana). My goal is to have half the audience running out screaming and waving their arms in the air and the other half quietly rushing home to clone their cousin. I’m not even sure I’m kidding about that. It’s a great story, and I’m excited to put my own spin on it.

I’m also developing a play with director Matt Morrow called An Apology for the Life of Leni Reifenstahl. That’s a multimedia project that explores the life of “Hitler’s film maker” - as an artist, as a fascist propagandist, her political identity, her relationship with Hitler, her claims of art for art’s sake, and her relentless quest to define her own identity, often in contrast to reality. The woman is grotesquely fascinating, and working on this play is like staring at a really strange half-dead bug on my kitchen floor.

I’m also working on a novel, and a play for young audiences, and I have a monologue play I’m trying to put together. I also have this interactive narrative fairy tale annotation project I’ve been desperately wanting to do, and I’d also really like to do some radio drama in podcast form or as performance art.

Q:  Tell me about the Garden Project.

A:  I like to do little side projects that force me to think differently and collaborate with other types of artists, and I’d been doodling with the idea of doing a blog, but I didn’t want to do a real theatre blog because I’m too obsessive and passionate and would spend the entire day crafting complex manifestos that I would then eventually delete before posting.

So I opted for a fake blog, instead. I asked Chris Bonnell, who’s a visual artist and illustrator, if he’d be interested in collaborating, and we cooked up this project called The Unbelievably Strange Wildlife Garden(which you can access from my web site if you’re interested). With absolutely no guidance from me, Chris draws an unbelievably strange creature (quite literally), and then I take his illustration and name it and write up a description of it in a phony Wikipedia style, fictionally integrating it into history, culture, literature, art, the movies, etc. We’re not trying to fool anybody really, it’s more like documenting a completely parallel universe all our own. In addition to the blog posts, sometimes we’ll bring the blog into the “real world” through flyers and leaflets, like when we posted flyers in Park Slope asking people to help us find Gurgles, our missing pet Abyssinian Leaf Sneezer. I also came across these hilarious mid-20th Century black and white photos of the Iowa State Fair a while ago, so they became my vacation photos from a recent trip to a phony European country, which I also documented in the Garden. It’s completely silly, but what the heck. I just hope some Middle School student is not plagiarizing a homework assignment using a description of the Hump Backed Arctic Snake Dog:

Q:  What is it like creating characters in the gaming industry?

A:  It varies by game and genre, of course, and the level of involvement of the writer in the design process. Sometimes writers are brought in at the tail end to buff up the dialogue and create more interesting personalities for minor characters. At the other extreme, you’re involved in the design process, in which case you have the opportunity to make character choices that actually contribute to the gameplay and story.

Part of narrative game design is giving players meaningful choices, so that means that secondary characters you create have to respond dynamically to those decisions. It becomes more like contributing characters and dialogue to a play where you don’t have complete control over the main character, a dramatic story universe. What choices you allow the player, and how the characters respond to those choices in the context of their own goals, becomes part of the writing process.

For instance, some games feature traveling companions with whom you build relationships - as a player, over the course of the game you can make game decisions and dialogue choices that can either piss them off to the point where they abandon you, or make them fall in love with you. Crafting that dynamic universe of character, story, behavior and dialogue - that potentiality - is what’s exciting. You have a lot more control over the whole character because you deal with many more possibilities, but you have less control over how a player/audience experiences that character because they basically choose the content. It’s interesting, because theatre artists seem to be increasingly experimenting with theatrical experiences that respond dynamically to audience input in a meaningful way. We’re all going to be writing for the holodeck eventually.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like story, and strong characters, and physicality. I like to enter a world and be transported, but I also like when the show is intensely and passionately relevant to the community. I love it when the audience is acknowledged, even if it’s not breaking the fourth wall, but where we’re included, where there’s generosity. I like to see physicality, actors using their whole body, not just their head and their hands, where a universe can be sketched with a specific gesture or bodies moving in space. I enjoy when I have to engage imaginatively with a piece - when there’s puppets, or music, or actors playing many roles, or the performance invites me to use my imagination. I love it when a show uses the whole space, when actors get on the ground or fly around in the sky. I love great writing, great insight, great ideas that haunt me after the show is over - meaningful experiences, where a writer dug deep, was brave, experimented, and where a director and actors made bold, confident choices.

