Hometown: West Redding, Connecticut
Current Town: Manhattan
Q: What are you working on now?
A: THRILLSVILLE - a comedy about a difficult but lovable, developmentally disabled woman from an upper middle class family whose brother moves her into a Medicaid-run residence after it’s revealed the trust fund meant to pay for her lavish apartment was drained by their parents before their death. And I write for a few TV shows on PBS Kids (including ARTHUR and WONDER RANGERS.) My 4-character comedy THE GLINT (about two aging voice-over actors and the women who love them) is also headed for Broadway in 2015, produced by Nelle Nugent and directed by Michael Wilson.
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 fought like cats and dogs… except Monday nights at 9pm. That’s when M*A*S*H came on. I’d hide on the staircase and listen to them laughing together. I’m a big believer in the power of laughter to disarm and connect. And I love to write about savage people. And I like to write plays and TV shows that have helpful and hopeful messages for kids on staircases listening to their parents laugh at the TV.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I studied playwriting at Brown and acting at the University of California, San Diego- two programs hot for experimental theatre. It was fun, but I hit my breaking point when - playing one of only two human beings in a 3-hour puppet rock musical about William Blake - I requested a handkerchief to wipe away the tears of my wife in a tender scene - and was handed a 3” x 5” piece of lucite. Years later, I came up with the idea for a class on solo performance that focused on the simple, human connection of autobiographical storytelling. I have since taught the 7-week class about 70 times and I've helped shape hundreds of solo shows - many of them winning awards and rave reviews, and all of them coming from a simple, human, authentic place. I don’t want to change or get rid of abstract or experimental theatre, but I am starting to train teachers in my method, and I would like the kind of direct, heart-to-heart work that I encourage in my classes to survive me.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Oh geez, I love the lunacy of Charles Busch and Julie Halston, the big-hearted irreverence of Randy Newman (he was working on FAUST at the La Jolla Playhouse when I was at UCSD), David Lindsay-Abaire (I saw a production of FUDDY MEERS at Oregon Shakespeare that changed my life), Spalding Gray, Horton Foote and the farceurs: Alan Ayckbourn, Feydeau, Moliere, Ben Travers, Ray Cooney, Michael Frayn etc... and my students!
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Plays that are human and real, but which also have a level of comic proficiency. Comic size that is also attached to something real, or at least joyful, recently: ONE MAN,TWO GUV’NORS; LEND ME A TENOR, Matthew Warchus’ BOEING BOEING and THE NORMAN CONQUESTS. TRIBES.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Live. And write about what you, and only you, know. Write it in your special way, no matter what other people seem to be liking right now. Look for the moments in your work when you feel, “That’s it! That’s my voice!” Next time, write more like that. Self-produce. Fail and learn from your failures. Be very, very encouraging of yourself. Pass through cynicism, but don’t stop there. Write for your grandbabies, as if you were comfortable with them knowing the dirty bits about you. Write for the ages, for the kids on the stairs, hungry for your hard-won wisdom. You don’t have to impress us. Just remind us of what it means to be alive.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: As mentioned, my play THE GLINT is scheduled to be produced on b’way by Nelle Nugent in 2015, directed by Michael Wilson. So keep your eyes peeled. For other current stuff:
And for more about my classes: createyourownsoloshow.com
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