Monday, October 28, 2013

I Interview Playwrights Part 614: Aleks Merilo

Aleks Merilo

Hometown: Palo Alto, CA

Current Town: Portland, OR

Q:  Tell me about EXIT 27.

A:  EXIT 27 is based on the the true stories of the Lost Boys of Utah. Exiled from their fundamentalist sect in order to eliminate competition for older men seeking additional wives, these boys are pariahs between two worlds: Their former home, and the outside world, which they have been taught for their whole lives is a place of evil.

Q:  What are you working on now?

My newest play is a drama called THE WIDOW OF TOM'S HILL. It's based on the 1918 quarantining of small Washington towns during the great influenza, and a 19 year old widow who is forced to act as the liaison between both sides of the blockade.

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 remember reading as a child that Elizabethan theater troupes would sometimes kidnap boys and force them to work as traveling players. For me, that sounded like absolute Heaven. I would lay awake at night and wonder why feral bands of actors had not yet abducted me. It was a cruel day when I learned I was born about 500 years late, and on the wrong continent. Christ, I still feel like I missed out.

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

A:  Sadly, I think theater sometimes pigeonholes itself as an art of the elite. To recall the historical rabble in the pit at London's Globe or Rose Theaters, the citywide participation during the Festival of Dionysus in Greece, or even morality plays across medieval Europe... These were golden ages of theater because they appealed to not simply the most affluent classes, but to everyone who came to applaud a play.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I deeply admire the scripts of Tennessee Williams for their intimacy, the plays of Peter Shaffer for their enormity, and the texts of Martin McDonnagh for their psychotic, unsentimental drive.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I think dramas are best when they make you laugh, and comedies are best when they make you cry.

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

A:  Take an acting class. I think that acting and writing force you to ask the same questions: What makes this character who they are, what are their aspirations, what is their humanity? For me, one of the first and last questions I ask myself is "Would I be interested in playing this role?"

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The Sanguine Theater is opening my play EXIT 27 on Nov. 7 at the Medicine theater. This is a great new company, and they are fiercely loyal to playwrights.

I also have nothing but praise for David Rainey and The Landing Theatre in Houston, Texas, for their commitment to new playwrights and new scripts. They are just really damn good.

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