May 17, 2012
I Interview Playwrights Part 453: Larry Pontius
Hometown: Normal, IL
Current Town: Los Angeles, CA
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Quite a few things, actually. My wife and I are making a short film, I'm Associate Producer on a film called Atari Christmas by Brett Neveu, I'm working on a new play called Analogue, about mourning and multiple Earths, and finally, I'm in LA, so, I'm working on specs and original pilots. And I'm having a baby.
Q: You write for Pakistan TV? How did that happen? What is that like?
A: It happened in New York. My wife is Indian and an actor. Someone was doing a Pakistani serial in New York, where she was living at the time. Urdu and Hindi are very closely related. The director, Mehreen Jabbar and my wife hit it off. Deepti introduced me, and Mehreen needed writers for an anthology, which I wrote a few episodes for. She and her father liked what I did, and got me a few more serials all of my own. It's weird. And great. (a fantastic story to tell at meetings.) I have to write an ENORMOUS amount of material by myself that can be shot very cheaply and for a culture that has grown even more conservative in the years that I've done it. I don't know if I would want to do it for the rest of my life, but it gave me the skills to create/rewrite on the spot. And sometimes write 20 pages in a day.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: I think I'm still figuring out who I am as a writer. And as a person. I'll tell this story... I was pretty young, maybe around 8 or 9, and I had been out that night playing cops and robbers--do kids still do that?---and once the sun went down, I headed home. I ended up in front of the TV, watching, of all things, this PBS documentary about Charlie Chaplin... and I was HOOKED. It was AMAZING. That's what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. Be that guy. Which as it turns out... I didn't become him.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I'm gonna cheat and say two things: make it cheaper to attend and more local
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: I have to admit, I'm a bit of a hero whore. For a while I was really into Stoppard--but then he got to smart for me. I love Lindsay-Abaire's work (both the old and the new) I like Brecht's ideas. I adore The Empty Space. Nicky Silver comes to mind. Commedia Dell'Arte. The Three Stooges. Alan Moore. Bugs Bunny. Richard Curtis and Ben Elton for giving us Black Adder. Oh, and mad props to Anton Chekhov. And any playwright that wrote behind the Iron Curtain. And Shakespeare.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Theater that relies on the imagination of the performer and the audience. Playful theater. Theater that is hard to move into a different medium. Theater that moves me emotionally and can surprise me.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Self produce, self produce, self produce. And meet people. And work FOR people. Learn. Read. If you're just starting out, most likely you're already fearless... hold onto that.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: http://lpontius.com/blog/ , Happythefilm.com (the movie my wife and I are making, @LarryPontius (me on twitter), http://www.playwrightsunion.com/ (a group that I'm a part of in LA.)