Mar 12, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 324: James Carter
Hometown: Canton, IL
Current Town: Brooklyn, NY
Q: Tell me about Feeder.
A: “Feeder: A Love Story” reveals Jesse & Noel, who meet online, fall in love and get married. They share in a lifestyle called feederism. Typically, one partner feeds and assists the other partner in gaining weight. It’s sexually stimulating for both, and it’s a fringe subculture struggling to obtain acceptance. The play is about communication, acceptance, media, and of course, love.
The play is a transmedia storytelling experience told on multiple platforms – stage, blogs and Twitter. The audience can visit http://www.jessennoel.blogspot.com before the show (or after) to find out more about the characters.
It’s a leap of faith to depart from a traditional play format, but so far it seems to be working. People from feederism blogs, groups of transmedia storytellers, and theatergoers are all attending the show, which means we’re expanding terraNOVA Collective’s (http://www.terranovacollective.org) audience base and web traffic.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I’m researching for a play about memes, or memetics (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme). It’s a time consuming process asking questions like: What is creativity? Do we drive it, or does it drive us? Is there free will? Light stuff.
Transmedia storytelling will certainly be an aspect of it, but I’m not sure in what fashion, yet. The stage play/experience is at the center, and then I’ll build the other media elements once the story is firm.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: In high school, I wrote poetry, plays, and short stories. Once, I created this teenage wet dream fantasy playboy short story featuring all my friends as characters. More like bizzaro versions of my friends. It was episodic, and I even illustrated a few comic panels. It was dirty, uninhibited and extreme. I wrote a new chapter every day, and I read it to my friends at lunch. We all sat around howling at the sophomoric silliness, and my friends couldn’t wait for the next chapter the following day. It was the first time I entertained with my writing.
My parents found the notebook containing the story, and they were mortified. I grew up in a very conservative household, and I didn’t do anything “bad” – no drinking, no drugs, and no breaking curfew. I created the story to act out all the badness I wanted to be. The shame I had when my parents confronted me about the story was intense. I understood why they were so angry, but I didn’t understand what was wrong with what I wrote.
Something cracked open in me that day – people aren’t always going to like what I write. They might be offended, they might be angered, but there are others who will wait eagerly for the next chapter. Those are the people for whom I write.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Every artist, administrator, and laborer would be paid what they’re worth.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: I have tons of theatre makers I admire: Athol Fugard, Diane Paulus, Jordan Roth, Danny Hoch, Lily Tomlin, and Scott Morfee.
However, the true theatrical heroes of the world are people like my mother, Ilene Carter, who taught high school theatre for years. All teachers who work to instill love of the arts and cultivate the next generation of artists are my heroes. We need to make arts education a priority.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: If I laugh, cry, re-think my morals or want to dance, I’m over the moon. The audience should be involved with the process. If the audience is on stage with the performers, awesome. If the audience can interact with characters before and after the theatrical experience, stellar. Theatre has roots in religious rites, yet now it is spectacle for tourists and star-gazers. Theatre should be communal. The cult of personality dominates theatre, and we need to return to an experiential congregation where theatre makers move, challenge and delight the audience.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: It’s a fickle business, and you’ll rarely make a living as a playwright. Think seriously about this. If you want to make money, don’t write plays. My parents told me this when I was young. I didn’t believe them. They were right. Write plays because you love it.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: “Feeder: A Love Story” runs 3/7-3/26/11 at HERE
Begin the story: http://jessennoel.blogspot.com
terraNOVA Collective: http://www.terranovacollective.org