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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...

Mar 23, 2019

UPCOMING

PRODUCTIONS


The Wooden Heart
Production #1 of The Wooden Heart
Acadiana Repertory Theater
Lafayette, LA
Opens September 6, 2019.

KODACHROME

Production #9 of Kodachrome
Actors Bridge Ensemble
Nashville, TN
Opens July 12, 2019.

Marian or The True Tale of Robin Hood

Production #18 of Marian
Shakespeare Performance Troupe
Bryn Mawr College
Bryn Mawr, PA.
Opens March 28, 2019.

Production #19 of Marian
Regis College
Weston, MA
Opens April 11, 2019.

Clown Bar

Production #34 of Clown Bar
Liverpool University Drama Society
Liverpool, England
Opens May 7, 2019

Production #35 of Clown Bar
Padgett Productions
Prohibition Hall
Kansas City, MO
Opens June 5, 2019.

Production #36 of Clown Bar
University of Wisconsin,
Stevens Point, WI.
Opens November 8, 2019.

Hearts Like Fists
Production #41 of HLF
Martin High School
Laredo, TX
Opens March 20, 2019

Production #42 of HLF
Cyrano's Theatre Company
Anchorage, AK
Opens Sept 19, 2019

Production #43 of HLF
Christopher Newport University
Newport News, VA.
Opens April 3, 2020.

Pretty Theft
Production #14 of Pretty Theft
Houston ISD UIL Dept.
Houston, TX
Opens March 23, 2019.

Nerve
Production #21 of Nerve
Dead End Kids
NYC, NY
Opens April 25, 2019.

Production #22 of Nerve
Ikag Productions
The Elephant British Pub
Adelaide, Australia
Opens June 5, 2019

Rare Birds

Production #5 of Rare Birds
Highland, CA
Opens March 28, 2019.

Production #6 of Rare Birds
University of Indianapolis
Indianapolis, IN
Opens April 12, 2019

7 Ways To Say I Love You
a night of short plays

Production #29 of 7 Ways
Northern Illinois University School Of Theatre And Dance
Dekalb, IL
Opens March 20, 2019.

Production #30 of 7 Ways
Scotch'n'Soda Theatre
Pittsburgh, PA
Opens March 23, 2019

Production #31 of 7 Ways
Ursula Franklin Academy
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Opens April 20, 2019.

Production #32 of 7 Ways
Auburn Community Players
Fiskdale, MA
Opens July 12, 2019.

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Mar 20, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1033: Emily Hageman




Emily Hageman

Hometown:  Highlands Ranch, CO

Current Town: Sioux City, IA

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  What am I NOT working on right now would be a better question????

I just finished up an extremely successful speech competition season with my students at Siouxland Christian (our tiny school with an enrollment of 68 just secured our second Critic’s Choice Banner in the area of one act, making us the first school in the history of the program since 1982 to be named the top one act in the state of Iowa twice in a row). This was achieved our first year with my one act “Back Cover,” and this year with my one act “The Cages We Build.” I am currently working on creating a full length play that I would feel comfortable submitting (right now, the only place I’m comfortable putting my full lengths is in the garbage disposal). I am also writing a one act for my middle schoolers (all twenty-six of them!) as well as the one act for my high schoolers next year. I am also trying to stay alive, but that’s been sort of placed on the backburner for the time being.

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

A:  When I was in third grade, we were learning about writing using quotations. I wrote a story about my family during a thunderstorm (for whatever reason, I can still remember my opening line--"YIKES," Emily said as a bolt of lightning streaked through the sky.) My third grade teacher, who spent most of her time glaring at me because I liked to walk around the classroom without my shoes and had the habit of rolling my eyes every time we had to do math, pulled me aside before class began. Naturally, I assumed I was going to be chastised for my eye-rolling, shoeless ways. Instead, she asked me, “Would you mind if I read this to the class?” Baffled, I said yes. She read the entire short piece for my class and praised me for my creativity and descriptiveness. I wasn’t a popular child. I wasn’t athletic or particularly good at anything. But in that moment, I was heard and I was understood, and I’ll never forget it.

