Monday, March 14, 2011

I Interview Playwrights Part 325: Daniel Keene

Daniel Keene

Hometown: Melbourne, Australia.

Current Town: Melbourne, Australia.

Q:  Tell me about The Killing Room.

A:  The play was commissioned by One Year Lease. My brief was simply to write something based on the story of Thyestes. I focused my work on the idea that tyranny devours its own. I imagined a world in which oppression had triumphed, where there was no one left to resist the cruelty and dominance of the ruling elite. And yet these rulers still have the urge, the desire to dominate. The only victims that remain are themselves. They devour each other.

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  I am currently writing a play (another commission) for the Melbourne Theatre Company, who premiered a play of mine at last year’s Melbourne International Arts Festival. Once that’s finished, I will be starting work on an adaptation of Goethe’s Faust for Theatre de la Commune in Paris.

Q:  How would you characterize Australian theater?

A:  Energetic, intelligent, highly skilled, adventurous. There is a strong European influence in Australian theatre, and quite a few of our major directors often work in Europe. Indigenous theatre has established a strong place in the culture and continues to grow and exert its influence. We have an extremely strong design culture (lighting, set design and sound) that sets the bar very high. The best Australian theatre (and there is a lot of the best) is fearless, with very broad horizons. I know I’m painting a very rosy picture, but I genuinely believe that at this moment in time Australian theatre is some of the best you’ll see anywhere in the world. A generational change is happening. There are young, well-trained and highly skilled artists working in all aspects of theatre; and they are connected to each other through a generous culture of exchange and debate.

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

A:  The theatre needs to attract a younger audience; it needs to speak to the desires and the concerns of young people. And it needs to be brave enough to confront the brutalities and hypocrisies of the contemporary world. These things are happening, but they need to keep happening.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  The list is long, and various. Here are a few: Beckett, Pinter, Mamet, Miller, Chekhov, Kroetz, Fosse, Churchill, Kane, Ibsen, Shakespeare, Brecht, Barker, Koltés, Müller . . . .

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theatre where something ‘happens’, that is part of my experience of reality not an escape from it. Theatre that effects the emotions and the intellect.

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

A:  Read plays, anything you can get your hands on, read plays continuously. And read poetry, of every kind. Go to the theatre as often as you can, see every kind of theatre that you can, including dance

Q:  Plugs, please:

A: will tell you everything you need to know about Australian theatre.

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