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1000 PLAYWRIGHT INTERVIEWS

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

Feb 12, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1025: Asher Wyndham





Asher Wyndham

Hometown: “Hometown”? “The town where you grew up?”? I was born in a village called Grafton in Ontario, Canada. Or: “The town where I spend most of your time?”? If that, see Current Town.

Current Town: Minneapolis, MN.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A: I’m working on my multi-volume work SOME AMERICANS: SOME MONOLOGUES. Each volume has about 2-3 hours worth of monologues, each ranging from 5 to 25 minutes, each volume with common themes.

They are not intended for audition, but I have cuts available for audition.

A director can choose which monologues to produce and choose the order.

I’m revising Volume 1 so I can send it out to publishers. This volume has six monologues.

I’m writing more monologues for Volume 2 (about bad/tough jobs). Right now it has eleven monologues.

Volume 3 consists of monologues for women.

While not working on that larger project, I write monologues for adults that don’t belong to those volumes. Also monologues for kids and teens (SOME KIDS: SOME MONOLOGUES) intended for classroom use and competition.

You can check out these monologues my New Play Exchange page or my website www.robotwriter.co.

Q:  You are kind of a genius at making friends and making waves on the New Play Exchange. How do you do it and how can other playwrights emulate you?

A:  Thanks!

Here is a short list with some suggestions, many of which deal with how to make friends and “waves” on NPX, some are just best practices:

1. Read/recommend plays by your friends.

2. R/R plays recommended by your friends.

3. R/R plays by playwrights that you admire.

4. R/R plays by playwrights you have met at conferences.

5. R/R plays by playwrights whose work was staged read or developed in your city.

6. Recommend plays that you saw immediately after watching it. You can do this on the bus ride or Uber home.

7. R/R play that you’ve found on lists such as The Kilroys’ List, Steppenwolf’s The Mix List, etc. Many of them are on NPX.

8. Meet playwrights and ask, “Are you on NPX?” If so, read each other's work.

9. R/R local playwrights.

10. R/R plays by playwrights you don’t know! NPX for a few weeks has a recommended list of plays or a randomly chosen play.

11. Recommend NPX to your writing group. And when their plays are up on the site, read and recommend them.

12. R/R plays by people that complain on Facebook that no is reading their plays.

13. After recommending several plays choose your top ten and list them on Facebook and Twitter. I usually do this after reading 100 plays. You could recommend works by length and genre.

14. If a play is WOW recommend it, tweet it, post it, talk about it in the theatre lobby, tell an actor, tell a producer, tell a director, etc.

15. Read every day or maybe a few times a week: there are short plays that you can read on the bus, before going to bed, while the eggs are boiling.

16. Don't over complicate your tags. These tags are words that the theatre artists such an artistic director searches for. Mention only subjects.

17. Upload blind drafts. These are for play opps. Some theatres will only read blind drafts. (This will take time. I haven’t done this to every play yet.

18. Provide your NPX link to every email you send out to a theatre professional.

19. Add your NPX address to your resume.

20. Mention NPX on your website if you have one.

21. Mention length and genre in synopsis of play.

22. I don’t recommend samples, only full-scripts.

23. If something awesome has come from NPX such as a reading or production, share the love on Facebook and Twitter. You can mention @NewPlayX in your Tweet.

24. Participate in reading challenges. Join Nelson Diaz-Marcano's NPX Challenge group on Facebook.

25. Start a reading challenge with NPX friends.

26. Add your NPX address to your business card.

27. R/R plays written by young playwrights -- playwrights under 20.

28. R/R plays written by LGBTQnb2s+ playwrights.

29. R/R plays written by playwrights of color.

30. R/R plays written by American indigenous/Native American playwrights. Remember you’re on stole, colonized land.

31. R/R plays written by playwrights with disability.

32. R/R plays written by playwrights that challenge the status quo, that play with structure, that have transgressive ideas, etc. R/R problematic plays, plays that are challenging in some way. Study these plays, learn from them.

