Thursday, June 09, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 849: Sandy Rustin




Sandy Rustin

Hometown: Glenview, IL (a suburb of Chicago)

Current Town: Maplewood, NJ

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Right now I'm in rehearsals for the world premiere of my new play, STRUCK, at NJ REP. Don Stephenson is directing, and we have a stellar cast! I'm also working on a new play called HOUSTON, with composer Eli Bolin who is creating a musical score for the play. And then I have a handful of other writing projects (a screenplay, a pilot, a kid's book) that I'm working on as well.

And, my play THE COTTAGE is under an option agreement for an upcoming NYC production, so that's on my radar right now. Plus, just this week, we announced the licensing deal for my musical (co-written with Dan Lipton & David Rossmer) RATED P ... FOR PARENTHOOD. Miracle or 2 Productions has licensed the show and we've released the cast album! So all that's been keeping me busy lately!

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 years old, my Dad taught me the entire "Who's On First" routine by Abbott and Costello. We memorized it together and performed it for my Brownies troupe. It was the greatest. I'm not sure I've ever laughed as hard in my life. I was hooked on comedy. Performing it. Writing it. All of it. I'm pretty sure I've spent the rest of my life simply trying to recreate the absolute joy I felt standing up on that stage, next to my dad, in front of all my friends, making everybody laugh really, really hard. When I look back now I see that it was a trifecta of performance perfection. Flawless comedic material, a loving, trustworthy scene partner, and an audience filled with fans. What could be better?

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

A:  Oooo, what a question! I often feel sad that today's celebrity obsessed climate has trickled down into the theatre. I wish that merit of work ~ both in writing and performance ~ were the singular driving force behind production choices. Often it can feel like terrific new works, or fantastically talented performers, can't seem to find their way into the canon of American theatre, simply because the piece or the person lacks notoriety. When casting offices are asked to check how many twitter followers an actor has before scheduling auditions, or when literary managers must have a "famous director" attached to a new play in order to have the play considered for production, I believe the theatre community at large suffers that loss. Days of taking a risk on a bright young star or an unknown writer, are more and more difficult to find.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Carol Burnett, Lily Tomlin, Madeline Kahn, Lucille Ball, Phyllis Diller, Gilda Radner, Betty Buckley, Patti Lapone, Meryl Streep & Nora Ephron. These are smart, funny, beautiful, talented, fearless women. These were the women I watched and listened to growing up and thought - I want to be like them. I can be like them. Carol Burnett said that "Tragedy = Comedy + Time." I've devoted my life in the theatre to figuring out that equation.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Give me a dark theatre, a compelling story, and a committed group of actors, and I'm hooked. I'm attracted to excellent story telling. I love feeling surprised in the theatre. I don't need bells and whistles - I need a really good story and a fine group of story tellers ~ and I'm the happiest.

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

A:  Get out of your own way. Follow through. Finish it. So often I speak to people who have a story to tell, but allow themselves to inhibit their ability to tell it. Who cares if you've never written a play before? Who cares if you only have 20 minutes a day? Who cares if you're supposed to be in medical school? If you feel like you have a story that must get out of your brain, you have an obligation to your brain to get it out.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Plugs! Thank you! Alright ...

Please check out the Rated P Cast Album! The cast is unbelievable! (Courtney Balan, David Josefsberg, David Rossmer, and Joanna Young).

If you're up for a trip to the Jersey shore this summer, come see my play STRUCK directed by Don Stephenson. The Cast is led by Broadway actors, Jenny Bacon (Misery, My Name is Asher Lev) and Matthew Shepard Smith (Sunday in the Park with George, Scarlet Pimpernel), with Adam Bradley (NBC’s The Blacklist) and Susan Maris (Substance of Bliss), along with NYU student, Benjamin Puvalowski. Previews start June 30th and it runs through July 31st. TICKETS HERE.

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