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

A:  Plastics. No, but seriously: Diversify. Even successful playwrights augment their income by other kinds of writing and by teaching.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Well, Rabbit Hole Ensemble will be producing my version of Frankenstein (as yet no title) in October in Manhattan. I’m doing a workshop of my play Ramona’s Kidnapper in late May at Urban Stages, which theoretically culminates in a staged reading. Gates of Equality, At the Pole, and The Silkie are touring the New York City libraries this spring. Also, something I’m very excited about, the New York Public Library is doing a 250th anniversary celebration of Voltaire’s Candide, and they’ve asked the Candide Americana team to be involved. I’m annotating an online version of the book (Chapters 3 and 20), and director Edward Eleferion and I and the cast will be blogging. The public will be able to add content also, I believe. It’s basically designed to be a big group dialogue and celebration of a great book, and I can’t wait to see how it plays out. Part of it is live already, although perhaps not the part I’ve contributed to. But don’t let that stop you. I’m not sure, but I believe the address is http://candide.nypl.org

Feb 11, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 119: Jamie Pachino

Jamie Pachino

Hometown: Baltimore, Maryland

Current Town: Los Angeles

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A television movie, a pass on a feature spec that's about to go out, and (pending rights issues): a new musical. I'll also be teaching playwrighting at University of California, Irvine again in March.

Q:  If I moved to LA tomorrow, what theaters or shows would you suggest I check out?

A:  This is a tricky question for me, as I moved to LA when I was 6 months pregnant and had another child a few years later, so I haven't seen as much theatre out here as I would like. (I'm much better versed in Chicago theatre, where I lived for 14 years). For me it tends to be individual productions that have captured my attention in LA, rather than specific companies (which tend to be somewhat fluid out here, given the industry) so my allegiance hasn't really settled anywhere.

Q:  What are the difficulties and rewards inherent in writing for TV, film as opposed to theater?

A:  I think all of the mediums right now are experiencing similar challenges, given the current economic climate. People tend to be looking for a "sure thing" and skittish about material that takes chances. Theatre-wise, there are fewer and fewer slots made available for new work, and less interest in giving those slots to writers without a "name". In addition, development opportunities are slipping away, so it's hard to form the relationships that lead an unproven writer to getting those chances in the first place. All this is especially frustrating because I think many of the plays that have come in the last 5-10 years have been astonishingly good.

On the plus side, for me theatre still offers the two best parts of writing: true collaboration, and the ability to take great flights of imagination. I honestly love nothing more than sitting in a dusty rehearsal room with actors and a director I trust, trying to get the best draft possible out of my script-- along with the opportunity to break the rules, be theatrical, and play with language in a way that simply doesn't translate to film or TV.

Film and TV wise, obviously the pay is a lot better (if you're going to live in LA with two kids, this is a big plus!). It also offers more exposure for your work, and a completely different set of skills to operate around. (Coming from a theatre background, learning the language of film and how to use it wisely has been a great learning experience, and really gratifying when I've gotten it right). I've also had a chance to dissect different genres as I've been fortunate enough to write for animation, drama, thriller, historical romance, true-to-life stories, and more-- all of which keeps me on my toes.

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

A:  I love the stories on your blog, but I don't have any aha moment or strange/delightful background story to share on this. I will tell you that while I studied to be an actress in college, both my father and my acting teacher kept telling me I was going to be a writer. Took me a few years to see the light, but they were right.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Nearly all of it excites me, but the material I'm most drawn to is bold.--Not meaning the set/stage is large-- but bold in language, theatricality, and ideas. I'm completely drawn to theatre that demands something back, that engages and enthralls, that has a big heart, and something to say, and can be entertaining and surprising along the way. (Not too much to ask, right?)