33. R/R plays written by member playwrights that are sad. Make their day!

34. If a student of a MFA program for playwriting: recommend NPX to your playwriting teacher, encourage your classmates to join /subscribe to NPX, and R/R their plays.

35. If you have graduated from a playwriting program: recommend NPX to your former playwriting teacher, encourage that teacher to subscribe their students to NPX. R/R their plays.

36. Mention NPX to actors of all levels, especially those who complain that there are no good plays to read.

37. Mention NPX to actors looking for killer audition monologues for classroom exercises and actual auditions.

38. Mention NPX to directors looking for good plays to read and direct for a theatre’s season, a college program, for a fringe festival.

39. Mention NPX to artistic directors looking for good plays to read and add to their season.

40. If you are part of a selecting committee for a season, not just a playwright: consider choosing all your plays from NPX instead of through online or mail submissions.

41. Mention NPX to elementary, middle-school, high-school and college/graduate school teachers that specialize in TYA theatre.

42. If you’re also a dramaturg attending a dramaturg conference, mention NPX.

43. If you’re a playwright attending a national conference, mention NPX, bring up the website, share your page, your recommendations.

44. Give someone the gift of a NPX membership for their birthday.

45. Give someone the gift of a NPX membership for Christmas/December holiday gift.

46. Give someone the gift of a NPX membership for Valentine’s Day.

47. Encourage college teachers of dramatic literature, acting, and directing to add NPX as a resource to their syllabus. The teachers can search for plays on NPX and reach out to the playwright and ask them if students can use their work.

48. Send an email to a playwriting friend and mention how much you love NPX and encourage them to join.

49. If you work for a publisher or know someone that does, mention NPX.

50. If you work for a magazine (print or online) that publishes plays or know someone that does, mention NPX.

51. Mention NPX to playwrights living outside the United States.

52. If someone recommends your play(s), send them a thank-you message. You can find ‘Contact’ on their membership page.

53. PM/Email a playwriting friend a play that you finished reading and recommended. I do this quite often - and it usually results in the play receiving not just a read and recommendation by that playwright -- other several playwrights do so.

54. Spend an entire month reading a playwright’s work. And recommend what you like.

55. Fill up the NPX page with recommendations for plays written by a single playwright. Playwrights Franky Gonzalez and Matthew Weaver do this quite often.

56. If you learn that a friend’s play was a semi-finalist or a finalist and not a winner, read the play. If you like it, recommend it. And then celebrate the play on social media.

57. Add your recommendations or top 10 lists to a blog/page on your theatre website.

58. If you have an Amazon page for your published works, add your NPX address.

59. If a playwright you know has a play that was randomly chosen as the play of the day, let them know on social media. You can PM them, but why not tell the entire world!?

60. Wake up early, enjoy a big breakfast and a short play from NPX.

61. Before going to bed, read a short play from NPX.

62. Get a group of playwriting/theatre friends that are members on NPX to join you in a coffee shop. Read a ton of short NPX plays and recommend the ones you like.

63. Know someone who loves reading? Recommend that they get a reader’s membership on NPX.

64. Like NPX’s page on Facebook.

65. Follow NPX on Twitter.

66. If you’re attending a play reading and notice the play is on NPX, stand up, mention in the feedback session that the play is on “New Play Exchange” and tell everyone that you’re going to leave an awesome recommendation. Hopefully other NPX members in the audience will do the same. Those that are not members will ask you about NPX--let them know.

67. Encourage playwrights whose play is being staged read to mention in the introduction and/or playbill that the play is on NPX. If you’re the playwright, think about doing this.

68. Encourage a playwright whose play is being workshopped and produced as a workshop production to mention NPX in the playbill. If you’re the playwright, think about doing this.

