Hometown: Providence, RI
Current Town: Seattle, WA
Q: Tell me about Possum Carcass.
A: The play was first commissioned in the early 2000s by Woolly Mammoth Theater Company and the New Play Network. Possum Carcass is a “cover” of The Seagull. I’ve always been a huge Chekov fan, and I wanted to see what I could learn by compressing the play to six characters and relocating it to New York City. Ultimately the goal was to write a play that let a theater audience see The Seagull in a new way and a non-theater audience to enjoy a this dark-comedy without being alienated by the distant time and location in which it is set. In the ten years since I first wrote the play, it’s been read or work-shopped at Woolly Mammoth (DC), Clubbed Thumb (NY), University of Maryland, Kitchen Dog Theater (Dallas), Knitting Factory (NY), and Annex Theatre (Seattle).
Q: What else are you working on now? I hear you have retired from playwriting. What is that like and how has it changed your perspective?
A: These days my main creative project is my band “The Gallow Swings.” I started playing music and writing plays at about the same time, but I’ve always been much more passionate about music than theater. Playing music allows me to write, direct, and perform in a much more nimble creative unit than a traditional play production, and it allows for more concrete documents of the work (recordings and videos). In my experience, music draws a much more varied audience than theater. I was disappointed by how few working class or non-theater artists seemed to attend plays in New York.
My “retirement” from playwriting was not a sudden or conscious choice. After moving to New York from Austin in 2000, I slowly lost interest in writing for theatre. It gradually stopped being fun, and slowly became a futile hassle. After about a dozen full productions of my work, I began to wonder if it was ever really going to feel new or exciting again. Living in New York let me see the “finish line” for a playwright in the US, and it just didn’t seem worth the effort to me if it wasn’t going to be fun.
Since moving to Seattle in 2007, I’ve been able see a lot of strange and provocative performance work at On the Boards, who host wide variety of national and international artists. I’ve worked as a sound designer, musician, dramaturg, and performer in some short works at OtB, but that is about the extent of my theater work these days. As far as writing goes, I’ve been focusing on short fiction, comic strips, and screenplays.
Q: Where can I go to see your band play?
A: If you’re in Seattle, you can see The Gallow Swings in Georgetown, a neighborhood south of downtown. Seattle is losing its small rock venues at an alarming rate. Clubs can no longer operate in previously affordable neighborhoods like Capitol Hill, Ballard, and Belltown. If you’re not in Seattle, you can find us here: www.thegallowswings.com.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a artist or as a person.
A: My very first memory is of a music class my mother brought me to when I was five. The class was in the form of a puppet show about classical music. Apparently I was transfixed.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: The audience.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: “Heroes” is strong word. But I’ve been most inspired by Chekov, Brecht, Sam Shepard, Paula Vogel, Mac Wellman, and Ruth Margraff.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I’m more excited by broken narratives and performance art than conventional theater productions these days. Last year I got see Kristen Kosmas’ “There There” at OtB and it was amazing. OtB is bringing Richard Maxwell this season, and I’m excited to see some of his work again.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: #1 Be born into a wealthy family. Use that privilege to pay for housing, food, and health insurance.
#2 Go to an obscenely expensive private east coast college. Use that network to find collaborators and funders for your work.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Possum Carcass at Theatre of NOTE in LA: Dec 2-22th and Jan 2-10th http://theaterofnote.com/
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