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

A:  Keep writing. Don't just finish one masterpiece and be done. A theatre may love your work-- but not have a slot for it-- and when they ask "what else have you got?" you want 3 more scripts ready to hand over. Plus, the only way you get better and find the core of your voice, is to keep writing.

In addition, relationships are incredibly important. I've been represented by two of the biggest agencies in the world, but EVERY SINGLE PRODUCTION I've ever gotten was because of a connection I had already made. Directors are the ones that walk your scripts into theatres; lit managers read everything, and if they fall in love with something but can't use it at their space, they'll send it to their lit manager friends (they also constantly move to new theatres); actors work all over and talk about scripts they're dying to do-- everybody talks. As a corollary to this: be pleasant to work with, all the time. It's hard enough to get your work up and it's a verrrrry small community. If you're a pain to work with, people will know.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My plays WAVING GOODBYE and THE RETURN TO MORALITY can be found at Playscripts, Inc. (www.playscripts.com).

My play SPLITTING INFINITY was just named the winner of the Francesca Primus Prize.

For more: www.jamiepachino.com

Feb 10, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 118: Boo Killebrew

Boo Killebrew

Hometown:   Gulfport, Mississippi

Current Town:   Brooklyn, New York

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I just finished a script called "The Play About My Dad". Right now, I am working on revising it and getting it ready for a workshop in the Spring. I also just returned from a residency at Robert Wilson's Watermill Center with my theatre company, CollaborationTown. We began working on a new project (an ensemble created piece) about the self-help industry. I also am working with a sketch group, LaughterBirth. We are writing, filming and performing new sketches--it has been a lot of fun!

Q:  Tell me about your theater company. How did it come about?

A:  My theatre company is called CollaborationTown and we have been working together since 2003. We are a non-profit (we have a 501c3 status-yay!) and are committed to the development of new plays. One of our goals is to step outside of individual, traditional roles in order to unify different styles, opinions, emotions, backgrounds and philosophies into cohesive ensemble-driven pieces of theatre. We do a lot of ensemble created pieces, as well as more traditional "one playwright, one director" type projects. The seven founding members of CTown came together at Boston University's School of Fine Arts. We began working together there, and upon graduation, moved to New York and officially started CollaborationTown. The values that led to CollaborationTown’s founding; hard work, experimentation, and community, remain central to my identity as an artist.

Q:  You are also an actor and choreographer. How do these roles inform your playwriting and vice versa

A:  By working as a choreographer and actress, I’ve learned to write more physically and actively, as to understand theatre more completely. The whole of the theatrical process nourishes every aspect of storytelling for me. It is hard for me to focus on just one thing at one time: if I am acting, I am writing a story; if I am writing a story, I am choreographing bodies onstage; and when I am choreographing, I am investing in characters, so I am acting....it goes in circles like that for me and then becomes one big thing that I guess can be put under the description "Storyteller". Each time I invest in a creative process, I am taking all of my tools as a theatre maker and using them to explore the work as deeply as I can.

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

A:  Well, I had an imaginary family. My sister didnt have an imaginary friend, so I created a family that had two sisters, so that she would have one. I knew (and still know) exactly what they wore, what they were allergic to, what they wanted to be when they grew up. There was Katie, who was my friend; Susan, who was my sister's friend; there was Mary, their older sister who was away at college, but would come home from time to time and was always getting into trouble; and there was Baby Wanner...he was a baby boy and we always had to baby-sit him. I have no idea where the name "Wanner" came from. Basically, there was always a bit of drama happening with the imaginary family and my real family would get daily updates. So, I guess I was writing plot and characters then.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theatre that is fearless, whether that has to do with experimentation, humor, performances, direction, design, etc.

Two theatrical experiences that really, really excited me were "The Lily's Revenge" by Taylor Mac and "God's Ear" by Jenny Shwartz. Both those pieces just went for it and it was thrilling to witness.
I also love plays that are funny.