69. If you know a translator, let them know about NPX.

70. Upload your monologues from your plays so actors can use them for audition pieces.

71. Upload a collection of your monologues from your plays and/or stand-alone monologues so actors can use them for audition pieces.

72. Include a few NPX recommendations of your play after the title page in a submission.

73. If allowed, include a few NPX recommendations of your play in the body of the email or any letter that you send as a submission.

74. Consider collaborating with playwrights in your city and doing a staged reading of NPX plays by local playwrights at your local library, bookstore, or theatre. You can choose plays based on themes. Invite professionals, especially those that are not members of NPX.

75. Make sure to include Character Information for all parts, includings ages, race/ethnicity, gender, and description.


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

A:  One thing!?!

That more theatres were open to producing monologues and solos plays. So many opportunities state ‘no monologues’ or ‘no one-person shows please!’ and ‘Asher $%#! stop sending us your monologues!’ So given this I get produced a few times in a year. I think the monologue is probably the most underrated and disliked forms of theatre. Maybe it’s challenging for an actor? Maybe some theatres think a monologue is just storytelling, so kind of anti-theatrical?

What can we do to change this? Reach out to me!

Q:  Which theatre artists do you admire?

A:  Tony Kushner -- His work is unapologetically political, it’s difficult, large in scope. Even though I usually write one-acts, mostly monologues - his works remind me that a play is always political.

Suzan-Lori Parks - Her work reminds me that a degree of difficulty is a good thing for a play. And the language - it’s so performative! You got to read her plays with your whole body. I try to write, read, and revise my plays with my whole body. I play the space while revising a play. By space I mean by studio. My studio apartment.

Young Jean Lee - She reminds I should let myself write the weirdest, stupidest, worst play. And not to listen to that voice, that censor when starting the play.

The language of James Purdy, Harold Pinter, Tennessee Williams, Sheila Callaghan, Kushner and Parks have had a profound influence on me.

Lanford Wilson, who was a teacher of mine at the Edward Albee New Playwrights Workshop at the University of Houston, gave me some pointers.

Caryl Churchill. Every play is so different from the previous. She reminds me to try to do something new with each play in respects to language or structure.

I enjoy monologues by Donald Margulies, Dael Orlandersmith, Danny Hoch. I enjoy Nilaja Sun’s work.

I admire the work of my peers: Rachael Carnes, Matthew Weaver, Ricardo Soltero-Brown, Nelson Diaz-Marcano, and Emily Hageman, to name a few.

Tiffany Antone, a playwright who created Protest Plays Project - a project that asks playwrights to create plays focused on a variety of topics (voting, immigration) to foster dialog and inspire action and awareness in communities. You can find more about the project here: http://www.protestplays.org/

All my friends on New Play Exchange that are writingwritingwriting, submitting, and making connections with theatres.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theater that I see --- I like theatre that doesn’t play it safe, theatre that is dangerous -- theatre that questions the status-quo, forces you to question your values/traditions/beliefs/ideologies/assumptions/ prejudices/biases -- theatre that f’s up your evening.

Theater that I make/want to make/dream about making --- Theatre artists, especially directors, that have answers to the following questions or attempt to answer through collaboration the following questions, along with the playwright. (I think some of these questions can be asked for a development process, not necessarily a workshop or full production. Some may argue that such collaborations below should not be part of the development and production process -- I disagree. I will keep this short because I could write an essay.)

How does a playwright collaborate with a director and prop designer?

How does a playwright collaborate with a director and lighting designer?

...media designer?

...fight choreographer?

...costume designer?

...make-up designer?

...the person in charge of making the video trailer?

...the person in charge of promotion?

What is the beginning, middle, and end to these collaborations?

Where does it happen in the schedule?

How can such intense collaborations influence new play development and production in college/graduate school theatre and beyond?

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

A:  See the the list above re: NPX.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My work is available here: https://newplayexchange.org/users/3039/asher-wyndham

And excerpts here: www.robotwriter.co

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