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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 11, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1021: Dean O'Carroll

Dean O'Carroll

Hometown: Amherst, MA. I went to the same high school as Madeline George and Annie Baker. In 2014, Annie won the Pulitzer for Drama (for THE FLICK) and other finalists were Madeline (for THE (CURIOUS CASE OF THE) WATSON INTELLIGENCE) and Madeline's wife, Lisa Kron (for FUN HOME). So it was a very Amhersty year for the Pulitzers. I'm thrilled for them, though it's a little weird to be a relatively successful playwright and still be only be a distant third among playwrights who graduated from Amherst Regional High School in the 1990s.

Current Town: Philadelphia, PA

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  My new parody, MARVELOUS SQUAD: A SUPER-HEROIC TALE WITH AVENGEANCE, premieres this weekend. It's in Reno, being produced by my friends at Kidscape Productions as a Winter Break camp, so I'm not a hands-on part of staging it, though I'm trying to keep updated. I hope to get that one published soon. It's a parody of the Avengers movies, of course and I'm very excited about it. I think it's a lot of fun. After that, I have a few ideas. I want to do an alternate version of my play, BACK TO THE 80s: A RISKY, GOONIE, BREAKFASTY TALE OF TOTALLY TUBULAR TIME TRAVEL, where the main character travels to the 90s instead of the 80s, though I need to find a younger collaborator to help me with the 90s nostalgia. Then I'm not so sure. I may want to venture beyond the conventional kinds of parodies I've been doing. I've had an idea for something with princesses for a while and maybe something about Disneyland or a Pixar mashup.

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

A:  Here are a few snapshots:

When I was about three my mother took me to a play for the first time. I didn't know what live theatre was and afterwards I loved it so much that I almost resented my mother for not telling me earlier that this existed.

When I was five or six and my friends suggested we play "Fatman and Stupidman" I thought it was the greatest idea in history.

My father acted in a local production of THE IMAGINARY INVALID when I was six and I attended so many rehearsals I could rattle off long stretches of Moliere dialogue from memory.

In Elementary School, we put together a team-written play about Shay's Rebellion, a bit of local history that was celebrating its bicentennial. I kept trying to insert comedy into it, like wacky chases and Daniel Shays giving a long-winded speech that put his troops to sleep. By the time they cut out all of my contributions from the script, all that was left was just one line -- "Let's go!"

In third or fourth grade I set out to write a series of parodies of fairy tales. The only one I remember was "Rufflestiltskin," which was about a mysterious little man who could magically make potato chips.

In eighth grade music class, we were assigned to write about a popular singer or musical act and I chose "Weird Al" Yankovic

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

A:  Accessibility, both in terms of price and just how common it is. Seeing a play should be as easy and affordable as going to the movies, ideally even more so. Oh, and every theatre should have free babysitting, so parents can leave their kids with a sitter while they watch the play. This will all be paid for by ... I don't know, the magical golden eggs all the flying pigs are dropping everywhere?

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I suppose Shakespeare goes without saying. Oscar Wilde, George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart, Neil Simon, Stephen Sondheim ... I like dramatic playwrights and playwrights who aren't all white men, too, I promise!

People I actually know in real life, I learned a great deal from Tom McCabe and Jack Neary. And I want to be Don Zolidis when I grow up ... he's like a year older than I am.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Anything that takes you on a journey. You can wind up back in the same place you started, but a play works if it picks you up and brings you into a world, and takes you through a unique way of looking at things. Plays fail when they head off on a journey by themselves and don't take the audience along.

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

A:  Read and watch. Work in theatre ... whether you're an actor, a carpenter, a stagehand, an assistant stage manager, or whatever. Be a part of the process of putting on a play from start to finish. See what works. Learn the rules and play by them for a little while before you try to break them.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  You can find my plays at https://www.playscripts.com/playwrights/bios/912 and my Facebook page for my plays is https://www.facebook.com/sallycotterandthecensoredstone

I'm on Twitter https://twitter.com/deanocarroll and I've been on a bunch of podcasts if you'd like to hear my voice ... that might be searchable.

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