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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...

Dec 3, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1069: Francesca Pazniokas








Francesca Pazniokas


Hometown: Brookside, NJ

Current town: Brooklyn, NYC


Q:  What are you working on now?


A:   I mostly write dark, surreal narrative work, but I also really enjoy working with verbatim/found text. So I recently decided to start creating my own little hallucinatory, abstract documentary films. I'm also working on a verbatim theater project I started last year, where I interview men about masculinity and their fathers. I'm always working on four or five projects at a time. I have to keep my brain busy, or else it's like a little puppy destroying a living room when it's left alone.


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


A:  My grandmother was good friends with the nuns at our local convent, so when she'd babysit me as a kid, she'd bring me to hang out with the nuns. Some of my earliest memories are running around this big, gorgeous church with a gaggle of nuns behind me, feeling like I ran the place. I think that's why I like theater -- I'm not religious, but I love ritual and spectacle.


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


A:  When people pay thousands of dollars for a space rental, but don't pay their actors anything. You could perform the play without the theater, but you couldn't perform it without actors. Get a smaller space and pay your actors.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?


A:  Kelleen Conway Blanchard is one of the main reasons I make my own work. I used to live in terror that people would see the inside of my weird brain and be totally horrified. But working on Kelleen's play "Kittens In A Cage," I had so much fun playing in her wild, grimy, strange, hilarious, love-filled world. All her work is so singularly her -- you know it's a Kelleen play from the very first lines. Her writing made me realize the power of an authentic, individual voice. Anyway, I just love Kelleen's work, and more people on the East Coast should know her plays.


Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  I want to see work that throws me off-kilter, that makes me walk outside afterwards feeling like real life is actually a bizarre alternate universe. That's the kind of work I want to create and the kind of work I want to see. Strange and beautiful things.


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


A: When you're new at anything, you're going to be bad at it. That's how it always works, in every field. Tell yourself: "Let's create some crappy work. Let's go get rejected." Embrace it, and you'll get better. Write as much as you can, as often as you can, and don't put so much pressure on yourself to create great work. Just create work.

Q:  Plugs, please: 


A:  I'll be working with Queensborough College this spring on my taxidermy play WUNDERKAMMER. I also have a few short films coming out soon, and three episodes with the online series CITY KITTIES.

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Nov 20, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1068: Alexis Scheer




Alexis Scheer

Hometown: Miami, Florida.

Current Town: Boston, Massachusetts.

Q:  Tell me about Our Dear Dead Drug Lord.

A:  Our Dear Dead Drug Lord is a thriller about 4 teenage girls who try to commune with the spirit of Pablo Escobar. At its core, it's about 4 young women seeking power and agency, and the dangerous depths they go to get it. It's funny and vicious. Someone told me it "puts you in stitches, and then rips them right out," which feels right.


Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  A commission for Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Sensational, which goes up in January as part of their PTC's New Play Project, and a commission for Manhattan Theatre Club about Birthright/Taglit. I'm also in development land for my other plays, Laughs in Spanish and Christina. Lots of irons in the fire right now.


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'm not one to quit things (real Capricorn energy), but when I was 12 I quit Hebrew school. I told my parents I wasn’t sure if I believed in god and that I wasn't ready to be Bat Mitzvahed. But really I just wanted to be in Actors Playhouse's production of Fiddler on the Roof. And I was--I played Shprintze--and to this day it remains my favorite celebration of my faith.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A:  Affordability. Radical inclusion and hospitality by making theatre affordable to attend, study, and make.


Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Sarah Kane, Paula Vogel, Jose Rivera, Anne Bogart.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theatre that reaches out to us and demands we reach back. Beautiful chaos. Divine intervention. I go to the theatre to be transformed, to have my inner alchemy changed. And that doesn't necessarily always come from shock, intellect, or acts of intimacy--I've been known to get joyfully weepy watching big Broadway musicals.

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

A:  Start before you're ready. Cultivate loves, hobbies, and practices outside of theatre. Lift up your community. Bloom where you are planted.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Our Dear Dead Drug Lord runs through January 5th at WP Theatre. www.ourdeardeaddruglord.com


Follow me on Instagram (@scheer_madness) and Twitter (@alexisscheer)


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Nov 13, 2019

upcoming

PRODUCTIONS

Clown Bar 2
Production #1 of CB2
Majestic Rep
Las Vegas, NV

Production #22 of Marian
Blue Ridge Community College
Flat Rock, NC
Opens November 13, 2019.

