Thursday, May 12, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 838: Matt Opatrny


photo by Alan Roche

Matt Opatrny

Hometown: I grew up in Shelton, CT.

Current Town: New York City is home now, and so is a tiny mountain village in Italy, Anversa degli Abruzzi.

Q:  Tell me about Body: Anatomies of Being.

A:  Blessed Unrest (blessedunrest.org) is the ensemble I co-founded in 1999 and we have built this play collaboratively over the last two years. The text is just one player in this piece and by no means has the text led the process. We started with bodies in a room under Jessica Burr’s brilliant guidance, those bodies started moving, stories emerged, and I wrote them down. It was wonderful and intense and terrifying and the resulting production is perhaps the play I am most proud of having been a part of.

One of the many through lines of the piece is based on the life and work of Francis Cunningham, a painter of nudes. I spent a lot of time with Francis, and my text is infused with his words and ideas, as well as those of the performers. It’s a wild and wonderful piece of physical theatre that people are going nuts for. We close May 21. All the info is at blessedunrest.org.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’m working on releasing “Body” from my brain so I can focus on three other things I’ve got brewing. It’s not going well!

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

A:  American theatre needs a violent separation from capitalism. The capitalist model values doing more with less as quickly as possible and charging the highest price you can for it. This model leads to theatre done badly, with underpaid artists and overpriced tickets, and an audience base that is wealthy and bored. We also need to recognize that Broadway is its own animal, and when playwrights have Broadway and/or Hollywood as their goal, it is at the peril of art. That’s two things, sorry. I will refrain from adding a dozen more changes I’d like to see!

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Arthur Miller, Complicite, Anne Bogart and SITI, Michael Jackson, Michael Jordan, Suzan-Lori Parks, Bill T. Jones, Pina Bausch, Keith Cobb and “American Moor”, Marian Seldes, Idris Goodwin, Prince, Ivo Van Hove, Jessica Burr, Tom Stoppard, and mostly my daughter Evelyn.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The work of those in the previous question, and Body: Anatomies of Being. I mean it. The work the cast is doing every night is the boldest, most open, and most complicated thing I’ve seen in years, maybe ever.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A:  Find collaborators you trust, and that scare the crap out of you. Most importantly, a director who has vision and will challenge you. Then listen. Then make plays that you could never make on your own in front of a computer. Make plays that are much bigger than you are, and smarter, and more eloquent. And question the age, race, and gender of every single character you write, because you are the product of a flawed culture.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Body: Anatomies of Being! Closes May 21 in New York. blessedunrest.org

But don’t take my word for it, this is what one of the critics said:

“Once in a blue moon comes a piece of theatre so impactful you wonder if you won’t be talking about it for years to come. A piece of theatre so unique and bold, it makes you exclaim, ‘Wait. Theatre can do this?’ Blessed Unrest’s Body: Anatomies of Being is such a show. Daring in its intimacy, performed with mesmerizing vulnerability, Body is a truly exceptional piece of theatre.

“If you choose one play to see this year, go see this show.”

~ Rachel Kerry, New York Theatre Review

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