Sunday, June 30, 2013

I Interview Playwrights Part 593: Robert Caisley

Robert Caisley

Hometown: Born in Rotherham, U.K.

Current Town: Moscow, Idaho

Q: Tell me about Happy.

A:  Happy is about a guy called Alfred Rehm. Alfred is happy about his life. Really happy. He’s happy with his job teaching French Literature. He’s happy with his fourteen year marriage to Melinda. He’s even happy raising his special needs daughter, Claire, who’s confined to a wheelchair. In fact, Alfred seems to be happy with everything and everyone in his life. But when his bohemian artist best friend Eduardo invites him to dinner to meet the latest woman in his life, Eva, a dour twenty-two year-old art student suspicious of anything ‘upbeat,’ things spin out of control.

Alfred begins to doubt the authenticity of his happiness, and in turn, makes everyone’s lives utterly miserable. The dinner party ends in disaster when Alfred and Melinda are forced to reassess their marriage, indeed, their entire life. Happy is a play about how vicious and enviable we can be of people possessed with a natural joie de vivre.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I just finished the first draft of a new play called LUCKY ME. I’m excited about it because it’s so much more comic and romantic than my last play, which was a darker and cynical, so it’s been so much fun writing it. I just did a first table read with the folks at NJ Rep and I’m not getting into revisions. Here’s the brief premise for LUCKY ME: Sara Fine’s having a bad week. The light bulbs in her apartment keep burning out; the aquarium is perpetually full of dead fish; the cat’s gone AWOL, again, and her blind, elderly father -- who chased off her last beau -- is immediately suspicious of Tom, the new neighbor, a TSA agent who just brought his daughter home from the emergency room on New Year’s Eve with a fractured 5th meta-tarsal. As Tom’s attraction to Sara increases, he learns of an increasingly bizarre streak of bad luck that’s been haunting Sara for years – twenty two years to be precise. LUCKY ME is a funny and whimsical drama about love, aging, bad luck and airport security.

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

A:  The ticket prices. The economics. I’d make smaller theatres charge a little more so theatre artists could quit living life with this “beggar’s mentality” and show that what we do has real value, and I’d make the big theatres charge less in order to democratize the theatre.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  My dad has been an actor as long as I can remember. He was always “going to rehearsal” even when he had a full-time job and taking care of the family. He’s still acting today, and he, more than any one person, lured me into the theatre. He convinced me to audition for a local theatre’s production of O’Neill’s Ah, Wilderness! when I was 16 and I haven’t left the theatre since.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Nothing excites me more than going to a theatre where the seats are all full – where a theatre is serving a particularly community, a particular demographic. If the theatre is full, they must be doing something right and I respect that more than being passionate about any one kind of theatre.

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

A:  Write something every day, even if it’s just a couple of words. You’d be amazed how those words add up. And words get lonely – they don’t like sitting there on the page all by their lonesome, so they’ll start arguing, begging, flirting with you to find them some friends, and then you’ve got a scene going. The other thing I find really helpful: sit down and type a really bizarre and curious stage direction that completely confounds you and you have no idea what it means or why it belongs in the play … then figure it out. This is how HAPPY started.

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