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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 19, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 994: Richard Vetere

Richard Vetere

Home Town: New York City.

Current Home Town: New York City.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I am in rehearsal with my play Lady Macbeth and Her Lover which opens on November 2nd at the Directors Company. The play was developed at the NY Playwrights Lab created and run by Israel Horovitz and then produced at the NYC International Fringe in 2015. Michelle Bossy from Primary Stages is directing. My play Square One which was commissioned by the Cultural Project in 2012 was then developed in the PD Workshop Unit of the Actors Studio in NYC and was chosen as one of the best developed there in 2017 season and just presented in their Best Works Festival. I am also in film pre-production with Brit director/producer Tony Kaye on my adaptation of my stage play The Actors. I will be acting in it. I am working on the first draft of my new novel (untitled) and will be presenting my new ten minute play The Trump and the 7 Deadly Sins at Artists Without Walls at the Cell Theater on Tuesday at 7pm September 26th. I will be playing Saint Peter. I have two readings coming up in Oct. Director Matt Penn is directing a reading of my new play Zaglada at the Directors Company and Peter Zinn is directing a reading of my published play Gangster Apparel at the Players Club. I have decided to age the characters since the play was first produced in the mid 90’s and I wanted to revisit it.

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

A:  It’s a long story how I became a poet when a pretty girl named June who I had a crush on sat down next to me in 7th grade homeroom at Saint Stanislaus School in Queens and showed me a poem by her boyfriend serving in Viet Nam. I had never seen a poem before and I don’t know why she showed it to me. I had written her a love letter so perhaps she knew I had the potential to be a poet? I went home and wrote my own war poem to impress her. It was about my friend’s father who was wounded on Normandy Beach. She thought the poem was so good she showed it to the nun who showered me with praise and showed me off by introducing me to the entire school one class at a time. and I was instantly known as “the poet” in school. At the same time or a little later I would write plays and put them on in my backyard casting my brothers and friends. I directed them and played the lead. They were mainly detective stories, the kind I saw on TV or in the movies. I set up chairs and charged a nickel. Nothing has changed other than charging a nickel. Subsequently I entered and won a high school poetry contest and the same thing happened there and again I did the same thing in college and won the contest. Both times I was then named literary editor. Mentors found me and I was off and running to a career as an author. I have published 3 books of poetry and some twenty four plays since.

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

A:  I would change a lot. First, I would make it free for all playwrights, directors and actors who are in Equity, Dramatist Guild etc. as well as designers and others who work in the theater. I would have a theater tax on all commercial real estate properties that make a profit and all billionaires who reside in NYC to fund Off-Off Broadway and Off-Broadway charging very little for audience and keeping the non for profit status. Meaning creating a dozen Signature Theaters across the city in all five boroughs giving access to theater for everyone. I would work to make theater viable and vital again and lessen the disparity between the big budget commercial Broadway shows and the smaller Off-Off Broadway showcases giving audiences a chance to see good personal work. Money is the only way to prove to those who run things that theater is a natural form of expression and essential to the human interaction of ideas and not something to be ineffectual and treated like something precious and inconsequential to our existence.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  The hardest question to ask. I probably would have answered differently at different times in my life. Probably playwrights who have tackled universal issues. Ibsen, Arthur Miller come to mind. However, American playwrights not influenced by TV writing must include Mamet, Shanley and Shepard and August Wilson. They deserve homage from playwrights not influenced by the disease of TV. By this I mean writing by committee and being at the mercy of a corporation.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Few theater I see today moves me. That ability had fallen to film and now, in general, film fails to move me. Not long ago the saying was theater was now like opera. I have to say movies are now like opera and theater is now like ballet. I see very little hope in television as well for an expressive artist to express any exciting ideas that haven’t already been announced in the media as viable. I love to see a good story and a good plot and wonderful language – I hardly see that anymore in theater or anywhere else for that matter. Universities have taken to ‘teach’ playwrighting (I have taught in the master’s program at NYU in both film and playwrighting) and this doesn’t work. Mainly because it is replacing the idea of an artist being an apprentice with the unreasonable notion that someone can be taught to write plays and after one or two years graduate to be a master at the craft. And that is what is expected not by the university but by the students themselves. I have experienced this firsthand. Also it is big business to teach playwrighting so this inaccurate notion will continue. I never took a writing class in my life and most mature playwrights I know never did either.

I always go to the theater in hopes of finding that magic between words, acting, music, lighting and scene. PS Also there is such an emphasis on directing now where the director molds the play and not the playwright. This is a leftover from the director in film being the author with no attention other than a writing credit to the true author. It is an abomination and is probably going to defeat theater in the end from within. Many young playwrights I speak to have no notion of their legal and creative rights to their own work. This is not taught as well.

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

A:  Learn how to construct a good plot from a meaningful story. Today all of us in the industry know that the personal story is not being made in Hollywood anymore. That leaves a big opportunity for playwrights. Also learn to write film by starting with a short film. Learn how to think visually. Take acting classes or learn how to act. Learn what a director does. I learned it all by forming a theater company early in my career. Learn the ins and outs. And mostly LEARN YOUR CREATIVE AND LEGAL RIGHTS!

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

A:  I can no longer write long hand. My penmanship is awful. I can no longer read my own writing. Luckily I am a very good typist. My thoughts move so quickly. I am so happy that back in high school I took the typing class as an elective. My father thought I was odd for taking it. I had this intuitive notion that I would need it in life. I was correct. Mainly because I am so prolific and I write so much I have learned to type and probably could get a job as a typist! Ha. I use a 12 font New Courier.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My new play Lady Macbeth and Her Lover opens this November 2nd Thursday night for three week run at The Directors Company 311 West 43rd Street. Tickets go on sale shortly. I am also acting in my new ten minute play The Trump and the 7 Deadly Sins at Actors Without Walls at the Cell Theater on September 26th at 7pm. It is about Trump dying and be confronted by Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. I will be playing Saint Peter.
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