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

A:  I think the advice I would have to give is to find a support system of other artists. Whether that group is comprised of close friends, frequent collaborators, or is formed through a theatre; I think being a part of an artistic community is essential. I believe that continuing to hear other's work and ideas, as well as bearing witness to many creative processes, in an incomparable learning tool and a great comfort.

I would also say to write everyday. Develop it as a practice, similar to a Yoga or Zen practice and know that the actual do-ing of it is what it is all about.

Q:  Any plugs:

A:  CollaborationTown received a swing space grant the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council, and will be workshopping several new pieces this Spring, check out www.collaborationtown.org for details.
A short play of mine, called Date Night, is a part of a ten minute play festival this weekend at The Atlantic Theatre: Saturday February 13th at 4 PM and 8 PM, Sunday February 14th at 3 PM
Studio A @ The Atlantic Theater. 16th Between 8th and 9th Swing Space (it's free).

Feb 9, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 117: Daniel Reitz

Daniel Reitz

Hometown: Upstate New York.

Current Town: New York City.

Q: Tell me about the play you have going up at Jimmys No. 43.

A: It's a one-man piece called Afterclap -- the title refers to the unexpected fallout that happens after an affair. It's a site-specific piece, and the third site-specific play I've done in this space in collaboration with director Daniel Talbott and produced by our company, Rising Phoenix Repertory. It was written for actor Haskell King. It's about a man, a writer, who wakes up naked at 4 a.m. on the floor of a back room of a bar where he works as a bartender. Working through the fog of alcohol and pills, he hashes his way through the circumstances that's brought him to this state. He's a kind of young-man Krapp, and the play is about, among other things, the question of culpability -- when are we directly and indirectly responsible for the things that happen to others, what is it about our nature and behavior that sets off an irrevocable chain of events? How much do we even want to prevent these things from happening, if it means denying ourselves what we want? And is the torture we feel later worth it?

Q: What else are you working on?

A: A screenplay, a couple still-to-be finished plays. Things one should never discuss in depth when they're still be worked on.

Q: I actually don't think I've asked anyone yet about New Dramatists. Can you talk a little about what they do and what it's like to be a playwright in residence there?

A: New Dramatists is a true haven, a safe house in a lousy world for playwrights. Apparently, playwrights whine too much, or so I read recently somewhere, so I'll skip the "lousy world for playwrights" stuff, as any playwright knows exactly what I'm talking about, anyway. But the existence of New Dramatists is a buffer against the abuse, the disinterest, the dismissiveness of producers, agents, all kinds of professionals for whom the interests and desires of playwrights are not a first priority. New Dramatists is a community of very talented, disparate, driven writers who come together to share, inspire, share booze and food, and occasionally get into fights. It's a place where you can do readings and workshops anytime you want, under any circumstances you choose; a place where you can live if you need or want to (temporarily); where you sometimes even get paid to develop your work and where you can work with whomever you choose, not who's chosen for you. And it's a building full of the most loving, caring staff any organization could ever claim to have. I'm not a hyperbolic person; when I say these people are loving, I mean it.

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

A: That's a good, hard question. So much stems from childhood, right? I honestly can't think of any one thing that's not too personal or intimate. Your entire childhood informs you -- where you grew up, who your parents were, what economic background you came from. Sexuality. All that.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: Theatre that's not banal, not like tv or the movies, that's not written by committee or feels like it has, that's honest and takes real risks without being concerned with being "perfect," "finished," or "polished." Theatre where the writer, the actors and the director are fearless, but fearless along with possessing technique and intelligence. Theatre that employs wry, sharp, non-clichéd language. That jolts us and makes us feel acutely aware of being alive in this world, even if that's a deeply discomforting feeling, because theatre isn't necessarily supposed to make you feel pleased with yourself or happy to be alive. We don't ask that or expect that from the visual arts, from literature, from music. We often look to those art forms to elevate us, to tell us something. Why do we continually demand less from theatre?