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

A:  I want there to be better roles out there for young people, and for women. I want women to be allowed to tell their own stories, not to have their experiences explained for them. I also am desperate to get better scripts in the hands of young people. I truly believe that high school age actors should have opportunities to act in plays where they get to play their own age, but also where they get to explore modern issues. I am really tired of seeing the same plays getting produced over and over again. Teenagers need to be able to do plays where they feel like their voices are being heard--they desperately want to tell noble, important stories. Our best playwrights should be writing for high school. It is an incredibly worthy endeavor.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I love the work of Arthur Miller. Reading Stephen Karam’s The Humans changed me as a writer. I am a huge Charley Evon Simpson fan. Jennifer O’Grady is one of the best people I’ve ever met, and she is also a magnificent playwright. And beyond that, there are truly too many to count and list.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theater that makes me feel. I love plays that are strange, frightening, hilarious, touching, but more than anything, I am drawn to theater that is genuine. I love theater that makes me feel connected to the performers, the playwright, the director, and the audience around me. I love theater written by people who love people--or at least people who are fascinated by people. Theater that has a profound emotional impact on me (not an easy thing to do) inspires me.

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

A:  Write what YOU want to write. Don’t worry so much about getting produced. Try not to sweat the rejections. I view any production I receive as an honor. It’s incredible to have your voice picked out as being valuable, and heard. Determine why you are writing and go from there. Let yourself be inspired by the people around you and their incredible stories. Write as a gift, expecting nothing in return.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  On March 10, my play “The Orchid” was performed at the Dramatists Guild of America for their “Talking It Out” event, which is a series of plays that have to do with mental illness. Many high schools across the country are performing my plays--"Back Cover," my award winning one act, being the most popular choice (thirteen productions and counting!), but I’ve also had “Character Arc,” “Something Profound,” “One Seriously Ugly Duckling” and “The Thought Doesn’t Count” picked up by Universities, High Schools, and Middle Schools. I also recently had my play “Everafter.com” published by YouthPLAYS.

https://www.youthplays.com/play/everafter-dot-com-by-emily-hageman-517&ref=search.php%3Fquicksearchbox%3Deverafter.com



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Mar 8, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1032: Nicholas Linnehan




Nicholas Linnehan

Current Town: New York New York

Q:  Tell me about Identity

A:  Identity was written when I was trying to reconcile aspects of my own identity. I was and am gay disabled and Catholic. These three things don't seem to go together. So I wrote this play as a way to explore these concepts in order to figure out how I was going to reconcile them for myself. It was written in 2005, and performed off off Broadway in 2006. Now it has undergone a revision and 12 years later it's grown into something that I didn't expect but I'm very proud of ..This play celebrates individuality and teaches us to live fully so that we can embrace the sunlight of the spirit.

Q:  What else are you working on now? 

A:  I have written a short film called Catfish that is in post-production. Catfish deals with sexuality and disability. What happens when two men meet up for a casual encounter and one is in a wheelchair but didn't tell the other that he is? How do they negotiate this situation?

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 remember seeing my sister perform in Sweet Charity. I knew right there and then that I wanted to do theater. Then I was cast as the Mayor of Munchkin City in 7th grade and once I experienced the exhilaration of performing I knew I was home.

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

A:  It will be more inclusive of actors with disabilities and use them in every kind of roles not those just written for characters with disabilities

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  Peter Dinklage who shows us that actors with disabilities exist and are talented and can do great things

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  I like theater that pushes the envelope and dares the audience to think outside the box

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

A:  Don't be afraid to dream. Imagination knows no disability

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:  Be an advocate for change. Rethink the Impossible because we are only limited by ourselves. If you dream it, it can come into existence!
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Feb 27, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1031: Yilong Liu




Yilong Liu

Hometown: Chongqing, China.

Current Town: New York City.

Q: Tell me about June Is The First Fall.

A: It’s a play about being queer in Hawaii, eating mooncakes on made-up family holidays, and learning to sing Frank Sinatra in China. It’s a story for those who feel they have to leave home in order to find their true selves - no matter how far we’ve gone, the weight and pride of the culture and family histories we carry is always in the room.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: I’m working on the first draft of my EST/Sloan Project commission, which is a full-length play about online censorship and video games. I also wrote a short play for the EST science brunch about the first genetically edited babies in China which I am interested in developing into a full-length.

