Jun 24, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 957: C. Bain

C. Bain

Hometown:  Worcester, MA which is surprisingly urban, surprisingly postindustrial, surprisingly claustrophobic and rusty around the gills, if i remember correctly. I haven't lived there for a long time, and all of my family has also moved away.

Current Town:  I live in Brooklyn! In Flatbush. I have wanted to live in NYC for my whole life and thought it was a far-flung dream for a very long time. The city is effortful, yes, and expensive, yes. And it's one of my great loves.

Q:  Tell me about Uncivil Heart.

A:  Uncivil Heart is a piece of queer Civil-War-era Americana. It centers around a transboy who grows up in a plantation family in the antebellum south. He falls in love with a woman who is enslaved by his family. Then his family tries to force him into a cis-heteronormative marriage, and he runs away, and most of the play is him making his way back to her, her surviving the plantation/his relatives without his protection.

I am interested in locating queer bodies in history, especially in this cultural moment when language is developing and morphing really rapidly, it is important to remember that the things we are naming have always existed. And i think it's important to recognize ancestors, to imagine who we would be without our language. I am also really interested in Americanness, the american construction of race, how we are still haunted by it and murdered by it. I know that people in my family, not that long ago, were complicit in the slave trade. So, what do i do that is equivalent to that, as far as empathic failure? Who would i really be if i lived in a society that openly practiced slavery (rather than a more tacit prison-industrial complex)?

And every full-fledged project that i embark on is also a love story. I was in love with someone. It didn't work and i wanted to imagine how it could, so i imagined for 114 pages or so. It's a story about power, and how imbalances of power destroy the possibility of love.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  Oh gosh. I am working on a 2nd full-length poetry collection which is about mythology and creating mythological understandings of the self in the wake of sexual violence. Part of that is a very experimental theatrical treatment of the Orpheus myth. I am probably going to do a treatment of Uncivil Heart as a novel. I have been acting more than writing, the past year or so, which is different and weird for me. It's really satisfying to come from a writing background and then switch over and relate to text as an actor, to have that depth and investment regardless of the "meaning" or "quality" of the text.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  As a child, my dad thought it was really funny to play "open your mouth and close your eyes" and put grapefruit rinds in my mouth. He would promise over and over that it was not grapefruit rind. I would always eventually allow it. It was always rinds. I mean i live in hope. I mean i keep thinking something else will happen.

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

A:  I think theater is great. I wish more people knew that, and would let it be great. I also wish it would get us all paid.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I spent most of my creative life writing poems and performing alone, so i am still very much in a place where i learn from every collaboration, i learn in every production i am in and from every director/dramaturge/actor who i work with. I also get a lot from watching musicians, from visual artists, and i think it's important to think across disciplines as much as possible. I feel like i am not really cultured enough to have a worthwhile answer to this question.

Oh, ok, here -- Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, if you ever read this, just know that i really want to hold your hands and look into your eyes and try to explain how meaningful your work has been for me. There.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like alienation, and contact. I like worlds that have interesting rules and/or break their own rules. I like when someone is clearly making art about the thing that is important for them -- urgency. It is exciting to me that in theatre you get to ask a question and then just kind of leave it, and that is really useful with issues of race and power and sex, where there is a lot going on in a kind of shadow-world underneath the world. I wish i were not excited by romance but i definitely am.

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

A:  Honey, where are you? Come over here, I'm the one who needs advice!

The only thing that is clear to me is that we are all given our own work to do, and that it is important to identify that and follow it. Even if it seems unattractive or unmarketable or hopelessly individual. Like that letter from Martha Graham to Agnes DeMille. It's true.

Q:  Plugs, please:


JUNE 29 / 7pm / The Kraine / Uncivil Heart as a staged reading, presented by Horse Trade Theater Company in the Queerly Festival!!!!

My website is tiresiasprojekt.com . That is also my instagram (very active) and twitter (half assed) handle.

I'm acting in a play called Autoportrait that will be at Dixon Place on July 27th, and reading at the NY Poetry Festival on Governor's Island on July 29th.

And i have this book of poems called Debridement. You should get it!

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