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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Jan 4, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 901: Robert Wray

Robert Wray

Hometown:  Norfolk, VA

Current Town: Charlottesville, VA

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I'm currently turning a short play I was commissioned to write on the theme of slavery (for a theatre festival in Moscow) into a full-length piece. As I'm not qualified to expound on historical slavery per se, I decided to approach the subject by twisting it into the world of BDSM. It's called SAVAGE VARIATIONS and is, in essence, a story of a woman trying to transcend both desolation and desire. That said, she's less a character than a mosaic of various roles, emotions, ideas, dreams, possibilities. As it's structure is episodic and the mise-en-scene porous--there are no stage directions--it's been challenging to complete. i.e., miles to go.

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 in third grade, I went to a Catholic school where I considered myself a poet-preacher of sorts. I'd write religious poems and sermons, and would even sneak other kids behind a nun's house to teach them my version of the Book of Revelation, (which appealed to me at that early age for reasons God only knows.)

While I got kicked out of the school for doing this, the impulse to both interpret and make up stories and share them with the world has never left.

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

A:  Mostly, I'd try to make it less polite, and more affordable.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I have a whole bagful of theatrical heroes--from Shakespeare to Chekhov to Sarah Kane--but the one I've been inspired by the longest is Samuel Beckett. Visceral, funny, philosophically complex, structurally/linguistically brave, Poetic with a capital P: Not since the Bard himself has a playwright so captured--to use Beckett's own words--"how it is on this bitch of an earth."

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theatre that pushes the proverbial envelope, that genuinely transports, that charts its own course and takes us to, as Shakespeare phrased it, "unpathed waters, undreamed shores."

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

A:  If it's your dream to be a playwright, hold on tight to that dream and never give it up. Also, make sure you love the art in yourself, and not yourself in the art.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Right now I'm semi-set to have my play Bullet for Unaccompanied Heart--about a blues guitarist who gets taken hostage by the ghost of his former lover--produced at the DC Fringe Festival in July.

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