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 was traveling with my cousins in Hangzhou when I was maybe 5 or 6. Growing up as the only kid, my cousins were like siblings to me. My aunt agreed to buy us those jade paperweights at the gift shop. There was a single Chinese character carved on each of them, usually something nice and auspicious, like “knowledge”, “health”, or “love”. I went through the pile of paperweights and finally chose “忍”, which means to endure, to put up with, or to have patience, etc… but I probably didn’t know all of the meanings back then. The character itself is quite fascinating too, because it is literally a blade hanging on top of the heart. I remembered my aunt telling me that she was a little shocked because it was not something a kid would normally choose. Looking back I guess that did make lots of sense. I’ve been quite patient as a person and a writer. And to live and write in American right now you kinda need patience and endurance.

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

A:  I hope there could be more appreciation and even a hunger for a diversity of narratives when it comes to stories about minority groups and other cultures.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Tammy Hailiʻōpua Baker. I took my first few playwriting classes from her when I attended University of Hawaii. She writes in the Hawaiian language and her use of traditions, mythology, and history in storytelling shows so much pride in one’s cultural identity. It was really inspiring and empowering to me as someone who’s also living in another culture and writing in English as a second language.

Gregg Henry at Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival. I honestly think many of the amazing things that happened to me happened because of KCACTF. For me, theatrical heroes are someone who not only creates and makes things happen, but also connects, believes, challenges, pushes boundaries… and Gregg is all of them.

I guess this question is making me feel very grateful for the wonderful artists that I get to learn from: Alice Tuan, Prince Gomolvilas, Mark Bly… the list goes on and on.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theatre that’s deeply honest and personal, where I can tell the story is haunting the writer so they have to get it out.

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

A:  I’m still new but I’ve discovered that supporting each other’s work has helped me grow as a writer and become part of a community, which is very important if you are new to New York. So I’d say, go to readings of new plays! It’s free. It’s fun. It’s inspiring. And you don’t know who you will end up meeting there!

Q:  Plugs, please:


A:  June is The First Fall is running at New Ohio Theatre March. 31-April. 20!

Upcoming: My play Joker is part of National Queer Theatre’s Criminal Queerness Festival at IRT theatre this summer. It’s a festival that explores global homophobia and pride for WorldPride 2019, showcasing plays from Egypt, Tanzania, Pakistan, and China. The festival runs June. 13- July. 7!

Know a theatre: if you ever travel to Hawaii, please check out Kumu Kahua Theatre. In my opinion, it’s one of the coolest theatres in America. They are dedicated to producing plays about life in Hawaiʻi, plays by Hawaiʻi's playwrights, and plays for Hawaiʻi's people.

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Feb 26, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1030: Rachael Carnes




Rachael Carnes

Hometown: I’m originally from Chicago, and moved to Eugene, Oregon, when I was a kid.

Current Town: After living in Portland, Seattle and NYC, my parents, kids and evergreen trees eventually won out, and we now live quietly in green and rainy Eugene.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I work full-time and I’m a mom, so I let playwriting be a wonderful place where I can be open to whatever creative endeavor draws my interest, and right now, I’m working on an historical piece centered on Yoncalla, Oregon, a community 45 minutes south of Eugene. Weird, right?

But in Yoncalla, Oregon, in 1920, under everyone’s noses, a group of five women got themselves elected to the City Council, and it made national, even international news. There was a huge uproar, actually — “The world is ending! The women are taking over! How will they possibly be wives and mothers now?!” — Sound familiar? 100 years later, it can feel like nothing’s changed, or worse, that we’re sliding backwards.

This story piqued my interest because of the elected women, but as I’ve waded into the research, I’ve found many more narrative layers. In 1920, in a muddy little town in Oregon’s Southern Willamette Valley, you see a confluence of so many issues that we grapple with today.

So, beyond the kerfuffle of these five women elected to office, Yoncalla feels like a compelling, and timely, American story. But I’m just getting started.

Beyond that brand-new creative effort, I’m also working on refining a play that’s received some development opportunities, Canopy, to hopefully set it up for production. And I love to write short plays, often responding to submission calls with particular requirements (put a sock monkey in it, make it a fairy tale, set it under water, etc) as a way to flex new muscles and to experiment.

Since I only have about an hour a day to devote to writing, (usually 5-6AM!) I have to be pretty choosy, where to put my energy.

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

A:  As a little kid in Chicago in the 1970’s, I always felt like I had room to do my thing. Kids growing up today will never know the benign neglect my generation enjoyed. (I’m only kidding, my mom was the director of education for the famous Field Museum of Natural History and knocking around that institution probably influenced who I became more than I’ll ever know.)

