Saturday, February 11, 2012

I Interview Playwrights Part 426: Josh Koenigsberg



Josh Koenigsberg

Hometown:  Greenwich Village, New York City

Current Town:  Park Slope, New York City

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Well I recently got hired to adapt one of my favorite books, "The Boys of Summer" by Roger Kahn. It's about the 1950's Jackie Robinson-era Brooklyn Dodgers and it's really exciting for me because I'm a sports nut and a theater nut, and it's rare when those two things overlap. The producers want to do it on Broadway in 2013, so fingers crossed. I'm also writing a play about a group of New York City bouncers in the meat packing district planning a heist during fashion week. It's not based on a true story but I might tell people it is.

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 little I used to sneak into my parents' room to watch movies on HBO. One day I turn on the TV and there's this cop movie on that looks like every other cop movie...until the cop suddenly jumps over a railing and lands gracefully about 20 feet below. I'm stunned. He grabs a dying man and wants to know where the villain is. "You're too late..." the man says with his last breath. "Hapsburg is...is..." but he dies before he can finish. So the cop goes "All right, who else is almost dead?" Another hand goes up. The cop goes over to him. "Okay now talk!" "You're too late..." the dying man says. "He already said that." The dying guy swallows. "Where did he leave off?" The movie was The Naked Gun 2 1/2: The Smell of Fear and my life was never the same. I couldn't believe you could break the rules like that. So naturally I memorized the entire movie and would recite it for my really tolerant family when we went on vacation. All I hope for as a writer is that one day I can write a scene that blows a kid's mind as much that one blew mine.
(Here's a link to the actual clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJWLdQ9vylA&feature=relmfu)

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

A:  Well look, I think it's great that big New York theater companies like Roundabout, Atlantic, Lincoln Center and Second Stage all produce emerging writers at their 'supplemental spaces'...but if someone elected me "President Overlord of All Off-Broadway Theater" I would immediately double the amount of those productions and cut the current budget for each one in half. That way you could produce twice as many writers, just with more scaled down productions. I think if you asked most playwrights if they'd rather have a scaled down show or no show, they'd pick the former and be excited that more plays could now be produced as a by-product.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Oh man. Well writer-wise I really like Clifford Odets and August Wilson and George Kaufman and Moss Hart. And everybody in Play Group with me at Ars Nova. And also my fellow At Play writers, Bekah Brunstetter, Laura Jacqmin, Mike Lew, and Harrison Rivers. And Don Nguyen who runs Sad Playwright, which is a great simple site that I've lost many hours of my life to.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like plays where things catch me off-guard. Not in the "we're gonna plant an actor under your seat who's gonna pop out and scare you" way, but I remember I saw this farce called "The Play What I Wrote" on Broadway several years ago, and there was this one moment I'll never forget. The two main characters are in a fight and one of them goes to the train station to leave and the other one tries to get him to stay, and says "Where are you even going?" And the second guy goes "I don't know yet." And the first guy goes "Well say your next line." And the second guy goes "Florida" -- then looks up shocked, like he really wasn't expecting to be going to Florida. I just thought that was so amazing.

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

A:  Write about something that really tickles you, get a good writing schedule down, and you don't always have to wait for the laundry hamper to overflow before you do your laundry.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Atlantic is doing a reading of my play "The Mnemonist of Dutchess County" on February 13th at 6:30pm at Stage 2. And go check out The Urban Dictionary Plays at Ars Nova if you haven't already. Also The Rockettes.

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