Thursday, November 29, 2012
I Interview Playwrights Part 531: E. J. C. Calvert
E. J. C. Calvert
Hometown: I was born in St. Louis, MO, and lived there long enough to form a couple foggy memories. Then I grew up primarily in Rochester, NY, with stints in Palo Alto and Pittsburgh, before returning to St. Louis for some of high school and undergrad. So... St. Louis, I guess, because that’s where I started drinking beer.
Current Town: Chicago, Il. Come visit me, we’ll get tacos.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m currently writing for the upcoming web series Annie & Brie. It follows two women trying to survive their intermediate acting class, trying to navigate the city, and trying to be friends and roommates without throttling each other. It’s going to be a raucous good time; I’ve had a huge amount of fun writing these episodes.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: So, I don’t want to say I was a bossy kid. It’s just that I’m the oldest of three siblings, and somebody needed to keep everyone on their marks and make sure they knew their lines by the time our parents and their friends finished their wine and were ready to leave. “Time for Brian and Danny to go home,” our parents call down to the basement.” I could hear the adults gathering car keys and putting on their coats. “WAIT!” Little Auteur Calvert shouts up the stairs, “Come downstairs, we have a play for you!”
I wonder if they had been bracing themselves for this announcement. It is commendable that I have no memory of hearing them groan as they came down the basement stairs to take their places in the row of child-size chairs I set out.
Our stage was an old mattress with a door laying on it, which gave our productions an air of seasickness. The exhausted adults perched uncomfortably, trying not to yawn too frequently as they watched their children pitch across the unsteady stage, reciting pun after impeccably-drilled pun.
So maybe I didn’t get the hint when my mom was flashing repeated “wrap-it-up” gestures. I promise that, since then, I’ve gotten better at receiving criticism. Plus, now I understand the joy of letting your audience drink their wine while they’re in their uncomfortable, child-size seats, instead of expecting them to finish drinking pre-show.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: It always comes down to money, doesn’t it? Theater folks do amazing things on shoestring budgets, but even with all our thrifty ingenuity, ticket prices can make shows inaccessible to potential audiences. Okay, everybody, one, two, three: group frown!
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: 13P and Alfred Jarry.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I’m a big fan of nudity, violence, jokes and swears. I’m still on the fence about puns, though, and I have a uncontrollable eye-roll complex when it comes to extended scientific metaphors. I enjoy site-specific theater and theater in non-traditional spaces. I’ve gone to shows solely because critics panned them for being too pretentious, which probably says something unpleasant about me.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Three things, in list form:
1. Produce your own work. This will be hard and terrible, but that play isn’t doing you any good sitting on your hard drive. If your play isn’t on its feet, it’s just an improperly formatted, dialogue-heavy novel that no one will ever read.
2. Whatever you do, write something you want to see. Then you can skip circles around sneering talk-back audiences, sing-songing “There’s no accounting for taste!” (Maybe don’t do that, though, nobody likes an asshole.)
3. Don’t read any of these lists, it’ll give you a complex.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: I’m half of comedy-duo Lizanda, and we’re gearing up to perform the first NYC production of #1 Besties with Boy Trouble, a semi-scripted hour-long comedy that premiered at Chicago Fringe Festival this summer. We’ll be at The Creek and the Cave this Friday at 8 p.m.
Annie & Brie will be premiering in Spring 2013. facebook.com/annieandbrie