But back on my Chicago city block, left more or less to my own devices, I’d cross the street to go buy bubble gum at the corner store, or I’d ride my Big Wheel up and down the sidewalk, or I’d play paddle ball with my friends on my front stoop.

I was an only child, and in those early days, playing with lots of neighborhood kids felt so good. And we were lucky: Our apartment had a tiny backyard, with a little tree I could climb.

When we moved West, my parents told me that the building owners back in Chicago had cut down the tree and turned our backyard into a parking lot. I was pretty young, but I still remember feeling the weight of that loss.

I never thought of myself as a creative writer until fairly recently, but my sense of writing plays, I think, relates to that city block, that used to be my universe as a child. In my creative work, I keep asking similar questions:

What happens on full display to the outside world?

What happens inside, behind closed doors?

And what happens, that nobody sees?

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

A:  I wish that we lived in a country that prioritized funding for the arts and arts education. It breaks my heart that most theatre-goers in America have never taken a drama class, or perhaps even read a play. Actually, it’s just so sad that most Americans will never attend live theatre, period.

Changing theatre would require a focus on reducing barriers to arts engagement for young people, from one-off’s like exposure to a performance through field trips, to experiences like artistic residencies in the schools, to curriculum-based arts learning.

Every kid deserves access to the arts, yet increasingly, only children whose families can afford to pay for out-of-school activities, or who have the flexibility and resource to provide transportation to/from rehearsals and lessons, will have this opportunity.

I am encouraged when I see arts education initiatives build out from successful theatre companies, and I hope we continue to see more of this trend, because (climbs on soapbox) when theatres make the bold choice to expose audiences to new, contemporary work, they’re moving the dial. They’re encouraging artists to explore, experiment and create more diverse and inclusive work. When theatres create platforms for new plays, they’re helping to develop the artform, and enriching the society we share.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I was so fortunate to have teachers who exposed me the foundations of theatre, early. I took French in my public High School, and in our upper-level classes, we read Ionesco, Camus, Molière, Sartre, Racine and others, in French. I probably couldn’t do it anymore, but that was fun. (Please note: Brilliant plays, but all white, male writers. Huh.)

And in college, majoring in DanceTheatre, I continued chipping away at the classical canon, and I also took the headlong dive into feminist theatre that I’ve not yet surfaced from. My “sheroes” include Caryl Churchill, Lorraine Hansberry, Sarah Kane, Lauren Yee, Danai Gurira, Ntozake Shange, Yasmina Reza, Paula Vogel, Sophie Treadwell, Lynn Nottage, Wendy Wasserstein, Anna Deavere Smith, María Irene Fornés — I could go on and on.

These artists are all different aesthetically, but what they have in common is that in their work, no moment is wasted. They will develop and push a theme, extrapolating from a starting point to reach an imaginative, almost supernatural plane. Now, I would never intimate that I can do that, but I remain a humble student of their craft.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I’m excited by rule-breakers.

Last year, I went on a pilgrimage to Artists Rep in Portland to see Magellanica by E.M. Lewis, directed by Dámaso Rodríguez. Holy smokes! What a play. And it’s five hours long! Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s production of Mojada: A Medea in Los Angeles, by Luis Alfaro, at Portland Center Stage, directed by Julliette Carillo, was similarly stunning — Taking a classic and turning it on its head. And Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s groundbreaking gender-bent “Oklahoma!”, directed by Bill Rauch, was pure delight, and a seminal contribution to the world of casting possibilities, taking a stale, sexist plot and elevating it to a magical realm.

Since I live in a smaller city now, there’s not as much new work to be found, so I love reading plays on New Play Exchange, because the work there is often so fresh and experimental. I am continually inspired by my contemporaries, too many to mention. I’m excited by work that makes me think, laugh, cry. Work that makes me feel. Work that can only be in the theatre.

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

A:  I’m just starting out, too.

I feel so grateful to mentors, who have shown me the ropes. My first playwriting teacher, Paul Calandrino, pulled me aside after class one night and said, “I think maybe this is your métier.” I had to go home and look up what a métier was, but yeah, I think Paul might be right.

I’m grateful to Donna Hoke, Stephen Kaplan, Carlyle Brown, Tammy Ryan, Sam Graber, for their guidance, and to Asher Wyndham, Ricardo Soltero-Brown, Greg Burdick, Emma Goldman-Sherman, Franky Gonzalez, Nelson Diaz-Marcano, Matthew Weaver and more, for their camaraderie and continuing encouragement.