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

A: Read and copy who you love, and eventually you will see what draws you to that person and what you have in common, and you will find your own voice -- slowly -- and then you will write for yourself. Always steal from the best, certainly from those who are better and smarter and have lived longer than you. Don't be disheartened by the lousy world that playwrights have to live in, because it is lousy -- unless you're lucky. Know that saying “no” can be a positive thing, and it won't lead to the end of everything. Stand up for yourself, because more people than you realize will try to disenfranchise you, whether or not they even mean to do it. Always proceed with a healthy spleen and very good humor. And remember that with no playwrights there would be no theatre, and no theatre business.

Q: Plugs, please:

A: Afterclap. It's a 40-minute piece about a man in misery. As Beckett said, nothing's funnier than that.

Check out Daniel's interview at the Clyde Fitch Report

Feb 8, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 116: Alan Berks

Alan Berks

Hometown: Chicago, Illinois

Current Town: Minneapolis, MN

Q:  Tell me about Music Lovers coming up in March.

A:  It's a love-triangle, romantic comedy thing about two musicians and a record executive, and the Workhaus Collective is producing at the Playwrights Center in March. I get to direct it too with an incredible cast and a set that will transform the rectangle that is the theater into a bar/coffee shop/art gallery/stage. I'm very excited. Come see it.

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  I started writing a novel. Seriously. (I think you and I had a conversation about novels when you were in Minnesota. Branching out.) I just felt like I wanted to deal with a wider range of subjects, more characters, bigger picture, and – as we all pretty much know – considering the economics of theater – you can't do that in theater.

Q:  Tell me about Minnesota Playlist.

A:  MinnesotaPlaylist.com is the website that my wife, Leah Cooper, and a friend, Matthew Foster, started in October of 2008 to fill the void in the Twin Cities for a more comprehensive source for information on Twin Cities performing arts. For such a large cultural scene, we thought there should be a trade publication of some kind. Also, we thought it would be fun. Sometimes, it's fun. Sometimes, it's a lot more work than we bargained for. But we're a central source for audition notices and a comprehensive performance calendar. We aggregate all the critic's reviews on the site and also provide a searchable database of talent in the Twin Cities. We also do monthly issues on various topics in the performing arts and get artists and arts journalists to write thought-provoking, or how-to, or memoir essays over the course of the month. . . What does it say that I can write more about this publication than I can about the show I'm so excited to be doing in March? It frightens me a little.

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

A:  I would actually fire every Artistic Director at every non-profit regional theater across the country, whether they were thought to be doing a good job or not, and replace them with someone fifteen years younger who has been running a completely independent but successful small theater in the same town.

Why the hell not? People keep talking about theater dying; maybe it's because theater leaders have bad taste, or are too set in their ways, or too isolated, or something. Seems to me we should do something more dramatic than have another conference about how we can improve our social networking marketing. Let's change something real and dramatic, something about the content that gets produced. In a way, I don't care what one thing it is as long as it's big.

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

A:  This is a great question. I think that if this were the question on grant applications that I was asked – instead of the describe-your-vision-as-an-artist question (Answer: depends on the time of day. . . ) – I might get more grants. . . And yet, now that I sit down to write about it, I go blank. . .

Here's one: The first script I ever wrote was a three-part sketch for the variety show in my high school. It was a parody of old-fashioned noir films, working on which I met the guy who would quickly become my best friend. Then, on opening night, I stepped out on stage in a trench-coat with a bubble gum cigarette dangling from my mouth and a fedora on my head and before I even opened my mouth to speak I heard a girl in the front row say, "He's cute." Then I started the monologue, and everyone started laughing, and kept laughing at all the right places. . . I think theater people are sometimes idealists because sometimes life in the theater is ideal.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like anything that is done well in any style on any subject though generally I enjoy active stories about adult people who actually do stuff in the world more than I like miniscule psychological analysis about people overwhelmed by their lives or archetypal abstraction that aren't about people at all. I like both language and very physical styles of theater. I like dance a lot these days. I like when theater makers remember that the theater is three-dimensional, that actors have bodies, and people – even in script-based plays - communicate with more than their tongues, teeth, and the location of their feet in relation to the fourth wall.

