Oct 27, 2012
I Interview Playwrights Part 514: Brian Golden
Hometown: Davenport, Iowa
Current Town: Chicago, Illinois
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm working on JOHNNY, a new play about missing children inspired by a famous case from Iowa in the 1980s, which will World Premiere at Theatre Seven of Chicago in June, as well as on curating a series of short plays about great Chicago women from the last 100 years to mark the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage in Illinois. That's called UNWILLING AND HOSTILE INSTRUMENTS and will go up in late summer 2013.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: Wouldn't life be easier to understand if there were one specific moment you could point to dramaturgically and say: here is why! But I don't think there is. As ridiculous as it might sound, I think that being a hugely passionate Iowa State Cyclones fan growing up in enemy territory (right near the University of Iowa) really shaped a lot of my personality. My team was also bad, so bad, and I'd just get made fun of constantly for all of grade school and junior high for being a State fan. I think it built a real empathy for the underdog, not just in sports, but in the way I look at the world, and maybe some of the characters I enjoy reading and writing about on stage. I admire people who stand strong against the conventional social order and who fight to change it. My biggest enemies are people who have power and use it recklessly, to hurt someone else, or keep them down. I remember one time when I was maybe 11 sobbing after Iowa State lost to Iowa in football for what was probably the 10th year in a row and my Mom sat me down to say "you know, you don't have to cheer for Iowa State, it is a choice." And I remember feeling like "no, it is not a choice. This is who I am." So I think there was an identity really crystallizing in terms of being comfortable bucking the status quo.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Wow, I don't know. I think theatre's power is really as an engine for local storytelling. Doesn't mean there shouldn't ever be any plays produced in Chicago that are set in London, but I wish that more work was really local - about the city, region or even city block where the work is being shared. I think that as the world shrinks, and TV news and movies can take us global so quickly and easily, the power of theatre will always be to tell a story really relevant to the 100 people in the room that night. In Chicago we have a nice culture of Chicago-based storytelling, and Theatre Seven (the company where I am the Artistic Director) is a part of that. But I wish that in Davenport, Iowa, Omaha, Nebraska, Santa Fe, Tupelo, everywhere - that we could commune over more stories told about local history, people and problems. I think that if an alien race were learning about America from its plays, it would make some interesting observations, among them that 80% of the American population lives in Manhattan.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Too many to name, truly way too many to name. Chicago is a city full of hard-working, ass-kicking, new work making, next generation theatre makers. I admire anyone willing to start something new and say "I have a vision for the future of this form," but I also admire the people who have gone before, like the folks who made Steppenwolf, Goodman, Victory Gardens, Black Ensemble, Lookingglass who have helped theatre carve out a place in the conversation in our city. I truly admire arts administrators, who get an awful name among playwrights and artists. But someone who can run the business end of an arts organization that truly serves a mission and a population is someone who is really special. I'll always have on my list of heroes Andrea, Anna, Carter, Bill, Jeffrey and all my professors at Washington University. I guess my personal heroes are anyone who has ever entered a collaboration with me and given me their trust - whether that was as a director or producer and believing in my work, or as an actor and saying the first line and trusting the play would carry them through. 100% selfishly, those are my personal heroes. I hope I haven't let them down.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Theatre that matters. It doesn't have to 'change the world,' but don't waste my time. Make it count. I'd rather see a flawed play that matters than a perfect play that makes me wonder why it exists.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write. Be persistent. Seek advocates, not attention. If they tell you to submit the play a certain way on their website, believe them. If they tell you they like your work, hold them to it. Have a good website so they can find you. Don't overcommit. If you can figure out how to get productions, please email me.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Directing Professional World Premiere of Carter W. Lewis' AMERICAN STORM at Theatre Seven of Chicago, opening November 16th. (www.theatreseven.org)
Directing Staged Reading Fouad Teymour's THE NIGHT JESUS JOINED THE REVOLUTION at Silk Road Rising in early December. (www.silkroadrising.org)
Writing World Premiere of JOHNNY for Theatre Seven in June. (www.theatreseven.org)
And recently published in THE CHICAGO LANDMARK PROJECT, along with short plays about Chicago by Brooke Berman, J. Nicole Brooks, Aaron Carter, Lonnie Carter, Laura Jacqmin, Jamil Khoury, Rob Koon, Brett Neveu, Yolanda Nieves, Marisa Wegrzyn and the Red Orchid Youth Ensemble, available on Amazon.com here: (http://www.amazon.com/The-Chicago-Landmark-Project-Premiere/dp/1463573936/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1351026336&sr=8-2&keywords=the+chicago+landmark+project)