I’m grateful to every theatre that’s produced my work, and to every director and actor who has brought the words to the stage. I’m even grateful to all the bazillions of places that have rejected my plays because it is all about learning.

I feel goofy offering advice, since I’m pretty new at all this, but here goes: Let’s believe in ourselves, read plays, see plays, make friends, and submit our work.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Shameless self-promotion:

Upcoming productions include "Partner Of —" at Rover Dramawerks, in Plano, TX and Between Us Productions, in NYC. "Egg in Spoon" at Saw it Here First Productions in London, U.K.; "Inertia" at Oregon Contemporary Theatre, Eugene, OR, and 2Cents Theatre Group, Hollywood, CA.; "Maintaining a Space Cushion" at the Mid-America Theatre Conference, Cleveland, OH; "Incredibly Cute" at Cone Man Running Productions, Houston, TX; "Permission" at Flush Ink Productions, Ontario, Canada, and Itinerant Theatre, Lake Charles, LA; And I’m super-duper excited for staged readings of my full-length play "Canopy" at Parsons Nose Theatre, Pasadena, CA, and WriteON Festival, Cambridge U.K.

Find me on New Play Exchange: https://newplayexchange.org/users/16553/rachael-carnes

And find the group that I founded, to write and produce plays in response to gun violence:

Code Red Playwrights: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1612954052087850/



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Feb 24, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1029: Matthew Weaver



photo by Crystal Madsen of Crystal Madsen Photography

Matthew Weaver

Hometown: Spokane, WA

Current Town: Spokane, WA

I studied journalism at Washington State University in 1999, worked for the college newspaper the Daily Evergreen all four years, and then worked in Moses Lake, WA, for five years, working for the local newspaper, the Columbia Basin Herald, covering business and agriculture.

I moved back to Spokane in 2008 for my current job, for the agriculture newspaper, the Capital Press.
It’s been more than 10 years and I am still on a Spokane renaissance. My brother Steven and I like to try different restaurants and experience the city we grew up in as grownups.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  As of this writing, I’m in the middle of a monthlong personal challenge to myself where I write a monologue a day for the month of February 2019. Inspired by the monologues of Asher Wyndham.

I’ve also done a personal challenge where I write a 10-page play each day for a month, inspired by posts by Chip Bolcik on the Official Playwrights of Facebook page. It can be incredibly exciting to sit down and have absolutely no idea what you’re going to write.

Some of my favorite plays I’ve written have come out of these challenges. My full-length young adult play, “Timmy’s Big Kiss,” came out of one play. So did my one-acts “A Sprig of Mistletoe Up in That One Little Corner of the Jail” and “The Bee’s Knees.”

So far this month, I’m especially proud of the monologues “Jesus at 10,” “Les Pamplemousses” and “The Woman and the Spoon.”

I have a couple full-lengths, one-acts and screenplays in mind. I’m waiting for the next big idea to grab me and not let go.

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

A:  When I was little, my mom would ask me to write stories involving certain things. Like it might have to include an apple, an orange and a bald eagle.

It turned out to be perfect training for play prompts and timed-writing play festivals. I’ve been fortunate enough to participate in several 24-hour play festivals at Stage Left Theater in Spokane, where you show up one evening, are paired with a director and group of actors, given a prop and have 12 hours to write a 10-page play; they then have 12 hours to memorize and put the play on the next evening. (It’s so much fun.) My props were a stuffed iguana (“Under an Iguana Moon”) and a ceramic cat (“Operation Keep the Kitten Alive”). 

Based on the advice of my friend Will Gilman, I ask the performers and directors if there’s anything they’d prefer not to do (and then I don’t write that); what they feel their strengths are and then if there’s something they’ve always wanted to do but never had the chance. 

And then you put all of that together and make a play!

With “Operation,” actress Joni Elizabeth informed me she had been a champion thumb wrestler in high school. She was so good, her thumb had its own wrestling name: Hank!

“Well, that’s going in the play,” I thought. And Hank did indeed make an appearance. It was a gift.
I’ve also gotten to write several 10-minute plays in an hour for the Nugget Fringe Festival in Grass Valley, CA (from the comfort of home in Spokane!) We get a prompt and have an hour to write it, and it’s produced two hours later – I’ve done this with “High School Nachos,” “Continents Apart,” “Blackbirds Singing in the Dead of Night,” “Best Behavior” and “Selfies & Ladybugs.”

