Monday, October 05, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 792: Kevin Armento



Kevin Armento

Hometown: San Diego, CA

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about Please Excuse My Dear Aunt Sally.

A:  It's about an affair between a math teacher and her student, experienced through the eyes of the student's cell phone. The phone guides us through the story like a modern Greek chorus, attempting to unpack the confusing and irrational human behavior it's witnessing.

Q:  How did you form your relationship with One Year Lease Theater Company?

A:  My first day job in New York was at the Joyce Theater, and Ianthe and Jess from One Year Lease were there frequently. We became buds and I learned more about their company, then saw their production of pool (no water) and really wanted to collaborate. So I started sending over my stuff, and it eventually led to the idea of creating something together from scratch.

Q:  Describe the process of writing for this specific ensemble of artists.

A:  What I loved about it was the total freedom to go write whatever I want, while thinking on the company's aesthetic interests, physical style, love of chorus work, etc. So I gave them a blank text, a story that occasionally pops out into some dialogue, but can really be done a thousand different ways with as many actors as you want - and while I knew roughly who would be involved and how they might do it, it in turn gave them the freedom to divine the play they were interested in from that text. That process really came alive in Greece this summer (at One Year Lease's annual retreat), where we spent two weeks delineating the lines.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  An irresponsibly giant show about the birth of jazz in New Orleans. I'm going there for more research and music in a few weeks, because I don't know how to do it, and we have a super special first performance of it planned. Workshopping a show at Arena Stage this winter, so I'm revisiting that. I'm going to have some fun at Serials at the Flea this month. And I'm working on some television assignments because I'm a playwright in 2015.

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

A:  In third grade I told everyone in my class that Jonathan Taylor Thomas is my cousin. Like most of my writing, I'm not sure the white lie's meaning, but it felt right at the time.

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

A:  Less self-importance, more engagement with non-theater people.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Caryl Churchill is my hero. Really admire SL Parks, Beckett, Pinter, Butterworth, Washburn, Friel, and August Wilson.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The kind that can only exist on a stage. The kind that endeavors to theatricalize the storytelling just as much as the story itself. The kind that can find the extraordinary in the banal, or the banal in the extraordinary.

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

A:  See lots of shows and get lots of coffees. Everything is rooted in relationships, a conversation between your work and the people who are interested in it. I think it took me an abnormally long time to learn that. Also, find the writers you connect with and talk about all this stuff. Talk about how it feels weird to constantly apply for things, and forge relationships from scratch. We're not fucking suits so it just feels weird sometimes. But those relationships have been so crucial to every fulfilling artistic project I've been involved in so far, and they're genuinely nurturing just as much as they are beneficial to your career.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  please excuse my dear aunt sally plays through October 24th at 59E59!

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