May 7, 2013
I Interview Playwrights Part 578: Jeff Augustin
Hometown: Miami, FL
Current Town: La Jolla, CA (For only another year. Currently in grad school at UCSD)
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on two plays. Both at very different stages.
The first is THE LAST TIGER IN HAITI, which is mostly an idea right now. I’ll get a chance to write it this summer at Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor. It draws from a form of Haitian Storytelling known as Krik? Krak! In villages in Haiti, when a storyteller is ready or wants to share a story they say “Krik?” and if the other villagers want to hear a story they say: “Krak!” These stories come from a catalogue of folktales shared and passed down from generation to generation. What makes the stories special is the storyteller and how they embody it. The play is about three friends who, as children, would meet up and tell these stories. Ten years later they’re reunited by the alpha of the group for unknown reasons. It’s pretty much as far as I’ve gotten so far.
The other play, LITTLE CHILDREN DREAM OF GOD, I’ve been working on for a year now. It’s an eight-person ensemble piece revolving around a woman who travels from Haiti to Miami on a car tire eleven months pregnant. It deals a bit with Haitian mythology and voodoo. And explores what happens when we hold on to the fantasies we create as children. It’s a lot further along than the other play, but I’m still trying to figure out how it works. I’ll be developing it this summer at the O’Neill Playwright’s Conference.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: My mom was obsessed with family time activities that didn’t require us going out. So even though I grew up in Miami we had picnics in our living room or elaborate singing contests with costumes and dance routines.
But my favorite thing we did was story time. We'd shut off all the lights and other electronics, light some candles and tell stories. My mom would tell these urban legends about the town she grew up in in Haiti. And she was really good at telling stories. The worlds she created would fill the room. They were simple stories, but she told with great care and passion. It felt like being part of some great tradition. It’s really what got me into theatre.
Q; If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Offer cheaper tickets and more diverse voices in programing. I know that’s two things, sorry.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Jose Rivera, Dael Orlandersmith, Adrienne Kennedy, Tennessee Williams
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Theater that excited those who made it. Theatre about a deep, human need. Theatre that feels personal and heartfelt, even if it’s sentimental. And I can’t get enough of beautiful language.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A; Read and see a lot of theatre, especially new plays. Get to know other writers, both your heroes and peers. There is a wealth of knowledge and inspiration to be mined. And write more than you think you’re capable of.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Two fellow UCSD playwrights have things going on this summer: Look out for David Jacobi’s EX MACHINA in this year’s NY Fringe Festival (August) and Kristin Idaszak’s THE LIAR PARADOX as part of LeapFest at Stage Left Theatre in Chicago (June).
Also check out QUEERSPAWN by Mallery Avidon running at HERE Arts Center in May. She's awesome.
Books by Adam