Monday, September 14, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 786: Rob Urbinati

Rob Urbinati

Hometown: Framingham, Massachusetts

Current Town: New York City

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I’m directing “To Kill A Mockingbird” for Queens Theatre. Also, Melissa Maxwell and I are writing a play, “Mockingbird” which considers the events of “To Kill A Mockingbird” from the perspective of the black characters.

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’m Italian, and my grandmothers, my mother, my aunts, my sisters, my (female) cousins and my nieces are strong women who ran/run their families. Their husbands were/are humble and compliant, and stay down in the basement (the American version of an Italian grotto) playing cards and watching sports on television. The women make all the decisions and the men wait in the basement until the women summon them upstairs. Although the common perception/stereotype is that Italian women stay in the kitchen stirring tomato sauce while the men in the family control everything, I have no personal experience with that. Although I’ve never written an autobiographical play, strong women dominate almost all of my plays - “Hazelwood Jr. High,” “West Moon Street,” “Mama’s Boy” and “The Queen Bees” - for better or worse!

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

A:  Just one thing!? I guess the cost of tickets.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Stephen Sondheim and Harold Prince.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I have very diverse tastes. I love experimental theater as much as mainstream theater. I like intense drama, musical comedy and opera. I’ve been accused of liking everything. In New York, I have “uptown” friends who go to Broadway with me, and “downtown” friends who go to the Flea or Soho Rep - or even Brooklyn.

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

A:  Learn how to use the current model of play development to suit your needs.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The world premiere of the musical “Pete The Cat,” which I directed, just opened at the Rose Theater in Omaha. It’s written by Suzanne Miller and Allison Leighton-Brown and is based on the popular children’s books.

--My book, “Play Readings: A Complete Guide for Theatre Practitioners” will be published by Focal Press/Routledge on October 2.

--“Mama’s Boy,” my play about Lee Harvey Oswald’s mother, opens in Portland, Maine in October 28, starring Besty Aidem, directed by Brian Allen.

I’m writing the Drama League Centennial Gala taking place at The Plaza on November 2, which will honor Bernadette Peters

--I’m directing “To Kill A Mockingbird” which opens November 11 at Queens Theatre

--Samuel French will be publishing three more of my plays/musicals in 2016: “The Queen Bees,” “Howard Zinn’s Rebel Voices,” and “Cole Porter’s Nymph Errant.”

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