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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...

Apr 11, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1035: Chris Cragin-Day

Chris Cragin-Day

Current Town: Weehawken, NJ

Q: Tell me about The Rare Biosphere:

A:  The few months leading up to the 2016 presidential election I was teaching a class of college Freshman, about one third of whom happened to be first generation Americans--children of immigrants. One of them, her name is Stephanie, was particularly studious and all around bad ass. She told me the story of a relative that came home from school one day to discover that her parents had been deported. When she told me this story, I imagined Stephanie as this girl, and I wondered, how might a typical white suburban middle-class American male enter into this other American reality that is so different from the America that he's experienced? And what if, what's more, he cared about someone across the breach? How would all of that change him?

Q: What else are you working on now?

A:  I just finished the first draft of a play, OKC Bombing, about the trial of Timothy McVeigh. I was a senior in a high school in Oklahoma thirty minutes away from the Federal Murrah Building when McVeigh detonated the bomb that killed 168 people, many of whom where children. Looking back at the event in the present political climate, McVeigh's fear of government over-reach, especially in regard to stricter regulation of guns, resonates in a particular way, and I'm interested in that. I'm also working on a commission from River and Rail Theater, a musical called The Burn Vote, which I'm writing with Don and Lori Chaffer, about the single vote in Nashville, TN, that tipped the scales allowing for the ratification of the 19th Amendment, giving women the right to vote. Also, another play I wrote immediately after the 2016 election, A Woman, about a NYC professor challenging her church denomination's deeply entrenched policy against women elders, will receive two staged readings this summer, one at the Women's Theater Festival and one at Baylor University, both directed by Kel Haney.

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

A:  Well...I was born in the Philippines and raised in Hong Kong and mainland China until my family came back to the US (Oklahoma) when I was thirteen. Both of my parents were military kids. My sister works in counter-terrorism. I'm a playwright. Somehow all of that adds up to my writing.

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

A:   I love theater. I've been doing it practically full time since high school and it's still magical to me. And I love love love the theater community in NYC. But if I could change one thing, it would be equal opportunity for women and people of color. I don't believe that the decision makers are consciously biased against us. But I do believe that the structures upholding the industry have these biases embedded. I wish I could change that.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:   I love Rajiv Joseph, Stephen Adly Guirgis, Annie Baker, Shakespeare, Oscar Wilde, Caryl Churchill, Helen Edmundson, Martina Majok...there are so many.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A:  For me, it's the specificity of human interaction that thrills me. Human beings will forever fascinate me. I want to understand these creatures, because they are remarkable in their kindness and cruelty, courage and cowardice. Ultimately, I suppose I want to understand myself. So I like all kinds and genres of theater as long as it gives me that thrill of seeing something that shows me some small truth about who I am.

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

A:  Read lots of plays. Go to all of the rehearsals. Listen to your actors and directors, but also trust your instincts. Don't let go of the impulse.

Q: Plugs, please

A:  I have a really fun musical called The Zombie Family Musical, a Jungian comedy, also co-written with Don Chaffer, that is super smart and commercial and it needs a first production, please.

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