Sunday, February 06, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 314: Jeff Goode
Hometown: Cedar Rapids, Iowa
Current Town: Hollywood, California
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I just finished my first summer as a Visiting Professor at Hollins University's graduate playwriting program in Roanoke, VA. It's a very intense program that emphasizes bringing in guest professionals to work with students. So even though it's a fairly new program, I was amazed at the level of talent and ambition in the students who decide to go there. We're going to see a lot of working playwrights coming out of that program over the next few years.
Back in L.A., I just became Playwright-in-Residence for the newly re-launched SkyPilot Theatre Company. An accomplished actors company, they recently decided to refocus their mission on developing new plays.
Naturally, I promoted myself to Playwright-in-Chief and recruited a team of ten playwrights to write the entire next season. Modeled after successful original works companies I've worked with in the past (q.v. No Shame Theatre, below) the playwrights wing will be tasked with creating a body of work that provides meaty roles for the acting company, and in return, they will have carte blanche to develop their dream projects from conception to production with the full support of a company trained to work in new plays.
Our first show as a writers company opens February 5th. REWIND is a slate of 10 new one-acts that gave the writers the chance to work with our actors and directors for the first time and explore our new space at the Victory Theatre.
After that, our first next main stage show SALOME GONE WILDE is a collaborative adaptation which employs all of our playwrights and lyricists. We just got the script and it's pretty fantastic. I will be directing with artistic director Robert William Rusch.
We've also launched a New Play Reading Series. We will be adding a dramaturgy wing in the spring. And I'm working to create a pipeline to publication, and establishing relationships with sister theatres in other cities so that developing a project with SkyPilot becomes a springboard to future productions.
For example, my new Prop 8 play THE EMANCIPATION OF ALABASTER McGILL will premiere this season at both SkyPilot and Studio Roanoke before going to publication in 2012.
Other projects include FURSONA NON GRATA, a new furry play, which will debut at a convention this spring. And XMAS 2, which is set to open in December.
Speaking of Xmas, I am writing my first full-length opera THE CHRISTMAS OGRE with composer Jonathan Price to premiere at Southern California Lyric Theater.
And speaking of opera, we just received a grant to produce Jonathan's AESOPERA (mini-operas based on Aesop's fables with libretti by, among other folks, ME!)
But enough about me. Let's talk about No Shame!
Q: Tell me about No Shame.
A: How did I know you were going to ask me that?
No Shame Theatre began in the back of a pickup truck in the parking lot of the Theatre Building while I was a student at the University of Iowa. Created by Todd Ristau and Stan Ruth, No Shame was originally a forum for young actors to get a chance to be onstage. Of course, that meant we mostly had to write our own material.
Basically, anyone who showed up a half hour before showtime with a piece to perform was automatically in the show that night. It was, and still is, completely uncensored and wildly eclectic and became a fantastic training ground for writers, because you didn't have any filter between yourself and the audience. There wasn't a professor or a director or a literary agent to decide which pieces would or would not work. You just had to have the guts to get up in the truck and risk falling flat on your face.
And the incredible thing is that given that opportunity, most of the writers simply learned how NOT to fall on their faces on a regular basis. And because no one was screening out the material that seemed too risky, the overall show was both extremely cutting edge AND wildly popularly. The theatrical bi-fecta: total artistic freedom and unrepentant commercial success.
The original No Shame is now in its 25th season, and has spawned branches in a few dozen of cities. Last year, we opened new No Shames in Las Vegas, Lynchburg and San Luis Obispo. (Visit www.noshame.org for links to a No Shame Theatre near you.)
Q: What can a student studying playwriting with you expect?
A: I think you learn writing from writing, so we do a lot of in-class exercise and writing experiments. Also, most of my own learning has been experiential, so I try to recreate situations where I learned a lot, rather than simply lecturing about things I already know that I think you should know, too.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
What are you waiting for?
Success breeds success. Not the other way around.
Q: Plugs, please: