Hometown: Pepperell, Massachusetts
Current Town: Astoria, Queens
Q: What are you working on now?
A: My best friend Jake tells me that whenever I describe my plays they all sound really unbearable.
THE TOMB OF KING TOT
A cartoonist vying for a coveted award. A child pharaoh journeying through the afterlife. Inspired by Richie Rich cartoons and the Egyptian Book of the Dead. There’s a reading of this occurring about 24 hours from now, and I just read that in some British museum an Egyptian statue is spinning in its display case.
Teenage girls smuggling cocaine over the Canadian border inside American Girl dolls. Told partially through the perspective of the dolls. Inspired by NYC public schools and, you know, American Girl dolls. I think American Girl dolls are very strange and interesting.
This thing is in like ten different word documents currently obscuring my computer’s background. It’s about computer chat-programs. Think Smarterchild. Or Siri, I guess. But it’s really about the internet and loneliness.
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’ve been thinking a lot about autobiographical plays due to some fantastic recent readings by fellow playwrights Alex Borinsky and Clare Barron.
But I think I’m working towards childhood stories, so instead, here are some fragmentary things I remember vividly from youth:
Once, there was a snow storm, and my brother and I could climb to the limb of a tree we’d never had access to previously. And we jumped off, and I think we landed on the hood of my dad’s car, but I’m not totally sure about that last part.
When driving to Nashua, NH, we would pass by a farm with an enormous, somewhat misshapen, paper-mache cow head mounted on the barn. Very disconcerting.
There was also a farm with two very, very woolly bulls. But then it closed down, and I have no idea what happened to the bulls.
I went to a charter school stationed on an army base. And once, during soccer practice, Joseph Ursch (not his real name) found an old hand grenade, pulled the pin, and threw it into the woods. But nothing happened.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I’m still figuring some of this stuff out. It's all pretty messy and complex.
So I’m going to refer you to playwright/man-about-town Mike Lew’s theater blog, which I really enjoy reading and addresses a slew of theatrical issues/ideas.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: The first play I ever remember reading and thinking: ‘this is really fucking cool’ was Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut. Which is about a big game hunter and a Nazi ghost and a little girl or something like that. I’ve since reread it and it’s really not that fucking cool.
But I’m not sure I’d be writing plays if it wasn’t for Wanda June. So I owe her.
I’m really inspired by Stephen Adly Guirgis. Particularly his play In Arabia We’d All Be Kings. There are a few sections that I’ve reread dozens of times trying to figure out how he does what he does. There’s a strange kindness in his plays that I really like.
I do the same rereading-thing with Annie Baker’s plays. Especially Aliens. Doesn’t everyone do that? Doesn’t everyone have like pages of Aliens under their sheet so they can absorb the writing through osmosis? I’m pretty sure everyone does that with Annie Baker.
And even though they’re not theater:
George Saunders. Christopher Guest. Miranda July. The Coen Bros.
But oh! Wait! I realized the right answer to this question!
You know who are Beowulf-Ajax type heroes?
Graeme Gillis and RJ Tolan. Heads of the Youngblood playwriting group. Stationed out of Ensemble Studio Theatre. They are both titans striding the Earth with their long, powerful legs.
Forget Wanda June. I owe those guys/that group more.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Earnest plays.
Plays that are really tough to translate over into film/television.
Then I have my own predilections for:
Talking animals. Folktales. Crude jokes. Stupid subcultures. Mean people that are also nice. A lack of self-awareness. Class diversity.
But the horrible, boring truth is that I guess I’m something of a traditionalist and just terribly fond of a well-constructed story where someone wants something and there are obstacles and I feel moved.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write so, so much. Get up early in the morning, put the same song/album on repeat, and just write so, so much.
And have fun while you do it. Right? Right.
Q: Plugs, please:
The Tomb of King Tot- A Reading
Wednesday, June 26th
The Ma Yi Rehearsal Space (260 West 35th St, 2nd Fl.)
I’m also writing in:
The 24 Hour Plays: Nationals
The 52nd St. Project One-on-Ones
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Books by Adam