Monday, May 23, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 840: Eric Reyes Loo



Eric Reyes Loo

Hometown: Downey, California

Current Town: Los Angeles, California

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I have a fully-staged reading of a play called After and Before – about a disillusioned man who leaves the priesthood – at The Blank’s Living Room Series tonight. I specify “fully-staged” because it scares the hell out of me. But I’m excited. It happens in reverse chronology and has a mystery at the center of it. Two things I haven’t done before. And I’ve been working on a new play about the year I took to take care of my dad as he was dying. It’s super dirty and sexual. Chalk Rep’s doing a workshop of that this summer. And they just asked me to join their Artistic Circle as a company member, so I’m excited about having a home base.

On the TV side, I’m doing that writer thing of writing a ton of spec pilots. I have two scripts in the queue that have full outlines that I’m ready to start writing as soon as there’s room in the schedule. And I’m writing the season finale episode of the show I’m writing on called Guidance for Awesomeness TV, which is due in four days. I got to write two episodes this season and it has been incredible. Another scary experience. But I’m five times the writer I was a few months ago.

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 seven or eight, I asked my parents if I could take jazz dance at the YMCA. They said no because they we were too poor. Then they signed up my younger brother for soccer the following year and bought him new shoes, a soccer ball, and paid for his registration fee. I understood that I was going to have to do this art thing on my own. Now my family gets it – kind of – but it taught me that if I was going to live a creative life it was all on me and it would take some sacrifice. Ultimately, I’m thankful for the way things turned out. I teach now. And when I see someone with a spark, I try to start a fire within them.

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

A:  The positive, proactive answer is that I wouldn’t change a thing. There are things about theatre that I don’t like and my work is sometimes a reaction to those things. So it fuels me. The institution exists so that one can rebel against it. It also makes me think about how I am a part of the machinery and how I distinguish myself from it. It pushes me to put things out there that I’m not seeing. Yet, it gives me comfort to know that my work absolutely exists in a theatrical tradition. Even the avant-garde is part of a tradition. Not that my work is avant-garde in any way.

But the other answer is that I wish theatre was more inclusive than exclusive. I have the same philosophy about religion. I wish it included more traditions, beliefs, methodologies and people than it left out. Theatre of all shapes, sizes, and shades. The truth is: theatre IS a bunch of different things. But the institutional theatre is often singular.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Erik Ehn was my very first playwriting professor. I sat in that class as a college sophomore – the youngest person in my class – and said to myself within the first ten minutes, “I’m a playwright.” He’s a sorcerer, that guy. And he speaks in tongues. For some oddball reason, I speak that language. It became instantly clear in that moment, that destiny had brought me to his classroom. I had decided not to go to UC Berkeley and to go to a small Jesuit liberal arts college – Santa Clara University – instead. I didn’t know until two years in that he was the reason I was supposed to be at Santa Clara. I had no idea who he was when I got there. And I had him all to myself – I did two independent studies with him after that.

As far as other theatre people I admire: Sarah Kane, Edward Albee, Tony Kushner, Twyla Tharp, Pina Bausch, Fosse, Sondheim.

And the people who are my peers, some of whom I know: Cory Hinkle, David Myers, Carrie Barrett, Jordan Harrison, Noah Haidle, Sigrid Gilmer, Jennie Webb, Annie Baker, and Qui Nguyen.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Bold, theatrical plays with an urgency and a reason for being. And plays that are actually funny. Like Annie Hall or Master of None or Bridesmaids funny. I want a diet of nothing but that. I aspire to both of those things.

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

A:  Advice I’ve been given: “Know Your Business” (Bethenny Frankel), “Keep Your Eyes on Your Own Paper” (Elizabeth Gregory Wilder) and “Everything is Writing” (Erik Ehn).

From me: Find a community. It’s not the same thing as networking – although that is also important.

I’ve been embraced by Jen Haley and the Playwrights Union. That has led to some of my closest friendships. For years I was living in LA and talking to other aspiring writers. Lovely people. But they’re not playwrights – geeky, needy, sensitive, funny, know-it-alls, intellectual, well-read, and sexy. And now I’ve been asked to join a company – all of whom have cute butts I’d willingly kiss in gratitude. I’ve long admired Chalk Rep and now I’m being brought into the fold. You need people who unconditionally support you and want you to do better and who will give you helpful, non-prescriptive notes. Because when and if you work in TV or film, you’ll be getting all sorts of pitches for things you should do from people who aren’t there to nurture your soul. It’s a different relationship.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Theatres in LA I’ve worked at and love: Rogue Machine, Moving Arts, The Blank and Chalk Rep. Ruth McKee’s production of In Case of Emergency, which runs in various locations around Los Angeles June 3rd-July 3rd (www.chalkrep.com).

The Playwrights Union: Get to know these writers if you don’t know them already (www.playwrightsunion.com).

Our show, Guidance, premieres this fall on the Verizon Go90 app. And I hear it’s running in its full ten 30-minute episode format internationally. Hopefully, it will get to run in the half-hour format in the States as well. Say a prayer.

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