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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...

Sep 1, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 979: Trevor Allen

Trevor Allen

Hometown: San Jose, California

Current Town: San Francisco Bay Area (Okay, Vallejo… it’s complicated)

Q:  Tell me about Working For the Mouse.

A:  It’s my one man play about my life working as a costumed character at Disneyland (Before you ask: Pluto, Mr. Smee, The Mad Hatter etc.). It’s a coming of age tale where I play a young version of myself and about twenty other characters. It got “Best of the San Francisco Fringe Festival” under the title Character! I’ve been performing it in one form or another for a while now. Touring it on the West Coast, even taking it to Burning Man and performing it at Center Camp. Perhaps one day I’ll take it to the East Coast. We’ll see. The script is now available in a collection of my plays. Okay. Legal disclaimer: 

“Working for the Mouse is a work of creative nonfiction. It is a play containing a series of stories based on personal experiences working as a character at Disneyland in Anaheim. The names of people have been changed to protect their identity. I do not claim any rights to any intellectual property of The Walt Disney Company. All references to such trademark properties are used in accordance with the Fair Use Doctrine and are not meant to imply this work is a Disney product for advertising or other commercial purposes.”

There, the lawyers will be happy now. 

It’s a 90 minute comedy that The San Francisco Chronicle called “Very Funny!” There is also some serious stuff about growing up, life, death and trying to unionize the folks under the fur (no, they are still not). Also the corporatization of creativity and the commodification of imagination… but besides that, it’s a comic solo show with a heart. 8(:->

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  Valley of Sand – A Silicon Valley love story. A multidimensional, multiethnic and multimedia play exploring the transformation of the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” into the Valley of startups we know today. Originally commissioned by San Jose Repertory Theatre before the untimely demise of that LORT Company. I have been working on a revised 2.0 version of the script.
A series of podcasts of monologues from my play 49 Miles originally produced by Crowded Fire. It takes place on one day along the 49 Mile Scenic Drive through San Francisco.

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

A:  I was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. I played Paul in A Chorus Line at my high school theatre. I’m a Caucasian and light skinned Latino on my Mother’s side (Vallejo-Gomez). So that role was an eye opening experience. The line “people say you don’t look…” always got a laugh. I wanted that role for the monologue and had to learn to sing and dance to get it. I found I could make people laugh and cry in the same show. Intentionally and perhaps unintentionally. So, I fell in love with performing and playwriting and moved down to Los Angeles at age 17. I got that “summer job” which lasted four years working as a character at Disneyland. It was my version of running away and joining the circus. I was still a child. I grew old very quickly in Hollywood, but I never grew up. Once you step behind the curtain and see how that magic works, it changes everything. After getting a BA degree in Theatre from UCLA and not really finding myself in Hollywood, I boomeranged back to the Bay Area and found the theatre scene there very open to experimentation, solo performance and eccentrics. I wanted to write my own stories so, I got my MFA in playwriting in San Francisco. Now, no matter where I go and perform, the Bay Area is always home.

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

A:  It would be FREE to see and yet, playwrights would be able to make a living at it… 

Yep, I’m still trying to figure that one out.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Heroes is such a heavily loaded word I dunno… but theatre artists that significantly influenced me as a playwright and solo performer I’d say: Samuel Beckett, Athol Fugard, María Irene Fornés, Mac Wellman, Octavio Solis, Philip Kan Gotanda, John O’Keefe, Charlie Varon, Josh Kornbluth, Bill Irwin and Robin Williams (yes, for his theater work). Although, not necessarily in any particular order.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The affordable kind in small black box theaters that is so new and fresh and electrifying that you just know that it is going to have a life beyond a short run. That it will perhaps go to Off Broadway and maybe even Broadway even though it will probably close in a few months because it had priced out its real audience and the tourists didn’t “get it”. Yeah, that kind of theatre!

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

A:  Write from your heart. It may be broken by this “business of show” but it is the best place to start. Go see new plays. I had a job at Theatre Bay Area for about a decade and one of the perks was that I got to see free shows ALL the time. On average over a hundred a year. The more you see what is out there, the more your subconscious will soak it in and when it comes time to write your own story, you may be able to avoid the mistakes others have made… and then you can make entirely new mistakes of your own. Which, let’s face it, is how you learn. Failure is not only an option, it is inevitable in this “industry” but each risk taken is a learning opportunity. The only real failure is to not learn from those experiences along the way. 

Q:  When not writing on a computer, what's your go-to paper and writing utensil? When on computer, what's your font?

A:  A Pilot Pen: extra fine rolling ball, black ink on a yellow pad. It flows like silk when I’m writing furiously and the pad says that this is just a draft so you don’t need to erase. Cross it out if you must but just keep going. Computer: Laptop with Dragon speech to text with an Arial font because it looks nice and clean in Final Draft.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My book Working for the Mouse and other plays (The Creature, Lolita Roadtrip, Tenders in the Fog and Chain Reactions) is available online through EXIT Press. For a signed copy and to help support a living playwright, please go to my site at: www.blackboxtheatre.com

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