Tuesday, October 14, 2014

I Interview Playwrights Part 701: Teddy Nicholas


photo by Jody Christopherson

Teddy Nicholas

Hometown: Elmhurst, Queens, NYC

Current Town: Harlem, NYC

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Currently I'm writing a new play called Reservations that follows the story of Tom, a young gay man in New York, who goes on a series of first dates in attempt to connect with others and himself. It covers a lot of topics including pop culture, family, identity, suicide, drug abuse and mental illness. I am writing a scene a week and debuting each scene at Crazytown Blog.

I'm also working on a horror play called Found Footage. It's about undergraduate theater students who disappear doing site-specific research at an abandoned mental institution in upstate New York and seven years later, their research materials are found and staged by an emerging theater company in New York.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  When I was eight years old, I was throwing garbage out in the incinerator room in our apartment building in Queens. The door to the incinerator room had a sharp jagged edge at the bottom of it and when I turned to leave the room, the sharp edge tore straight through my left achilles heel. When I looked down and saw the red of blood, the yellow of fat and the crisp white of bone, I blacked out immediately. When I woke up, I watched in horror as a doctor was stitching me up. My mom and a nurse had to hold me down because I began to scream and freak out. Now there's this scar where you can see the imprint of stitches. A few days later, when I came back to school, my teacher told me the Greek story about Achilles and how he was the great warrior but he had this one tiny weakness which was the same spot that my wound was. And I felt like I had this strange connection to the past but I was able to survive my wounds. And whenever I think about how I am a vulnerable human being with flaws and weaknesses like everyone else, I think about that scar and how I carry this survival instinct with me always.

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

A:  The lack of diversity on stage and in stories, particularly the lack of female playwrights on Broadway.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Young Jean Lee is hands down my hero. I had the honor of stage managing The Shipment for a year-and-a-half, and I learned more from this experience than I did in my entire college career. Also, my sister Leah Nanako Winkler who continues to nurture, inspire and challenge me since we met eight years ago.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theater that is adventurous, experimental, challenging. For instance, I will see anything 600 Highwaymen does. They are my favorite theater company right now; their color-blind/cross-gender casting should be the standard of every theater. I also love everything I've seen by Toshiki Okada, Morgan Gould & Friends, Dave Malloy, Hoi Polloi,

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

A:  I'm just starting out myself really. I've only self-produced my own work; no one has (yet) produced my work. So my advice would be to not wait for anyone to come knocking on your door to do your plays. Do them yourself. Who cares if they're not perfect or if you think they suck or if they're not ready? Just do it. You'll learn so much from failing than you will from doing absolutely nothing. And see as much theater as you can--and all kinds of theater. Go downtown. Go uptown. Go to Brooklyn, Queens. Get out of New York. Take writing workshops if you can afford it like the Flea's Pataphysics workshops, or if anyone ever offers free ones. I've taken two free workshops at Soho Rep that were really great; and Prelude just had one that was maybe the best workshop I ever had. And, of course, just write and write and keep writing even if you don't have time or you don't think it's any good or you don't have any inspiration because as long as you keep writing, it'll stay in your muscles and you'll work them out until they're strong as hell.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I have nothing upcoming (*but I totally could make a show like tomorrow at any theater hint hint wink wink) so I'll just plug shows I'm excited to see or ones I've seen and loved: 600 Highwaymen's Employee of the Year at FIAF; Young Jean Lee's Straight White Men at the Public; Dave Malloy's Ghost Quartet at Bushwick Starr (so good, seriously); Ivo van Hove's Scenes from a Marriage at New York Theatre Workshop and anything at Under the Radar Festival, COIL. Also, omg, I just realized there won't be an Other Forces festival this year because Incubator Arts Project closed (RIP) and now I am filled with sadness.
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