Friday, October 14, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 391: David Bar Katz
David Bar Katz
Hometown: Philadelphia, PA
Current Town: New York City
Q: Tell me about your upcoming show with LAB.
A: The play is called The Atmosphere of Memory. The title's taken from Tennessee Williams's stage directions for The Glass Menagerie. It's a bit of a send-up of narcissistic writers who think the traumas of their lives and their dysfunctional families are so interesting they deserve to be plays. Though it is based on some major drama that occurred in my life when certain members of my family were offended when they saw themselves portrayed in Freak. I thought I had disguised them well as Latinos, but I was mistaken. I'm really proud that it's a LAB play, not just that it's being done there but that the way it was developed was uniquely LAByrinth. We are predominantly a company of actors, though many members write and direct as well, and I wrote the play specifically for LAB company members like Ellen Burstyn, Melissa Ross and David Deblinger. The play wouldn't have come into being without them.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: I have a pilot at Showtime about a sobriety coach that I'm working on, a few screenplays in development, one an adaptation of a Grant Morrison graphic novel called Joe the Barbarian that I'm especially excited about, being a comic book geek. Also a sci-fi tween novel called Chronicles of the Chosen and many plays in various states of undress.
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 only six I led an uprising at the Terezin concentration camp. At the time I didn't think it was a big deal, but my therapist seems to think I should look at how it effected me more closely. I was a solitary kid and read a lot of comic books and Philip Roth at an inappropriate age. My step-father taught film studies at Penn so in an age before TCM and video rentals I got to see a lot of old films projected in my living room. So the actors always looked life-sized which I guess is why I like theater the best.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: O'Neill, Avram Goldfadn, Tennessee Williams, Neil Simon, Sondheim. I can't write a word without one of them looking over my shoulder or touching my hand.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Passion. When you sit in the theater and you see a writer, director and actors pull their hearts out and leave them on the stage.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write in long-hand. Seeing something on a screen in word or final draft creates the illusion of being done.