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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Aug 27, 2014

I Interview Playwrights Part 687: Isaac Rathbone

Isaac Rathbone

Hometown: Milford, NY (small upstate town right next to Cooperstown)

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY
Q:  Tell me about The March of The Bonus Army.

A:  It is a historical play chronicling the events of 1932's Bonus March. Essentially all veterans of World War I were guaranteed a "bonus" payment, which was a wage compensation due to the fact that civilian workers made more than those in combat. The economic devastation of the Great Depression led to over 20,000 veterans marching and camping out in Washington, DC calling for an acceleration of these payments. Their lobbying efforts fell on deaf ears and the Bonus Army was evicted by General MacArthur and the US Army. It is a lesser known event in American history, yet paved the way for future legislation such as the GI Bill. Our hope is that audience members will leave the theater with a different perspective on both Veteran's Rights as well as the American right to demonstrate peacefully.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I am currently in a heavy stage of re-writes on a full-length play entitled "The Gnome," about an upstate NY Wal-Mart employee who finds a magical lawn gnome after an early spring thaw. My hopes are to have it ready for a 2015 production. I am also in the very early stages of a play combining two of my favorite genres: Science Fiction and Sports (specifically baseball).

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 am old enough to have seen the original theatrical release of "The Empire Strikes Back." The next day in pre-school, I gathered all of my friends and "re-staged" the entire movie using the school's blocks and toys as props. I even directed my friend who was playing Luke Skywalker to have his hand severed. When "Return of the Jedi" was released, my kindergarten friends wanted to re-stage that movie during playtime. I turned it down. I'm an "Empire" guy.

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

A:  The economics. Hands down. And I'm not saying all theater artists need to be millionaires and all shows should have free admission. But if all artists involved, at all levels of theater, could just go into working on a project and not have to sweat out the underlying logistics of "how can I do this and only go sort of broke and not totally broke," I think there would be an increase in overall quality and audience.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I always find myself going back to Harold Pinter's work for inspiration, so he would qualify. My wife Jennifer, never ceases to amaze me in what she can accomplish on-stage (she's the lighting and production designer on the show) as well as her ability to break down and analyze a script.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The kind of show that while I'm watching it, I know I'll be thinking about it the next day and hopefully beyond. It's exciting to have something trigger your emotions or thoughts, even if you don't know what it is at that exact moment, and to keep mental notes through out the evening. I love that. There usually tends to be some degree of intentional subtlety that lets me really dig for those things.

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

A:  During the after-party of my very first New York show, I was on Cloud 9. So after having a few celebratory beers, I went to the men's room. The two guys on each side of me, knew each other but not me or who I was. So with the playwright standing in the middle, they began to make "Urinal Chit-Chat" that consisted of completely ripping apart the play. You will go through extreme highs and extreme lows. Enjoy the highs and wash your hands after the lows.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:   "The March of the Bonus Army" September 4th-7th & 11th-14th. Black Box Theater at CAP21, 18 West 18th Street! The show is not only socially relevant and full of historical content, it features live music of the era played and sung by the cast. It's one of those performances by a group of talented individuals that has a lot of heart.

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