May 22, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 357: Laurel Haines
Hometown: White Plains, NY
Current Town: Astoria, NY
Q: Tell me about your play currently at the Flea.
A: Future Anxiety takes place in the not-too-distant future, when all of our current problems have expanded into utter nightmares (though if the tsunami/earthquake/nuclear meltdown in Japan isn’t an utter nightmare, I don’t know what is). In Future Anxiety, Americans are sent to China to work off the national debt, strawberries are extinct, and toilet paper is rationed to one square a day. The situations are ludicrous, horrific, and yet strangely plausible.
And it’s a comedy, actually. Karl is building a homemade spaceship, and everyone wants to get on board. They think they’re going to escape to another planet, which might be real, or it might be one of Karl’s acid flashbacks. He’s desperately trying to convince his ex-girlfriend Christine, who works as a re-entry therapist for cryonics patients, to come with him.
The play has a long list of characters and Jim Simpson, the director, has cast 23 of the Bats, the Flea’s resident acting company. It’s really a dream come true for me, because I never thought any theater would do this show without doubling and tripling the parts. Actually, recently I began to think that no one would do this show, period, and I would have to produce it myself. So it’s wonderful to see the play realized so completely.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I’m writing a musical with Nan Hoffman about a detective who’s searching for the money lost in a ponzi scheme. It’s a 40s noir spoof with echoes of Madoff. I’m also working on a new play that I started in the Play Development Collective’s Winter Intensive.
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 awkward adolescence probably explains everything.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I would create an eccentric billionaire who would give grants for productions of new plays by unknown and emerging playwrights. Kind of like that amazing lady who gave $100 million to Poetry Magazine - Ruth Lilly. There’s got to be a billionaire out there who thinks new plays are cool. S/he would be a hero – bringing new voices to the American theater and saving their plays from obscurity.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: That imaginary billionaire. And any group that’s producing new plays or bringing theater into the schools.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Everything except the boring kind.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Take risks and go crazy. Write things that don’t make sense but might be brilliant. Or bad. Stop caring if it’s bad. If you’re passionate, you’ll eventually write something great.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Future Anxiety is running at the Flea Theater in Tribeca through May 26. Shows are Tues-Sat @ 7pm; Sat Mat. @ 3pm
Pay-What-You-Can on TUESDAYS**
Go to http://www.theflea.org/ or call 212.352.3101
**Pay-What-You-Can tickets available at the door only, starting @ 6pm each Tuesday & are valid only for that performance.