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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Oct 9, 2013

I Interview Playwrights Part 610: Brian Watkins

Brian Watkins

Hometown: Parker, Colorado

Current Town: Brooklyn

Q:  Tell me about the Lesser show.

A:  It's called JUST RIGHT JUST NOW. Six short pieces -- all set in a forgotten basement -- from six rather amazing playwrights. My piece, STUDY THAT HOUSE, is a very simple and spooky little tale about a man who inexplicably finds a dog in his basement and the course his life takes in grappling with the mystery of it. Every piece in the production is beautifully different, yet bound by a foundational theme of basements being these complex and dark little underworlds. Lesser A knows how to pick 'em; Laura Ramadei, Dan Abeles, and Nate Miller are such a great team to work with, as they really know how to get the right mix of people in the room. It’s been a joy to work on.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I just finished two new full-lengths: one’s a love story about a Civil War amputee with a peculiar secret. The other is called GAMES FOR AN EMPTY CUL-DE-SAC about 4 orphans that have quarantined themselves in their ramshackle childhood home to compete for parental authority. Now currently writing a play about beer.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  A lot of my family lives in the Northwest. Every Fourth of July, we’d all get together and ferry out to this island where there was some strange cabin on a clearing in the middle of the woods. My grandfather would gather everyone around and make us watch him leap over blazing fireworks, wearing very short shorts, while he bellowed lyrics from The Music Man.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Plasticene Theatre in Chicago, Sam Shepard, Beckett, Harold Pinter, Caryl Churchill, Eugene O'Neill, Will Eno, Yeats, Conor McPherson. And then there’s those non-theatre theatrical heroes like Bruce Nauman, Flannery O’Connor, and Cormac McCarthy. I could go on and on… so I’ll stop.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theatre that travels long dramatic distances, that is constantly arriving at unexpected places. Bold and risky stuff, written from the gut, that teeters on the edge of falling on its face. It seems this brand of theatre is typically thought of as “visceral” or “sweaty” or “loud” but I think it can also include quiet or contemplative work. For examples, see above list.

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

A:  Pursue playwriting for the love of the craft and the community, not for what the craft and community can give you. Take a posture of ambitious selflessness. This means being a zealous listener. It also means writing every day. Taking risks and failing. Reading. Seeing as much theatre as possible. And sacrificing a whole lot of immediate comfort in exchange for slow, meaningful growth. As every writer knows, turning off the neurotic bullshit in our heads is half the battle. Ironically, I think the practice of focusing outward – of upholding something other than one’s individuality – can garner, in spades, the very things that writers typically strive to self-generate yet can’t sustain: inspiration, higher craftsmanship, a unique voice. You can find some true gems in the theatre community that practice this. When you find one, spend as much time with them as possible.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Go see the Lesser America show! JUST RIGHT JUST NOW is a great offering of work from playwrights Eric Dufault, Clare Barron, Anna Kerrigan, Lauren Morelli, Marco Ramirez, and myself. Stella Powell Jones and Peter James Cook are our two amazing directors. Round it out with a great cast and awesome designers, and boom, you got some ballsy, dark theatre. October 10-27. Get your tickets while you can.

Also, you should check out a rather fascinating collaborative exhibition between AIGA and Little Fury design studio, for which I have the honor of being head writer. We’ve compiled a team of great writers – including some incredible playwrights like Bekah Brunstetter and Eric Dufault – to pen fictional stories about well-designed common goods. The stories are hilarious and touching and fascinating; sort of like a literary/design experience that shines a whole new light on the gap between consumerism and craftsmanship. 5th Ave at 22nd Street. Nov 1-Dec 28.

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