I get excited by plays where the playwright thinks that people other than him or herself are dumb, by plays that substitute clever for compassionate, or think that compassion is actually discovering that other people actually exist and they suffer. But that's a negative kind of excitement.

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

A:  I'd like to say, don't do it, but that's clearly not going to stop anyone really. Instead, I'd say that you shouldn't expect to make a living at it, and you should see that as allowing you the freedom to make the kind of theater you really like rather than the kind of theater that other people tell you is supposedly more commercially viable. No one, even the big regional theaters, is making commercially viable theater, so fuck 'em. There's always a bunch of serious or committed other theater artists to collaborate with. Find them and do what you want. . . Unless you're into musical theater. Then I don't know what you should do. Your theater is apparently commercially viable.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Looks like a play I wrote a few years back called "Almost Exactly Like Us" will be produced by an off-off Broadway theater company called Theater of the Expendable. I wrote it for a theater company in the Twin Cities called Gremlin Theater, and it came in wild and woolly and just barely in time for opening, so I'm happy that I'll get another chance to see it done. I actually became pretty proud of it in the end. (That's a plug for Gremlin Theater too.)

A bunch of Workhaus playwrights are doing a show at the Humana Festival this year with Dominique Serrand, formerly of Theatre de la Jeune Lune. I'm happy to plug them. They're friends.

Send us topic suggestions for MinnesotaPlaylist.com. That's also a plug.

if you're in Minnesota for the Fringe Festival in August, I'll probably be doing an ensemble-created, site-specific piece called "Ringtone." Come check that out.

Feb 6, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 115: Erik Ehn

Photo Credit Kagami 

Erik Ehn

Hometown: Dallas

Current Town: Providence

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  15 play cycle on the history of 20th century America through the lens of genocide. Soulographie.

Q:  Can you talk a little about "Arts in the One World"?

A:  Fifth iteration. Follow up to rat. Building an ensemble/conversation around art for social change in international community. Draft (draft!) agenda attached.

Draft Agenda 12/30/09

Home: Composing the Rooted Local in the Rapid Global Environment

How the arts and social services compose, consider, and translate community

We are looking at how the sense of home – the ways it is defined and enacted – is useful as a political and esthetic argument for fidelity, trust, immanence, the safe store of memory and the reconstitution of identity. (As against? in dialogue with? industry and the nation-state.)

AOW is an annual gathering; this is our fifth convening. We pull together students, faculty, practitioners and activists across disciplines, from immediate and international communities, framing presentations and conversations open to the school and the general public. We explore various ways artistic, political, and historical purposes intersect (through reconciliation, the recovery of historical memory, and advocacy for justice).

Our partner in hosting the conference is the Interdisciplinary Genocide Study Center (Rwanda) – where the Tutsi Genocide is researched, testimony is gathered, negationism is resisted, and social space for survivors is afforded.

Wednesday, March 17
2-5 Keynote presentation: Chinua Achebe in Conversation (R+R)
5-6 Conference introductions: History and overview
6-7:30 Dinner
7:30 Performance

Thursday, March 18 – Rwanda/Uganda: The Current Scene
8-8:30 Coffee
8:30-9 Reflections and Forecasts
9-10:30 IGSC Report
10:30-11 Break
11-12:30 IGSC Session 2
12:30-2 Lunch
2-4 Keynote Speakers: Hope Azeda, Carole Karemera
4-4:30 Break
4:30-6 Panel: Arts, service initiatives: Africa/Africa-US
4:30-6 Film: Jen Marlowe – Rebuilding Hope
6-7:30 Dinner
7:30-10 Performances, Presentations:
Jill Pribylova: Okulamba Dance Company
Colleen Wagner: The Monument
Film: Abigail Disney – Pray the Devil Back to Hell

