Monday, February 24, 2014

I Interview Playwrights Part 641: Erin Mallon

Erin Mallon

Hometown: Warminster, PA (“right outside of Philly”)

Current Town: Brooklyn

Q:  Tell me about Branched.

A:  I’ve been calling BRANCHED a “cringe comedy.” InViolet Theater is producing it right now at HERE Arts Center and Robert Ross Parker of Vampire Cowboys directed the hell out of it. Tons of laughs and a whole lotta ick. Womb sounds, nipple acting, a freaky newborn who may or may not be human… we’re having a grand ol’ time. One of our reviewers just called the writing “unapologetic,” which excites me, because I grew up a very good Catholic girl who apologized a lot, so it’s good to know I’m working that out of my system.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I am acting in two projects with Buran Theater Company: MAGIC BULLETS (Incubator May ’14) and MAMMOTH, a piece about love and mammoth tusks in the Siberian tundra. I’ve also been working on a solo show with the remarkable Mac Wellman and director Elena Araoz called HORROCKS (AND TOUTATIS TOO). We had a great run with Sleeping Weazel in Boston and are looking for the right NYC home for it now. I play a “Strange and Tall Young Girl” whose asteroid explodes after her forbidden love affair with a toucan. But… it’s actually not about that at all of course.

I’m working on reviving/revamping The Brooklyn Generator, a project I created and helmed for several years. Initially, we devoted one weekend a month to writing and performing ten-minute plays sparked from a theme. It was a great model, but ran its course. Now, my playwright pal Bixby Elliot and I are brainstorming ways to retool The Generator to inspire and support full-length plays. I’m also incredibly jazzed when I see actors, particularly the female kind, writing and producing as well, so I’m in the process of developing a Mastermind Group for self-generating actresses.

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 older brother and I had these Pound Puppies when we were little. His guy was named Chip, mine was named Jupe. These pups had remarkable daily adventures. They even started their own radio show (i.e. a series of crinkly cassette tapes filled with our saucy dog voices). One day, Jupe went missing. We were devastated, but we kept on doing the “Chip and Jupe” show in spite of his absence. We imagined Jupe was on some wild globe trotting adventure and would return when he was able. Then, whaddaya know, several months later my mom and I were at a neighborhood garage sale (our Saturday morning ritual) and lying on a sheet with a $.05 tag on his head was Jupe! He was missing an eye and had been attacked by some child’s heartless pen scribbles. I purchased him, brought him home, washed away his pen scars and reunited him with Chip. Jupe told us an epic tale of how he’d been kidnapped and tortured by a horrible family. When said horrible family went on a trip to Disneyworld and took him on the flight, he spotted his escape. Jupe jumped out of the plane, knocked his eye out on impact and had been awaiting our rescue on that lawn ever since.

I’m a big believer in “as if” thinking. Act as if the things you want are inevitable. Keep working and carry on as if they’ll come true any moment. With enough belief and steady steps they eventually do.

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

A:  One thing I find unfortunate is when I see playwrights dogging each other because they don’t like the work someone else is doing. There’s a sort of “how dare they” outrage because they would have done it differently. Of course you would. You’re an entirely different human being. Why should someone write plays the way you do? I was at a show the other night, and my body was having all sorts of “I need to get the hell out of here” reactions, that’s how much the play was not working for me. But then, I looked around and the whole audience seemed to be entranced. Their faces were completely lit up with joy. There was a standing ovation at the end and I was sitting there completely flabbergasted as to why I wasn’t feeling the same. That was actually a very inspiring night at the theater. It wasn’t for me, but I’d see it again and again to watch its effect on the audience.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I’m continually psyched by the work New Georges and Clubbed Thumb are doing. EST and the Youngblood playwrights make me giddy. The Great Plains Theater Conference is an absolute gift. Vampire Cowboys make theater-going feel like attending a badass rock concert. The kids and staff at The 52nd Street Project have taught me more about what theater can achieve than possibly anyone, and I think what the NY Neo-Futurists are doing with Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind every week is a wonder. I’m also a huge fan of all women and men everywhere who are raising children and theater careers simultaneously.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like theater that embraces theatricality. I don’t need experiences that look and sound exactly like my everyday life. I've got that covered. When I go to the theater I want it to take me on a friggin ride and drop me somewhere I’ve never been before by the end. I want it to bounce. I want to see actors who are alive and breathing and grooving. I crave work that’s highly stylized, muscular and precise, and I’m also pumped up by theater that’s quick and dirty and put on its feet “before it’s ready.”

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

A:  My life really started opening up once I gave myself permission to fall in love with theater as a whole. By all means, give your full heart and focus to what you do best, but if you’re an actor with a hankering to write? Write. If you’re a playwright and are juiced by the possibility of directing? Direct. This week I’m crafting glittery lightning bolts out of cardboard boxes for a short play I wrote and I feel absurdly energized by this. I’m also realizing more and more the value of remembering what gave you pleasure as a child. There tend to be helpful clues in there for how to sustain your happiness as an adult.

Q:  Plugs, please:

Written by Erin Mallon
Directed by Robert Ross Parker
Presented by InViolet Theater
Open now and runs until March 8th
@ HERE Arts Center – 145 Sixth Avenue

March 3rd at 7pm and 8:30pm
@ The Celebration of Whimsy – 21A Clinton St.
This is Amios’ monthly “theatrical pressure cooker.” My new short play “Stoned” is one of six short plays being presented.

Written and directed by Sara Farrington
March 6-16th @ Incubator Arts Project
My dear friend Sara Farrington’s beautiful show is not to be missed.

Buran Theatre
Written by Adam Burnett
Directed by Adam Burnett and Justin Knudsen
May 2nd – May 11th @ Incubator Arts Project

I’m online at, FB at and Twitter at @ErinMallon.

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