Monday, June 08, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 753: Jacques Lamarre



Jacques Lamarre

Hometown:   I was born outside of Philly in Paoli, PA. Paoli had just built a new hospital and if you were the first baby born there, you would get all sorts of great prizes like free diapers and onesies. I came in 6th place, starting life as a crushing disappointment to my mother. I spent most of my (de)formative years in Amherst, NH, so that is what I rightly call my hometown.

Current Town:  I live outside of Hartford, CT in a small city/large town called Manchester. I think we have more breakfast places per capita than any other in Connecticut. That's my kinda town.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  As I am totally ADHD, I'm always working on multiple things. I have a reading coming up of my new Scientology comedy, HONEY LABREA - THE LONELY THETAN. I am finishing up my 12th show for drag queen Varla Jean Merman for the Provincetown summer season. It's called VARLA JEAN MERMAN'S BIG BLACK HOLE and we send her into outerspace I just finished writing a new comedy called THE PLAY THAT HATES YOUR PLAY, and am working on a new one called THE BARONESS, about "The Sound of Music" from the Baroness' standpoint.

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 a child, I would root for The Baroness in "The Sound of Music." She had better hair, better gowns, and wouldn't have anything to do with children. When I got to high school, I rooted for Chillingworth in "The Scarlet Letter." I thought Reverend Dimmesdale and that whore Hester Prynne got just what was coming to them and, of course, they had a precocious child, making them even more worthy of my disdain.

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

A:  I helped put together a playwrights forum two years ago that included the amazing David Lindsay-Abaire. He said (and I'm paraphrasing) that it is essentially impossible to earn a living just as a playwright, which I found profound and sad. As my play I LOVED, I LOST, I MADE SPAGHETTI has been a success, I've been grateful. Not a lot of people are as fortunate as I have been. During the process of acting as my own agent, I see how some theatres will negotiate you down on royalties and pull out all sorts of hidden fees before they pay you. I understand the economics of the theatre is hard nowadays, but when a union stagehand can make more money than the playwright who conceived the work, something is askew. I'd like to see a General Manager try to withhold a percentage of group sales from a lumber supplier.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Tennessee Williams is my absolute favorite. He was funny, poetic, tragic, and adored the outsider, what he called "The Fugitive Kind." Of the playwrights currently working, David Lindsay-Abaire is a hero of mine. He manages to be honest, real, funny, and, at times, absurd. Although I've only seen one of Charles Ludlam's plays, I think if he were alive I would be hanging on his every word. His work informed some of my trash camp heroes like John Waters and Varla Jean Merman.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The kind that is not afraid to have fun and be funny. It seems like everyone has gotten so serious, even when writing comedy. This is what my new play THE PLAY THAT HATES YOUR PLAY is all about. I wrote it after seeing IT'S ONLY A PLAY, which I greatly disliked. A lot of theatres equate "new play development" with "I'm making a serious statement about blah-blah-blah." I'm like, "Fuck that. It's Saturday night and the tickets are $60 a pop." Write a good play, give 'em a good time, and if they choose to learn something or be touched, great. I'm not against dramas. I've written a few, but there is something about comedy that is harder and more delightful for me.

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

A:  I have two bits of advice...

Work with good people. You will have the opportunity to work with a lot of assholes, but to quote Sweet Brown, "Ain't nobody got time for 'dat." I'm amazed at how the theatre seems to give certain folks license to not treat other humans well. I've seen directors pitch screaming fits. Actors behave petulantly. Writers refusing to support their work. I know we are all artists here making art and being arty, but that doesn't give you permission to step on one another. We're all in the same boat and want the same things, so chill out and enjoy the fact that you get to do what you love.

And make your own opportunities. I went the whole submission route for playwriting contests. Got my first one and then never got another. Don't write for a contest; write what YOU want and then find a theatre that is brave enough to do it. Unless it's crap, in which case, become a better writer or try your hand at pottery.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Local theatre. I know the theatre world orients toward New York and it is fun to see a big starry, splashy show. Within 15 minutes of my home in Connecticut, I have seen some spectacular work at TheaterWorks, Hartford Stage,Playhouse on Park, and Little Theatre of Manchester. It's a lot less expensive than New York City and can be every bit as satisfying.

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