Hometown: Seattle, Washington
Current Town: Seattle, Washington
Q: Tell me about A Facility For Living:
A: The play is set in the not-too-distant future. Dick Cheney is our new President. Medicare has been replaced with something called The Senior Provision Act or SPA. SPA's motto is: You cause it! You pay for it! The aged and infirm are housed in Federal Nursing Homes which are renovated Federal Prisons. The prisoners have been outsourced to Pakistan with the exception of a lucky few who remain to take care of the residents. The story takes place in the day room of SPA Facility #273, overseen by Nurse Claudia and her aide, the lovable felon, Kevin. When a new patient is admitted--a former stage actor--all hell breaks loose. It's CUCKOO'S NEST meets GOLDEN GIRLS, a black (gray?) comedy that asks the question: "If the taxpayer is picking up the check for your medical expenses, what is your responsibility in terms of maintaining your health?"
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I'm re-writing and, as always, attempting to market my plays.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: As a kid, I was in love with old movies. I was particularly fond of prison movies. At about this time, my mother operated a daycare center out of our home. (This was in addition to taking care of her own 9 children and caring for her invalid mother who lived with us.) In the summer months I was her helper--that is, whenever she could rouse me from sleep or a television coma. She would ask me to, "Do something with the children!" So, I'd round them up and take them into the backyard and cheerfully inform them, "We're going to play a game called Detention School--and I'm going to play the part of the Head Matron!" Among my brothers' many derelict British sport cars, I had the kids (ages 5 to 10) sit in two rows and I would inform them of their crimes--grand theft auto, armed bank robbery--and then tell them that they were to atone for their sins by being very quiet and, most importantly, obeying the rules. (The kids seemed quite taken with the idea that they were juvenile delinquents and had rap sheets.) As part of their punishment, I would read aloud from the Encyclopedia Britannica--with a pop quiz to follow. We would go on contemplative nature walks, their heads bowed and hands folded in front of them. All responses to my questions were to begin: "Salami, bologna, we love you with all our hearts!" And, of course, part of their rehabilitation was mandatory participation in the Detention School's theatre program. All plays having been written by--you got it--the Head Matron. Our productions were hindered by the fact that some of the actors had not yet learned to read.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Well, it would certainly be nice to see more produced plays written by women. But that's become such a worn-out lament, you know? The statistics just don't seem to be budging much. I heard an interesting comment from an artistic director at a children's theater once. She said, "Little girls will sit through stories about little boys; but little boys will not sit through stories about little girls."
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: The kind of theater that makes me forget everything else. Arthur Miller said, "The job of the artist is to remind people of what they have chosen to forget.” But it's my feeling that the job of the artist is also to help people forget—temporarily—what haunts them.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Be careful not to seek too many opinions about your work. Two or three readers are plenty--choose wisely. Smart, theater-savvy folks--preferably people who read lots of plays. And even then, don't take any one comment too much to heart. It's all a crap shoot and nobody really knows anything for certain. One thing you can control is how much you write. The more plays you finish, the better you get. Once you've got a draft, take a break, maybe a few days or weeks, then re-read, re-write, re-peat. Be patient. As my mother used to say: "God's delays are not God's denials." Personally, I'm pinning my hopes on being discovered posthumously.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Theater Breaking Through Barriers, Detroit Rep, Kimber Lee (talented writer, wonderful not-crazy person), Barter Theater. ACT Theater. Seattle Rep. Abigail Adams at People's Light. Hedgebrook.
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