Dec 24, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 415: Matthew Stephen Smith
Matthew Stephen Smith
Hometown: Yorba Linda, CA
Current Town: Brooklyn, NY
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm working on three projects at the moment. First is a comedy, 7 Ways to Mourn the Dead, in which the ancient royal Trojan family members live their final days of life and/or freedom as neurotic contemporaries in grief counseling. The second is a full-length solo-show, A Gathering of Very Articulate Individuals, that follows a privileged, straight, white male as he attempts to reconcile himself with those he's loved and hurt most, all the while accidentally plunging to his death in two and a half seconds. The third is a three act play, Co-Op, that follows a few months in the life of a socialist student cooperative during the '07/'08 presidential primaries.
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 thirteen I attended a wedding--more specifically, a wedding reception--during which I had to sit between a man and a woman who were in the process of getting a divorce. Knowing no one else at the wedding except my immediate family, all of whom had other friends to chat/dance up, I was stuck fielding questions, insults, stories, etc., between the soon-to-be-not couple. Over the course of a few hours, they became these drunk, iridescent personalities that were funny, edgy, sad, insufferable, and still inconceivably in love (at least it seemed to me) all at once. That was the first time I could articulate to myself that battles between people don't exist primarily on binaries of right and wrong/good and evil, but in the messy matrices of the personal.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Money. I have three wishes for the genie in this lamp. Show me what theater is like when admission is always free. Show me what theater is like when every ticket is seventy-five (heck! one hundred!) dollars. Show me what theater is like when admission is a voluntary donation.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Panoply Performance Laboratory ( http://www.panoplylab.org/ ). They are my friends. Also John Guare. Even at this stage in his career, his writing takes exuberant risks that many writers half his age don't even dare approach.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I'm hard pressed to name a kind. But when I'm excited by a piece of theater, I can't shut up about it.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A; Sheila Callaghan already gave the perfect response on your blog... http://aszym.blogspot.com/2009/06/i-interview-playwrights-part-7-sheila.html ...I can't improve upon it..
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Monday, January 16th at Vaudeville Park http://www.vaudevillepark.org/ in Brooklyn, NY. A semi-staged reading of A Gathering of Very Articulate Individuals complete with a bar, large storefront windows, and a teeny chandelier.