Monday, December 14, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 806: Kevin Mullins



Kevin Mullins

Hometown: Watertown, Massachusetts.

Current Town: Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Q:  Tell me about your upcoming shows.

A:  I have two shows coming up this year in Boston. Citizens of the Empire (with Boston Public Works) and A Southern Victory (a trilogy of plays being produced in rep by Vagabond Theatre Group).

Citizens of the Empire, is a space opera that takes place 800 years in the future. It’s about a nobleman who leads an uprising to free his planet from imperial rule and in doing so goes to war with his friends and the people with whom he grew up. It has union organizing robots, the Madame of a space brothel, an intergalactic garbage-woman, lords, ladies, hackers, spies and despots, and it ends with a giant space battle.

A Southern Victory is a trilogy of plays that take place in the 1920’s, but in a world where the south won the American Civil War. We’re still two separate countries, slavery still exists in the Confederacy and there’s a militarized border with the United States. We follow a young man from a wealthy planting family in Atlanta who goes to Harvard as an international student and slowly gets sucked into the terrorist underground of the abolitionist movement.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I just finished the first draft of a play about a Lovecraftian monster that lives in the basement of a bookstore that’s about to go out of business.

I’m also working on a re-imagining of The Oresteia set in Jerusalem during the final years of the British Mandate, from 1945-1948. We’ll watch a British officer’s family get drawn into the quagmire of national and religious politics, and eventually destroy themselves in a very Greek fashion.

I’m also working on a play about spies during the early years of human colonization on the Moon and Mars.

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

A:  The money. The price of space, the price of tickets, and the lack of money that we all get paid to do what we love.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Naomi Wallace, Howard Barker, Eugene O’Neill, Susan Glaspell, Tony Kushner, Rob Handel, Connie Congdon, Mac Rogers, Sharron Pollock, J. T. Rogers, Migdalia Cruz, Yael Farber, Jennifer Haley, Caryl Churchill, Chay Yew, Jan Kott, Harold Pinter, Catherine Filloux, Christopher Shinn, Qui Nguyen, Hallie Flanagan, Karel Capek, and all the playwrights of 13P, Boston Public Works and The Welders.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love big epic plays. It doesn’t have to be a ten person cast. You can deal with big ideas with two people in a living room, but the scope should be there.

I want to lose myself in the play. I want to turn around and have two and half hours go by and have it feel like I just sat down.

A few years ago I took my husband to see Long Day’s Journey into Night. It’s a long play. Ushers were going around and reminding some of the older audience members that the run time was pushing four hours. He was horribly sick and was coughing throughout most of the first act. At intermission I turned to him and said “Hey, let’s go home and put you to bed.” He looked at me and said “Are you crazy, we can’t go. I have to find out what happens.”…..”Nothing good,” I told him. But that is how all of our shows should be. Time should stop.

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

A:  I feel like I’m just starting out myself, but I would say:

Write! Don’t stop. Write one play and then another, and then another. The more you do it, the more you’ll get a feel for it. Don’t try and write what you think theaters will produce, write the play you feel you have to write this very second.

Seek out the people who share your sensibilities as an artist. Find the writers who you respect and admire. Self-produce. Don’t wait for someone to tell you your work is good enough. Perform it yourself. Productions are development. Find directors who understand what you’re trying to do. A good director is a real treasure.

Don’t get too attached to the first few plays you write. Those are the plays you write when you’re learning how plays work. More often than not they’re better left in the drawer. I see some playwrights trying to workshop their first plays when they should be finishing their new play that’s ten times better than what they wrote four years ago.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Citizens of the Empire runs at the Calderwood Pavilion at the Boston Center for the Arts, January 8th -23rd:

http://www.bostontheatrescene.com/season/iCitizens-of-the-Empirei/

And A Southern Victory runs March 4th -26th at the Boston Playwrights Theatre:

https://vagabondtheatregroup.wordpress.com/


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