Sep 8, 2012
I Interview Playwrights Part 494: Halley Feiffer
photo by Seth Kushner
Hometown: NYC -- Upper West Side, Manhattan
Current Town: NYC -- Park Slope, Brooklyn
Q: Tell me about Dear Darkness at the New Ohio.
A: It's an evening of short plays by awesome writers with sick twisted imaginations; all the plays center on spooky-Halloween-y themes. The guidelines are very broad -- basically anything repulsive or macabre and hopefully something involving a famous monster of some sort. It's an incredible line-up of writers that includes John Patrick Shanley, Bekah Brunsetter, Michael Puzzo, and Adam Szymkowicz (that name sounds so familiar...) and I'm so honored to be included and show people how disgusting and vile my mind is, which most people really know anyway, but I feel like I want pretty much everyone to know that and the more the merrier, you know?
My play is called FRANKENSTEIN'S AMENDS, and it's about the fateful night when Frankenstein returns, after a long and very painful separation, to the home of the doctor who created him, with the intention of making his formal Ninth Step Amends as part of his recovery program in Alcoholics Anonymous.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I'm working on a play I wrote that will kick off the LAByrinth Theatre Company's Barn Series next weekend (Sept. 14-15), directed by Trip Cullman -- the play is called I'M GONNA PRAY FOR YOU SO HARD and it's also disgusting and vile, but in a different way (namely there are no monsters). I'm also working on a short play I wrote called I DIDN'T WANT A MASTODON that will be featured in the upcoming Barrow Group evening of short plays, performed by their Core Artists Ensemble. Also I am working on webseries I am making with my friend Adam Green called DON'T YOU WISH YOU WERE US; we're shooting the first episode in a few weeks, which we're very excited about. Also I have a TV series I'm currently shopping around with a friend. And I'm trying to write a new play, and a screenplay which is proving really hard.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: A few years ago I said to my mom: "Hey, Mom -- remember that amazing house we went to when I was really little, and I think it was in Florida or something, 'cause I remember it being really tropical-feeling? And there was this crazy amazing pool, with like fake rocks and a CAVE that like lit up crazy weird colors like purple and green? And then there was a crazy bathroom with walls of GLASS that were all covered in like tropical FOLIAGE? I think visiting that house and swimming in that cave-y pool and going to that bathroom -- I think that is my fondest childhood memory. What was that place???" And my mom was like, "Um, I think you're talking about the grotto at the Playboy Mansion." My dad used to draw cartoons for PLAYBOY and apparently Hef invited us over and we just swam in the grotten when I was, like, 4. Hef never showed up; he just let us swim. I feel like this memory is a pretty good example of my warped values (my attraction to and often obsession with glittery objects that are terrible for me), the power of memory to distort facts and twist them into a fantasy-reality, and the vastly inappropriate situations I often find myself in, which are all things I try to explore in my writing.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Well it would cost way less. Way more people would go from way more diverse backgrounds. Nobody would give a shit about reviews. Oh wait that's three things. I think nobody caring about reviews is the most important thing to me. So that one.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: I have so many. My favorite dead ones are Chekhov, Ibsen, Strindberg, Tennesse Williams, August Wilson -- such great storytellers and such masters of combining humor and tragedy to make situations that are, because of that delicate tincture, even funnier and sadder. Living heroes are Annie Baker, Stephen Adly Girugis, Kenneth Lonergan, John Guare, Adam Rapp, Bruce Norris -- for the same reasons.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I love theatre that keeps me absolutely on the edge of my seat because I don't know if I should be laughing or crying. I love theatre that shows me characters who are at once infuriating or even loathsome and also totally loveable and relateable. I love theatre that surprises me often and takes turns that feel at once shocking and inevitable, and leaves me feeling utterly flabbergasted and satiated.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Don't be afraid to share your work with people; I was so scared of showing my work for so long -- it felt so private and vulnerable. Someone told me, "Dude, just email your plays to people," and I started doing that -- just taking the action and letting go of the result -- and the more and more I did it the less I thought about it, and now I never think about the vulernability of sharing my work, really, because I'm used to it and I have so much more confidence as a result of taking these at-first extremely uncomfortable actions. Also, write in your own voice and write about things that interest you because people can tell if you're pretending to be something you're not or writing about something that doens't really turn you on.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: I co-wrote, produced and act in an upcoming feature film called HE'S WAY MORE FAMOUS THAN YOU, directed by Michael Urie. Here is a link to its IMDB page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2076216/
Also here is a link to the info about my play in the upcoming LAByrinth Barn Series: http://labtheater.org/2012/09/barn-series-spotlight-halley-feiffer/
I don't have a link to the Barrow Group Evening but their Facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/coreartistensemble
Also please follow me on Twitter I really want to eventually have more followers than Gaga: @halleyfeiffer
Also come see DEAR DARKNESS! Here is a link to its Indiegogo page: http://www.indiegogo.com/projects/203689
Also I'm available for hanging out and friendship and birthday parties.