Production #23 of Marian
The Breck School
Golden Valley, MN
Opens March 5, 2020

Production #24 of Marian
Cambridge Street Upper School
Cambridge, MA
Opens March 19, 2020

Production #25 of Marian
Michigan State Univeristy
East Lansing, MI
Opens April 10, 2020


Production #39 of Clown Bar
University of Wisconsin,
Stevens Point, WI.
Opens November 8, 2019.

Production #40 of Clown Bar
Fresno State University
Fresno, CA.
Opens November 15, 2019.


Production #44 of HLF
Lee High School
Springfield, VA
Opens November 11, 2019.

Production #45 of HLF
Christopher Newport University
Newport News, VA.
Opens November 15, 2019.



Production #46 of HLF
Restless Artists Theater
Sparks, NV
Opens December 6, 2019


Production #47 of HLF
Newton South High School
Newton, MA
Opens May 21, 2020.


Production #13 of Kodachrome
Orange High School
Hillsborough, NC.
Opens November 1, 2019.

Production #14 of Kodachrome
Monett High School
Monett, MO
Opens November 11, 2019

Production #15 of Kodachrome
Lee Strasberg Theater and Film Institute
New York, NY
Opens November 14, 2019.

Production #16 of Kodachrome
Berkley High School
Berkley, MI
Opens November 15, 2019.

Production #17 of Kodachrome
Fair Lawn High School
Fair Lawn, NJ
Opens November 19, 2019.

Production #18 of Kodachrome
Labette County High School
Altamont, KS
Opens April 16, 2020.

The Adventures of Super Margaret

Production #9 of Super Margaret
Driscoll Middle School
San Antonio, TX
Opens November 20, 2019.

Production #10 of Super Margaret
Clarksville Middle School
Clarksville, IN
Opens December 20, 2019.

Rare Birds

Production #8 of Rare Birds
Mesquite High School
Mesquite, TX.
Opens November 14, 2019.

a night of short plays

Production #35 of 7 Ways
Fountain Central Jr-Sr High
Veedersburg, IN
Opens November 22, 2019

Production #36 of 7 Ways
Mercer University
Macon, GA
Opens February 13, 2020.

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Nov 7, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1067: Christopher Daftsios



Chris Daftsios

Hometown: Born in St. Paul, MN, raised in Ann Arbor, Mi.

Current Town: Living in New York City.


Q:  Tell me about Lily.


A:  Lily is the story of aging, alcoholic country western superstar Toby Crenshaw, his enabling manager Sam, his head of security Tommy and the eighteen-year-old girl who tears through them like a wrecking ball, changing the trajectories of their lives. It's a modern day Greek tragedy. It deals with a taboo subject in a nontraditional way that may seem a bit much to some. After the staged reading a year ago an established playwright approached me and said, "You can't do this on stage. You just can't." Being my first play I had no hopes for a production so I was freed from those confines while writing it. I just wanted to write the kind of play I'd like to see: one that tears your guts out and shoves 'em back. I think I've done that... and NJ Rep has posted a "no one under seventeen admitted" on their website so we try to prepare audiences a bit for the experience.


Q:  What else are you working on now?


A:  My second play Circus Dreams, dealing with LGBTQ issues still prevalent in Smalltown, USA, will receive a staged reading at The Actors Studio this December starring Chazz Palminteri and then a full production during NJ Rep's 2020 season. I recently finished my third play, This Neighborhood, which deals with controversies within the Catholic Church, the sexuality of Jesus and suicide in the gay community.


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


A:  Well, of course the concern for what is marketable/profitable killing the creative voice springs to mind. It's what we're all thinking, isn't it? But, you know, I'd let theater be to tell you the truth. There is a need for Spider Man just as there's a need for Long Days Journey. Who am I to say what should be? What we're talking about is human nature. Some long for a deepening of their understanding of themselves and the world around them and some are just looking to unplug and be dazzled. To each his own.


Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?


