Thursday, March 19, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 728: Ed Falco

Ed Falco

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Current Town: Blacksburg, VA

Q: Tell me about Possum Dreams.

A:  Possum Dreams is a seriously funny play about a married couple caught in the unraveling illusions that have held them together for eighteen years. The play opens with Walter coming home from teaching, distressed because a transsexual student has been flirting with him. It's a revelation that leads to an intense yet often hysterical battle that reveals the chaos under the surface of the carefully ordered lives of Walter and his wife Jan.

I live Blacksburg, Virginia, where I teach in the MFA program at Virginia Tech; and I’ve written a number of plays that have been read and produced locally. For the most part, I’ve satisfied myself with being part of our local theater community, and I haven’t tried very hard to find productions for my plays elsewhere—except for Possum Dream, which I’ve always felt was a very funny play that could successfully reach a wider audience. It’s taken a long time and a lot of work, but finally, with the intervention of Emily Rubin (a former student of mine who is now working as an agent and manager) Possum Dreams is finally reaching a larger audience, first through a production in Akron, Ohio by None Too Fragile; and later in a short New York run at Theatre 54 in New York.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’m some 50,000 words into a new novel; I’m gathering actors locally for a staged reading of a recent play, with hopes of a local production next year; and I’m about to start a rewrite of The Miscreant, my most recent play.

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 have a twin sister, and the story goes that when my mother told my father that the doctor said she was carrying twins, he shouted: “Did you tell him we already had three children!” That’s an amusing little bit of family lore from my embryonic days, but it says a lot about how I turned out. My father was a house painter who had to struggle those days to support his wife and three children; then, unplanned, he found he had two more on the way. The youngest of five children, there was always a lot of pressure on me to be silent and stay out of the way. Writing and storytelling is the way I eventually found I could be heard.

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

A:  I would change the culture in the theater community that says it’s permissible to simply ignore plays that have been submitted to your theater or your company. I understand that it’s sometimes impossible to read the hundreds of plays submitted to a successful theater company—but it shouldn’t be okay to simply ignore submissions. Compose a form rejection for the plays you’ve actually read and don’t want to produce, and get it back to the author. Compose a form apology for the plays you can’t read because you’re overwhelmed with submissions: “Staff constraints have made it impossible for us to read all the plays submitted to our theater and thus we are returning this play to you unread, with our sincere apologies.” Send the author something, anything—but don’t do what so many theaters do and simply ignore the submission before eventually tossing the play. It feels deeply disrespectful to playwrights.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Mamet, Pinter, and Shepard are the playwrights I read early and had the most influence over my writing, but my real heroes are all the small theater companies everywhere that persevere in producing and promoting plays while living in a world less and less interested in all serious art, including theater.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Any theater that is rooted in good writing and good acting. If you throw in good production values, I’m thrilled—but they’re not as essential as good writing and good acting. Give me a good play and good actors, and I’ll come to your living room to see the show and be excited to be there.

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

A:  Move to a city with a vibrant theater community; participate in the community any way you can—become part of the community; see as many plays as you can; read as many plays as you can; then write and keep writing, every day if at all possible. Talent is important, but perseverance and a commitment to writing are the truly essential elements of a successful life as a writer.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Possum Dreams is showing at Shetler Studios Theatre 54, 244 W 54th Street #12, from March 18 – March 28. Buy tickets here: Or pay what you can at the door.

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