Wednesday, January 12, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 303: Martin Blank
Hometown: Bethesda, Maryland
Current Town: Bethesda, Maryland
Q: Tell me about Avenue of The Americas.
A: I find as a playwright that A always leads to C. Avenue of the Americas was the first play I ever wrote. It is a story about a woman who escapes a mental institution to write television advertisements that become dangerously successful. Avenue of the Americas has been produced, but not in New York City. One of my other plays, The Law of Return, had a reading at ArtEffects Theatre Company in New York City. They told me the night before the reading they had extra time in the space and asked, "Is there anything else you want to hear too?" God love them. They did readings of both plays back to back. Kristin Cantwell, an amazing actress, who gave my work to ArtEffects in the first place, and Phil Newsom, a brilliant producer and director at ArtEffects, loved Avenue of the Americas. Kristin and Phil are producing it on their own Off Broadway at The Tank Theater. For me, as always, A leads to C.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: A new comedy, No Rest for the Wicked. It's a dark, comic spin on Rip van Winkle. It's getting a reading at the Kennedy Center in September.
Q: How would you characterize the DC theater scene?
A: Exciting. Very. A vibrant Fringe festival giving birth to lots of young companies doing great work, including many new plays. Plenty of "old school" shops putting on new plays too: Woolly Mammoth, Arena Stage, and so on. An awful lot of seasoned as well as talented new theater people. The theater scene in DC has never been better.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: Like a lot of us, when I was four I put on shows in my living room. They were magic shows. I wrote and produced them. I got all the neighborhood kids to perform them. Siblings and parents would come. We charged one dollar for admission. Even at age four, I knew to pay artists.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: You can fill a library with what I don't know about theater. Or life. I do know that a lot of folks in our business are in hard times now. Still, anyone reading this is a creative person. My wish is that people in our business think creatively about how to put on theater in a sustainable way. The tide that goes out comes back. I want American theater to be bullish again.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Actors. Brave, gifted, folks.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Anytime I see a play, no matter the style, budget, whatever, where an audience has been moved in some way and, based on that experience, will likely go see more theater.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Take one good acting class. Read all the time-plays, anything and everything. Take the two plays you love most and physically type them. It will save you years. (Paddy Chayefsky did this, it worked out okay for him.) See as many plays as you can. Every day, whatever happens, try to see the glass as half full. And the last thing should be obvious.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Production of Avenue of the Americas January 21 to February 6 at The Tank Theater in New York City. Reading in Washington, D.C., of No Rest for the Wicked at the Kennedy Center in early September. And Adam, you're a terrific and busy playwright. Thanks for doing these!