A:  I began as an actor so my first heroes were the truth tellers: Brando and Dean then Duval, Deniro, Hoffman... But when I saw Husbands that was it: Cassavetes became King. Here was an actor who was so disgusted by the mendacity of Hollywood that, having no idea at all what he was doing, wrote some words, grabbed a camera and said, "Let's make something real". There is more passion and honesty in thirty seconds of a Cassavetes film than in two hours of most others. I've also learned a great deal from not only reading but performing in works by Sam Shepard, Neil Simon and Tennessee Williams.


Q:  What kind of theater excites you?


A:  Like I wrote before, I want theater to tear my guts out. I want to be changed. I want to walk out of the theater questioning my beliefs or seeing a new possibility for my place in the world. Most of us are fighting so hard to create a stable and safe existence. We long for permanence not only in the very structures we live in but in our mental and emotional lives. But life is much more exciting than this. It is unpredictable and ever changing. Theater can be that type of reality check that shakes our illusions.


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


A:  Write. Every day. Until your first draft is done. Take all those doubts and write through them. Write in spite of them. When I wrote Lily I was plagued with doubts: "You've never written a play before. You've never studied the craft. Quit. This is shit. Go get a job". Still I kept my butt glued to the couch ten, twelve hours a day and wrote. I had a first draft in two weeks. What kept me from writing before Lily was the idea that I wasn't talented enough. Now I understand that talent really doesn't matter. It's so incredibly subjective which makes it all a crap shoot. If you have a story to tell get it out. You can worry if you're good or not later.


Q:  Plugs, Please:


A:  Link to show: http://www.njrep.org/current_prod.htm

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Nov 5, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1066: Diana Burbano





Diana Burbano

Hometown: Neiva, Colombia, emigrated to Cleveland, Ohio

Current Town: Long Beach, CA

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I always work on a few things at once.

"Ghosts of Bogota", a very, very personal play about three siblings, who return to their parents’ birth country when their grandfather dies. It’s about abuse and anger and it’s a comedy! It features a very unlikeable heroine and a Jesus head in a Jar. My family is going to kill me for writing it. Or maybe they won't notice. Either scenario is possible.

“Gargoyles” is in that “late draft but I hate it with the heat of a thousand suns” stage. It’s a historical drama, a la Sirk about a man who lost his face in WWI and a woman who makes monsters for the movies. It’s a romance, which is not what I was expecting when I wrote the thing, but they fell for each other and what can I do? I don’t control the characters, they walk all over me. It’s had a couple of readings and is begging for rewrites.

Sapience is about a woman, a primatologist on the autism spectrum, who has spent most of her life trying to hide it. The play is an exploration of what it means to have language, to be heteronormative, and the challenges for people on the autism spectrum to form relationships and navigate a world that isn’t built for them. The play is centered around female characters of color and the roles of AJ and Elsa can and should be played by actors who are not neuro-normative. This play question how a person can be whole when they are hiding an essential component of themselves from the world.

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

A:  Impressions from my childhood: Cleveland is brick and grey, Buffalo was snow and “There were three Jolly fishermen” In San Jose, the principal used to climb into the trash can to squash it down (gross). 

I went to 8 different schools before HS, not because we were military or moved, but because I was a terrible student. I was that “You’re so smart why are you such a failure at education?” So I never made a lot of friends or connections at school. I very VERY fortunately found Children's theatre when I was 12. I was one of those obnoxious children who raised their hand when the director asked who could do something, so I got to do a lot. My first show, I got 3 different parts because I was the one to say “I can do that” Super OBNOXIOUS. 

I loved that company. We rehearsed in a run down art deco palace that threatened to collapse at any minute and smelled of mold and paint. The director threw shoes at us if we screwed up. Everyone smoked Camels, kids included, and a LOT of stuff happened under the stage that the mom chaperones would have killed us for. There was the rich kids cast, and the talented cast, and we all knew it even if the adults tried to pretend that wasn’t the case. We ate mozzarella sticks at Dennys and I made out with a TON of cute boys in my station wagon (why would my parents give me a make out machine?) It was bliss, and those folks are still my friends 30 years later.

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

A:  That we neglect kids from middle school and up and lose our audiences. TYA can be completely awful, pandering, childish and boring. Middle schoolers are a TOUGH audience, and writing for them will teach you a lot about how to craft a story. They are absolute bullshit detectors and will let you know when they think something is stupid. I think they are a MUCH better gauge of a good play than the typical adult audience.

