Jul 6, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 367: Dennis Miles
Hometown: Santiago, Cuba
Current Town: Silverlake (a neighborhood west of Downtown Los Angeles)
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I have a play idea about a woman whose lover will not marry her and she plots an elaborate revenge.
Q: How would you characterize the LA theater scene?
A: Hit and Miss, mostly miss. The acting, I find, is almost always good because LA attracts the best theater actors from throughout the country. They come here hoping to act commercially. While they wait, they theater act and that's just great for LA audiences. The writing is very poor, although I love Justin Tanner. Better to see some dusty jewel from Europe or something revived that has survived the test of time, than risk our homegrown crop of scribes. I often think that exceptional playwrighting is a rare gift indeed. I love our storefront theaters, and that's what I support. I stay away from "professional" theater. Leaves me cold. I don't want my art to be ironed out and polished and small theater in LA certainly gives me that a lot. We have some really great companies, among them: Anteus, Noise Within, Theater of Note (though not currently), Rude Gorilla Theater, though I haven't seen anything of theirs for a while. A lot of the time, because of lack of money, I would guess, the set designs and custumes are rudimentary, and attention to the detail is rare. Still and all, small theater is my art form and, as long as it's not a one person show, I'll go see almost anything that catches my interest and often, theater in LA rewards me handsomely.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: When I was 11 or so a boy born in Panama moved into my neighborhood. He was the most aware person I've ever met and he woke me up. He had enormous curiosity and would see EVERYTHING in town and he'd drag me along. I learn about theater, movies, music, poetry and literature from him. His name is Joaquin Baquero. He started a literary club that he called Club Minerva and gave us all, there were 3 of us besides him originally, the names of Greek gods! I was Mercury. We would give one another assignments for writing and at the next Saturday meeting we would read what we had come up with. I started writing then and haven't stopped, pretty much, until now.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Those awful announcements at the beginning of the performance. No, seriously, I'd forbid friends from laughing too loudly, and inapropriately, when they come see their friends. Ah, I don't know. I'd encourage writers not to come up with stuff that's obtuse for obtuseness sake. (You can't do Godot again, no matter how well you try to disguise it) I'd also insist that time not be broken up unless it makes the story more interesting, which usually, always, is not the case. Well, that's several things. But I don't have one huge complaint about theater. One thing I would like to change about LA theater is to make more of us attend our theaters. I always thought that if small theaters advertised at all our community colleges and high schools, let's say, we could get more people to come see our work.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Shakespeare, Chekov, Ionesco, Albee, (Virginia Wolf only), Whoever wrote The Apollo of Bellac, Brecht (Mother Courage and Galileo), Lorca (The House of Bernarda Alba). Beckett.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Simple, clear, focus on the emotional human, great language, great images, subtle acting (no screaming).
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: I don't have any. I don't listen to advice myself, so I do my best not to tell people what might work for them. Artistic writing is an organic endeavor, it is one's life, there's no advice for living out your life, artistic writing is a natural emanation of one's experiences and one's singular mind.