Friday, March 19 – Palestine, Israel, The Mid-East: Conversations
8-8:30 Coffee
8:30-9 Reflections and Forecasts
9-12:30 Workshop: BoxWhatBox (Part A)
9-12:30 Panel: Becoming a Diasporic Cluster
12:30-1:30 Lunch
1:30-3:30 Presentations, with Q+A:
A: Lisa Schelssinger, Ed Mast, Laura Zam: from Collaterally Damaged
B: Guitta Tahmassebi: Operation Blackout, Michael Devine: Divided Territories: Making Theatre in Kosovo, Joanna Sherman, Michael McGuigan: Bond Street projects
C: Story Circle, facilitated by Devorah Neumark
3:30-4 Break
4-5:30 Conversation:
Rula Awwad-Rafferty, Neery E. Melkonian, Dorit Cypis: on Zochrot and the Nakba, incl. Norma Musih: on the town of Sumeil
5:30-7:30 Dinner
7:30-10 Performances:
Michael Anthony Reyes Benavides, Luis Rosa: Crime Against Humanity
Lauren Weedman: Bust (tent.)

Saturday, March 20: Opening out
[All day: Film Festival – shown on a rolling basis throughout the day.]
8-8:30 Coffee
8:30-9 Reflections and Forecasts – Yesterday, today
9-12:30 Performance Workshops:
Elaine Avila, Kate Weiss
Michael Devine – BoxWhatBox (Part B)
9-10:30 Concurrent Roundtables:
Systems (Theaters, Collectives, Social Initiatives)
Groups A and B
Special Topics:
A: Actions for the Individual Artist
B: Art and Personal Identity/Healing
C: Art and the Living Archive
10:30-11 Break
11-12:30 Concurrent Roundtables:
Systems (Theaters, Collectives, Social Initiatives)
Groups A and B
Special Topics:
A: Students and Activism
B: Cultural Diplomacy
12:30-2 Lunch
2-4 Concurrent Roundtables:
The Local and International in Continuum
Groups A, B, C, D
The Generations Project
4-4:30 Break
4:30-6:30 Concurrent Panels:
A: Art and Peacebuilding
B: The Visual Arts
Presentation:  Lili Bernard: Ceiba De Cuba
8-10 Performances:
Hector Aristizabal
Sandeep Bagwati: Transience
Paula Cizmar, Carol Mack: Seven, and Cklara Moradian: Tamam
Laura Zam: Collaterally Damaged

Sunday, March 21
8-8:30 Coffee
8:30-9 Reflections and Forecast
9-10:30 Panel: Storytelling Now
10:30-11 Break
11-1 Panel: Home and Homelessness
1-2:30 Lunch, Review, and Planning

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

A:  I was seven, I was fat. I dove into a life preserver at a public pool, got stuck. Drowning, upside down - pulled out and the only way to get the preserver off was to take my shorts off in plain view. Art!

Q:  You are now the head of the playwriting program at Brown.  What are your plans for the playwrights who will be studying there?

A:  Have them write a lot. Write with an awareness of the whole U, the town, the region, etc. - To accept responsiblity as community organizers. To advocate for joy, even the joy of outrage.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The kind that happens. What Abdoh was; community theater, anything that involves terrified people doing terrible things, or delighted people infecting the unsuspecting with delight. So, I guess, contagion.

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

A:  Get sleep, watch nutrition, stay strong and stay in trouble otherwise. Writing is a license to intrude, anywhere.

Q:  Any plugs?:

A:  Arts in the One World. Come on by!


Resources for playwrights

Places in New York to go read new plays by contemporary playwrights. 

The New Dramatists Library:


The Drama Book Shop:


New York Public Library for the Performing Arts


(You can also watch films here of plays and musicals from the recent and not so recent past, though I think you may have to reserve them ahead of time.)

Feb 4, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 114: Krista Knight

Krista Knight

Hometown: Portola Valley, CA

Current Town: La Jolla, CA

Q: What are you working on now?

