Friday, November 01, 2013

I Interview Playwrights Part 617: Mallery Avidon

Mallery Avidon
Hometown:  Seattle, WA

Current Town:  Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about Mary-Kate Olsen is in Love

A:  We had our final run thru before tech last Friday. Afterwards Kristan Seemel, the director, and I were outside with the lighting designer, John Eckert.

It was the first time John had actually seen any of it on its feet and John said "This might be an insult but the play is WAY funnier than I thought it was. I mean when I read it I thought it was funny but..."

Which is of course not at all an insult...I always hope my plays are funnier and sadder and weirder and more beautiful when people are doing them than they are on the page...I think (hope) that's the point...

But yes: It's a FUNNY play about SAD PEOPLE

We start previews Friday Nov 1(tomorrow!) and it's been great being at The Flea. The Bats are so game and committed and just awesome to work with and I'm thrilled to be working with Kristan again. He directed the workshop of O Guru Guru Guru when we were at Brown together and we worked together a lot in grad school and then haven't had the chance since and it feels like a nice sort of homecoming. I think our collaborators are so important. I've had a bunch of workshops and readings of this play over time and gotten to work with a bunch of different actors and directors on it and I think I talk about the downside of play development but really I only like doing rewrites when I'm in a workshop/rehearsal setting and have awesome smart people around me challenging and giving life to whatever thing I've written.

We had an in-house reading of Mary-Kate for Jim Simpson in the spring and afterwards he said "this is done right?" Which was such an amazing thing to hear from an artistic director, but also speaks to all the work that had gone into the play in its earlier workshop/reading iterations.

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  Mary-Kate will be my fourth world premiere in the last 12 months. breaks & bikes last November with Pavement Group in Chicago, O Guru Guru Guru, or why I don't want to go to yoga class with you at the Humana festival in April queerSpawn with a collection of shiny objects at Here Arts Center in June and now Mary-Kate.

It's really difficult for me to write things other than the show that is actually in preproduction or rehearsals so I hadn't written a new play in over a year which felt crazy.

I finally wrote a a first draft over the summer called a to z that I did a reading of at the Bushwick Starr in July and is having a reading with Satori Group in Seattle later in November.

Thus far mostly people have told me it's VERY sad.

I quit smoking a couple weeks ago and I've been worried about writing without smoking so I started a new play that I'm writing in the notes on my phone and I'm only writing it when I'm on the subway where I can't smoke no matter what. It's called We Will Be Ephemeral (which is a tag I saw on the Williamsburg Bridge and couldn't stop thinking about) and it takes place at a pot dealer's apartment in Seattle (where pot just became legal) video store employees, being a pot dealer will soon no longer be a job in Seattle.

I'm doing a Target Margin Theater Lab at Abrons Arts Center in February as part of Beyond The Pale, their investigation of Yiddish Work. I'm adapting a Celia Dropkin short story called At The Rich Relatives (about teenage revolutionaries) into a short musical that my friend Margot Bordelon is directing.

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 parents met in Santa Cruz in the 70's they did weird theater and my dad cooked at a restaurant and my mom worked at a bookstore. And they basically had no money but it was ok because it was the 70's in Santa Cruz and they were hippies. One summer Spalding Gray came to town to teach a workshop in autobiographical solo performance. My parents wanted to take the workshop, but again, had no they made a deal with Spalding that they would help out in exchange for the workshop...this seems to have consisted entirely of them getting him pot and playing scrabble with him. I wasn't born yet but there is photographic evidence that at least some version of these events happened.

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

A:  A magical world where all the tickets are way way less and everyone gets paid more...

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Caryl Churchill, Maria Irene Fornes, Les Waters, John Kazanjian & Mary Ewald, David Herskovits, David Zinn, Lenore Doxsee, Erik Ehn, Lisa D'Amour, Adam Rapp, Will Eno

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theater that wants me to be there. Theater that might be called performance. Theater with amazing language.

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

A:  Write! Figure out where and when and how you like to write. Write as much as you can and then write some more. Figure out how to see your writing up on its feet with people who have worked on it and maybe some design ideas. This could be in your apartment or an abandoned building or your neighborhood bar/gallery/bookstore that has space in the back and is willing to let you use it for free. Find collaborators! Say yes to things! If you've written one full length play and "no one wants to produce it" write another one. Do other things in theater if you haven't! Stage Manage! Assist a director! See what other people do to make theater happen. Read lots of plays! See lots of theater! Don't just see the stuff your friends are in...see things you know nothing about! Talk to people you admire who make theater...if you ask nicely people will often have a coffee with you and answer questions...If you're already an actor or coming from some other part of theater when you read plays read them like a are they put together how is the language stacking up what is it doing...Figure out in really concrete terms what can indicate success for you that isn't money. Don't worry about getting an agent.

Go to other kinds of live events: music dance sports parties how are these the same/different. Go to museums. See visual art. Take long walks and don't listen to headphones and don't look at your phone.

Give yourself Time to Think and Daydream.

Pursue your obsessions.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Mary-Kate Olsen is in Love @ The Flea! If you come to previews between the 1 & 14 I'll be there and we can hang out!
a to z reading with The Satori Group in Seattle!
O Guru Guru Guru, or why I don't want to go to yoga class with you @ Carolina Actors Studio Theater in Charlotte, North Carolina
Beyond The Pale Target Margin Lab! So Many Great Artists!
The Bushwick Starr Reading Series that I co-curate with William Burke and Mark Sitko! (also all the shows at The Starr Always!)
Ryan Mitchell's Company Saint Genet who I am a dramaturge for!

Adam Rapp's play The Edge of Our Bodies performed by Samie Detzer at Washington Ensemble Theater in the Spring
Bo-Nita by Elizabeth Heffron directed by Paul Budraitis at Seattle Rep Right Now!
Iska Dhaaf!
Infinite Jest!

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