Sunday, September 16, 2012

I Interview Playwrights Part 497: David Auburn

David Auburn

Hometown: Really, three of them, since we moved a lot: Columbus, Ohio; Jonesboro, Arkansas; Little Rock, Arkansas

Current Town: New York City

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A production of Anna Christie I'm directing later in the year; some material that might or might not become a new play; a screenplay for Warner Brothers of the novel "A Discovery of Witches."

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 don't have a good answer to this one. I'm not sure where the impulse to write for the theater comes from, and I guess a bit reluctant to examine it very closely.

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

A:  I teach playwrighting to NY public high school students. They want to write plays, they're passionate to try it. But they haven't seen very many. It's difficult to afford, difficult to manage. Some have never seen a straight play in a theater. In New York City! My fantasy would be that any public school student in this city could walk up to any play and buy a ticket for the same price as a movie.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Chekhov. The Romanian playwright and diarist Mihail Sebastian. George S. Kaufman, the ultimate pro and utility player. Samson Raphaelson. Harold Clurman. Viola Spolin. Odets. Quintero. Some contemporaries I've worked with, learned from and admire: Harris Yulin, John Lithgow, Dan Sullivan.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Very exciting always to see new plays by young American playwrights. We're in a strong period for new plays right now, I think.

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

A:  Don't sit around mailing plays to strangers. Produce yourself. Get together with friends and put on shows. Don't worry if you don't have an agent. Join the Dramatists Guild.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My most recent play, "The Columnist," now out in paperback.


Anonymous said...

I respect your work, David, but I'm teach playwriting to people, but you don't even know how to spell the word?Playwrighting? Seriously?

Dave said...

Zing! You got me, Anon.! I'll resign immediately.
- DA

Adam Szymkowicz said...

Man, after a Pulitzer, a Tony and a couple plays on Broadway I figure he can spell it however he wants.

RLewis said...

No, he can't spell it however he wants. Awards or not, the man seems like a cool, down to earth guy, so let's not ruin it with special treatment. His response here is terrific. We should all resign! ...from something. And, I've heard it before, but the final part about not sending scripts to strangers is the best advice ever. Thus, every playwright should meet more producers and directors or turn your friends into them. And Adam, you're probably one of the most produced playwrights in town right now, but no pedestal for you either; we're just saying congrats! and keep up the terrific work. -R