A: We are about to start rehearsals for my play PHANTOM BAND in March (for the Baldwin New Play Festival here at UCSD) and there’s lots afoot with casting and designer meetings and the like. I’m starting something new so I won’t prematurely metabolize that play before we get into the rehearsal room. I’m alternating between a silent opera about a house painter obsessed with the family of a house he used to paint, and a play called SALAMANDER LEVIATHAN about a farmer named Salamander Leviathan who is being successively bled by the town schoolteacher in 19th century Wisconsin. I’m going to hear both tomorrow so I’m hoping one will float to the surface and make itself apparent as a play worth pursuit.

Q: You're getting an MFA at UCSD right now. What's that program like?

A: I love it. Naomi Iizuka (who runs the Playwriting program) is freaking fantastic. I really can’t say enough about how much she’s done for my writing and the way I approach theater. She makes me scared and excited and totally over-enthused about writing and play-making in discussion. Scared in a good way. In a – UH OH we’re going to create something and who the hell knows what it’s going to look like and if it’s going to escape and raze townships or bring people to a greater understanding of humanity– kind of way. I sweat a lot in workshop. Mostly I am grateful to be here.

The program itself is an exciting intersection of the theatrical arts – there are graduate designers, directors, actors, stage managers, choreographers, scholars, and playwrights all working in conjunction. In my second year I’ve taken greater advantage of the opportunities for interdisciplinarity. I took a sound design/telematics class in the fall, and I wrote new text for a production of LOVES LABORS LOST hybridized with a fictional Darwinian study of Sexual Selection. I also wrote the new text for an Enron-esque adaptation of Machiavelli’s play LA MANDRAGOLA.

San Diego sometimes drives me crazy. There is a gallery in La Jolla that only has sculptures of whales. Expensive glass whales. I think the door handles of the gallery are whale tales.

BUT the natural landscape here is beautiful and my German nanobiologist friend is teaching me how to surf. Also having The La Jolla Playhouse across the street is an asset. Their literary manager Gabriel Greene is dramaturging my Baldwin Play and we get tickets to some great theater.

Q: You were the fellow at P73 a few years back. How was that?

A: Despite the possibility of sounding entirely over-enthused, I loved that too. I think it’s the best career thing that’s ever happened to me. Asher and Liz took a risk on me. I proposed to write something about Intelligent Design and Evolution and came back with that piece about swarming teenagers and a molting grandmother I think they were like WHAT? But it worked out. It was such a rare and beautiful thing to have these intelligent, nurturing artistic advocates so soon out of undergrad. I would spend afternoons working on the play in their office in Brooklyn. They connected me with brilliant collaborators. That year is very special to me.

Q: You also were the impetus for P73 starting their writing group, Interstate 73. Can you tell me about that?

A: Sure! I had just moved to New York the year before and I thought it might be a good way of building an artistic community. When I first got the P73 Fellowship, Asher made a speech about making the fellowship what you wanted it to be—and they really facilitated that. I love responding to other writers and being part of a greater dialogue than what’s happening in my head and on my page.

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

A: Oh dear. Let’s see. When I was in kindergarten, or pre-kindergarten, and I would get hungry sitting at my tiny desk in class, I would reach my arms out as wide as they would go and pretend I had a large sandwich or slice of cake. I would munch this victual from side to side, recessing my hands closer and closer towards my face as the imaginary sandwich or cake was consumed. My classmates thought I was very strange. I don’t know what this explains though other than I have a vivid imagination and I am hungry.

I also don’t know anyone who could beat me at tag.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: I like theater that kicks ass. I like theater where you get all tingly and know that SOMETHING is HAPPENING. I like theater that has something naked in it—and something raw, because I think that is hard for me.

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

A: Call me, we’ll get coffee and talk shop. And I really feel like it’s an art of attrition. If you want to do it, and you love to do it, and you keep doing it, you’ll be able to do it.

Q: Any plugs?

A: If you’re in San Diego, you should see my play PHANTOM BAND April 14-24th. If you’re in LA you should see Ronald McCants’ play THE PEACOCK MEN at Company of Angels Feb 5th-March 7th. If you’re in NY you should see Lauren Yee’s play CHING CHONG CHINAMAN at Pan Asian Rep March 19th-April 11th. Go UCSD Playwrights!!