And speaking of the typical audience… How in the hell do theatres expect to bring in diversity if they don’t ACTIVELY diversify their staff? Let’s be honest. They don’t want to do it. It is not comfortable to hear that your hot, new play theatre is actually not bringing in diverse audiences because the diverse audiences just don’t WANT to step foot in your square and staid and frankly still very racist institution. Be real. And don’t get offended when your token person of color leaves because you couldn’t tell them apart from the other token person of color. (True story) Change your ways. Rip that bandaid off and be bloody bold and resolute. 

And listen. LISTEN. DO not tell your Latinx actors that they are too emotional, too colorful. That they are over the top. I hear that our Latinidad makes you uncomfortable. We are not here to be your cute cleaning ladies and victims of trauma. We are not here to be your spicy hot mamas. We are pretty pissed. Very pissed. Listen to us. 

Hmm… I spend a LOT of time being calm, educating, and I’m so, so tired. I ask that people take off their blinders and see color, and understand that race is a the huge elephant in the room that needs to be addressed to move forward. You want fresh audiences, it’s not going to be pretty.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Tom Stoppard is someone who takes my breath away. He’s an immigrant writing in his second language, and I connect to that. I find his work magical. My first real new play experience with Latinx playwright was as an actor when I did Man of the Flesh by Octavio Solis. It was my first time feeling seen, connected and understood. Octavio is a wizard of language, vivid and poetic and painful. José Cruz Gonzalez is a master of humanity in his scripts, they are so very real and full of feeling. 

I love language. I went to London as a young woman and went to a play every night and that shaped me as a theatre artist. Theatre is a job. You do this often wild and loud and magical job, then you hang out at the pub with pals and there is no pretense, at least not with the people I was able to meet. There is a delicious normality to the great english actors that I so appreciate. Janet McTeer, Fiona Shaw, Anthony Sher. They were humble working folk. That definitely shaped me. I can’t possibly take myself as seriously as some great artiste! It’s a lark! We get to play for a living. We get to live in imagination land. If that feels like torture or work, well, please, go do something else and leave the playground for play.

I really love language plays. My next big project is to tackle redeeming Tamora Queen of the Goths in verse. Iambic pentameter, natch, but Latinx. So now that I wrote this out I have to do it!

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Language, theatricality, large expansive, could not possibly be a movie, theatre. I like being made to work at listening and learning. I want it to be difficult, visceral and challenging. I’m pretty bored by TV script theatre. The harder and less “accessible” the better. And it better have women in exciting roles, otherwise I just shut off. I like SPECTACLE but the story has to be amazing too.

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

A:  Write the crappy first draft, let it exist. Don’t be a perfectionist. Believe in your own view of the world and don’t ever try to fit into anyone else parameters. Beware the formula, and the “only way to do things” Join writers groups and circles to listen, learn and write, but stay true to your own vision. Write. A lot. Submit to everything that you can but read the call and don’t be indiscriminate. Be impulsive sometimes. Don’t hold your work back from an opp because it’s not perfect yet. Just frikkin’ do it. Life is short and you may as well run into battle with your sword out. And hang out with other playwrights. They’re awesome. Yeah, sometimes you get jealous and cranky. That’s ok. acknowledge the feeling and then let it go. Work harder, befriend people who challenge you. Tell the truth, ask for help, but show up and be supportive. It really is a community.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Alter theater will be producing my Ghosts of Bogota early next year in San Rafael.https://www.altertheater.org/current-season The play will also get a production at Actors Theatre of Charlotte, where it won the NuVoices festival this summer. I’ve got a piece in Climate Change Theatre Action LA https://nhm.org/calendar/climate-change-theatre-action-la-intersection and Policarpa will be produced at Franklin & Marshall College, Lancaster PA in the spring of 2020.

Policarpa is also getting archived by Texas State University San Marcos. Which is very cool and makes me want to go find my HS school principal and say “Haha. See, you were wrong.”

My plays are currently available at YouthPLAYS https://www.youthplays.com/search.php?quicksearchbox=burbano


and my website http://dianaburbano.com/index.html


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Oct 23, 2019

The Subtext Podcast



I got to talk to Brian James Polak a couple months ago.  Listen here.  Wallace interrupts!


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