Again, so much fun! Thanks Mom!

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

A:  Playwriting can be a pretty solitary undertaking. This can be a good thing in the course of the writing, because I’m completely free to play and break whatever rules I want or write whatever I want to write.

But the collaboration is just as important. I love turning over a play to a team of talented directors, performers, prop people, stage managers, technicians, costume designers and have them fall just as much in love with one of my scripts. We all bring our best to the play, rooting for one another all the while, and the whole becomes something greater than the sum of our parts.

I’d love to build and be a part of a theatrical team, with fellow playwrights, performers, directors and the like – and all of us just keep elevating one another as we work on our projects. To be able to say, “I love what you did here, I’m going to write THIS for you and see what you do with it.” Or, “Hey, fellow playwrights, I’ve got this idea for a theme for a festival – everybody see what you can do with this!”

Or, “Hey! I loved with what you did with [name of play] … what else you got!?”

Or, “You were amazing in this and you (another you) were amazing in this … here’s this playwright I know who is also amazing and here’s an amazing director … everybody go be amazing together so I can see what you come up with! Let me know how I can help!”

And then it actually happens. On a regular basis.

I’ve gotten little tastes of this. Most recently, this last summer, when Ignite! Community Theatre in Spokane Valley put on a special showcase of 14 (!!!) of my plays. It was so cool to see so many actors I’ve admired onstage, including some I’d worked with previously, bringing life to words I’d written.

I think I’m finding it. Slowly but surely, here in the Spokane and Columbia Basin arts communities and beyond, with my fellow playwrights online.

You can’t force it. It has to develop naturally.

But I think I’m slowly getting more and more on the radar.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I experienced three works of art at that critical time in a young writer’s development: In high school. I saw a local production of David Ives’ “All in the Timing” at Spokane Civic Theatre. It was a window into the kind of writing I wanted to do.

I watched SPORTS NIGHT on TV, written by Aaron Sorkin. I see a lot of problems with Sorkin’s writing today –particularly the problematic writing for women, a lot of repetition of the same chunks of dialogue – but those first few episodes, so fresh and vibrant, especially the episode “The Apology,” made Young Me want to write like THAT.

And I saw a production at my high school of ONCE UPON A MATTRESS. My friends were in the show. I’d tried out for drama freshman year, it didn’t go well and I fled to newspaper. They looked like they were having so much fun up on stage. The curtains open, the lights go up, and the actress playing the Princess Fred appears, sopping wet and spits out a mouthful of water. It sails out into the audience and lands directly on an adorable little girl sitting in the front row directly in front of me. The girl and her family were stunned. It’s quite possibly one of my favorite memories of a theatrical experience. I want to capture my feelings watching that play, and give them to the audience.

I’d love to act, even though I’d be a total ham. Absolute and total ham. But I never know when I’m going to have a last-minute meeting out of town for work, so I could never realistically commit to a full run of a show. 

When I was in Moses Lake, I’d fight to do advances for plays in a neighboring community, Soap Lake, and loved talking to actors and directors for previews. 

After I moved back home to Spokane and it wouldn’t violate any journalism ethics, I sent my play, “Bed Ride,” to Randy Brooks, one of the actors and directors I felt fairly comfortable with. I said, “I’ve written a play, never written a play before. Please tell me what I did wrong.”
Randy called back a few weeks later and said, “Matthew, this works. Can I show this to our artistic director?”
And Beverly Hasper called a few weeks after that and said, “Matthew, can we put this on?”
“Bed Ride” was performed nine times by Masquers Theatre in Soap Lake in the summer of 2013. It was my first full-length play. My dad, mom, brother and I drove two hours from Spokane to Soap Lake opening night and then for all of the Sunday matinees. My second-grade teacher was in the audience opening night. It was life-affirming.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love plays that play, that explore, that seek a next level, whatever that may be. I like to compare playwriting to driving a Ferrari. You say, “Let’s take this baby out and see what she can do!”

Some playwrights who are doing this kind of work:
My fellow Spokane resident Tristen Canfield wrote my favorite 10-minute play of all time, “The Window,” about a cat and a fish at the window. I saw it as part of the Spokane Civic Theatre’s Playwrights Forum Festival in 2015 and haven’t shut up about it yet.

