Saturday, August 11, 2012
I Interview Playwrights Part 489: Steven Strafford
Photo by Kristin Donnelly
Hometown: Born in Brooklyn. Grew up in Old Bridge, NJ
Current Town: QUEENS! (NYC)
Q: Tell me about Methtacular.
A: I call Methtacular a story with songs. I tell the story of my three year descent into crystal meth addiction. Through anecdotes, pop culture references and a whole heap of honesty, I show you how a sweet gay kid, with a few bad choices, found himself in a complete mess. Then, you get to see how, with a few good decisions, he found his way out. It's mostly funny, but then, you know, it gets serious and stuff.--- this may be the worst-written sentence of all time.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I just started working on a new play, but I don't know what it is yet. I like they way the characters are speaking though. They are making me laugh. I am also acting in a new musical piece about AIDS activist, Michael Callen. Hopefully, it will be produced in NYC soon!
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 in 4th grade, I wasn't very popular. That all changed, however, when a boy ran away from my 4th grade class. I mean, he really ran away...for 4 years. It all began when my teacher, who turned out was mentally unstable began pointing at this kid, Justin. Mr. Mitchell, the teacher, pointed with his middle finger. This elicited giggle from 4th graders because the middle finger is the funniest finger. Justin laughed, and Mr. Mitchell went into a rage....an unhinged rage. Justin, though, was not cowed at all. See, he lived in a house where the government had to step in and put a door on the front of the house because they just had a plastic sheet in the doorway. So, you see, Justin was no stranger to pain. So, when Mr. Mitchell screamed and screamed, it seemed to uncork something in Justin. Justin screamed back. And then they physically fought a bit. Justin was big for his age and old for our grade, Mr. Mitchell was an old man. The fight was not frightening, but rather messy to look at.
Then, Justin yelled that he was leaving. For good. Then, he ran away from the class. Beth, a girl who looked much like Sweetums from The Muppet Movie, ran after him almost all the way to parking lot, yelling after him, "Don't go, Justin! Don't go!"
It was sad and funny and weird, and I remembered details no one else could. That was my first good storytelling experience. I relayed that story over and over again, and it got me my first taste of popularity. A storyteller was born.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I would make it illegal to make musicals out of movies. Even if it's a great musical... I would make it illegal....well, for at least a few years.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: My theatrical heroes (playwrights) are Nicky Silver, Douglas Carter Beane, Leslie Ayvazian, Sandra Bernhard, Dan Savage and Morris Panych.
My theatrical heroes (actors) are Denis O'Hare, Mark Rylance, Patricia Clarkson, Amy Morton, Michael Rupert and Randy Graff
My overall theatrical hero is Mike Nichols.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I love when it's a piece of theatre that makes you go fluidly between laughing and crying. If a show makes me laugh and cry out loud, then I am hooked.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write every day. Write shitty things. Write scary things. Write.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: My twitter handles are @stevenstrafford and @methtacular
The show runs Aug. 30-Sept. 23 at The Playroom Theatre at 151 W. 46th Street 8th Floor.
Ticket info at www.methtacular.com and www.kefproductions.com