Asher and his monologues.

Emily Hageman and all her writing. I think the messages she’s sending through her plays are so important. I especially recommend “Joan’s Arc,” “Back Cover,” “The Women’s Ten-Minute Play Reading Committee” and “Teenage Oysters.”

Steven G. Martin and his plays. I’m especially partial to “The Subtle, Sublime Transformation of Benny V.”

Diana Burbano and all of her plays. I’m especially partial to her short play “The Tower.”

Emma Goldman-Sherman and her plays, especially the short “Toilet Paper” and the full-lengths “FUKT” and “Whorticulture.”

Scott Mullen, especially “The Peek,” “Ninjas” and “172 Push-Ups.” 

Donna Hoke. I’m an avid Trade a Play Tuesdayer and especially partial to her “Teach.”

“Miss Betsy Goes to Washington,” by Nicole Jost.

“Apples in Winter,” by Jennifer Fawcett.

So many more: Nelson Diaz-Marcano, Ricardo Soltero-Brown, Rachael Carnes, Franky Gonzalez, Scott Sickles, Kara Emily Krantz, Lindsay Partain, Will Gilman, Michelle Tyrene Johnson, Judd Lear Silverman, Rich Orloff, Hal Corley, Paul Lewis, Catherine Weingarten, Dwayne Yancey, Mark Harvey Levine and Molly Allen.

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

A:  I try to write at least a half hour a day. Before I started doing this, I would get frustrated because I wasn’t doing it consistently, just every once in a while, and it didn’t feel like I was making progress. A half hour is doable. Don’t get me wrong, at the start, it still feels like it’s going to take forever. But I always feel better once I’ve done it.

I give myself permission for the writing to be bad. Some of it is terrible, and will be buried in the backyard forever, but the writing got done for the day. And I give myself permission to keep going if I really hit a groove or don’t want to lose the momentum. For the monologue challenge, my goal is at least one page, but when writing “Les Pamplemousses,” it was the evening before a really busy week of work and I was enjoying myself so much, I wound up with 31 handwritten pages. 

I write longhand first, 99 times out of 100. That way I can cross out things and rearrange sections with arrows and track my progress. On the computer, I can delete something and it’s gone forever. That makes me nervous. When I’m typing up the handwritten pages, it’s like I’m already on a third draft.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Randy Brooks of Masquers Theater sadly passed away recently. His family could use some help, if you are so inclined to help a longtime theater advocate: https://www.gofundme.com/to-help-my-mother-with-the-medical-amp-mortuary?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=fb_u_g&fbclid=IwAR3z7lPWFARcl1YjagU4s7FQnGUCIAogW2FWVoPi0g3XMXxQ3oOtD6CB320

My (wonderful!) headshot is by Crystal Madsen of Crystal Madsen Photography in Spokane:http://www.crystalmadsen.com/

Trade a Play Tuesday:
http://blog.donnahoke.com/trade-a-play-tuesday/

Playwrights Offering Free Feedback: http://blog.donnahoke.com/introducing-poff-playwrights-offering-free-feedback-a-free-readingfeedback-circle/

Upcoming plays:
My Walla Walla sweet onion play, “Onion Ode” is part of the Northwest Ten March 1-10 in Eugene, OR:https://www.octheatre.org/octheatre.org/nw10

“Confession of a Modern Soap Opera Bride” is part of the Fast & Furious One-Minute Play Festival at Stage Left Theater March 15-17 in Spokane: https://spokanestageleft.org/

My Shakespearean mouse play “The Tragedie of Rockford & Almira & the Cat – A Comedie,” will be part of the Tree City Playhouse festival for the Sylvania Community Arts Commission May 3-5 in Sylvania, OH: http://www.sylvaniaarts.org/theatre/treecityplayhouse/

My YA one-act “When You Are a Little Bit Older” will be part of the Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center One-Act Play Festival, directed by Sophia Englesberg and Korey Grecek, in Midland, Pennsylvania.http://www.lincolnparkarts.org/

This is particularly cool for me, because Sophia and Korey, along with Peter Stamerra, were in the world premiere of the play in September 2017 and liked it so much they asked to direct it! A high compliment for any writer.

And my New Play Exchange page: https://newplayexchange.org/users/9069/matthew-weaver

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