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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...

Aug 26, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1059: Shyam Bhatt



Shyam Bhatt


Hometown:  London, England

Current Town:  Los Angeles, California

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Rehearsing Treya's Last Dance for a run at the Hudson Guild starting 18th September - woot! Filming a new YouTube Character Sketch Series. Refining my second play Wisdom Teeth for production in 2020. Learning some history and stuff about my new home-town.

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

A:  Hmmm. That's a nice question. A real nice question.

Writer: Spoiler-alert! It's not a mushy and romantic story.

From the earliest age, I read like reading was going out of fashion. It was a way to go into different worlds - I could totally lose myself. I loved all my writing assignments and would disappear into the stories my pen would scritch out. Collateral damage? I started lying like a mo******er! Because, simply put, at some point I temporarily lost the ability to tell the difference between reality and fantasy! It was fixed - through a lot of stern (furious) talking-to's from my parents. I know what's real now, thanks. Weirdly, my acting side helped to temper the slightly introverted writer inside me. Now the two sides balance each other out and I feel like I can get the both of both worlds - the extravagance and the intellectualism.

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

A:  Oh man - I'd move the money away from the huge, well-known shows and towards the lesser known stuff and promote new, quality writing from non-West End / Broadway writers. There is beautiful work at the mid to lower levels of theatre in London, New York and LA, but it doesn't get seen because the money goes towards pushing the huge shows. I'd tackle that.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I don't think I have any heroes as such - it's such a huge ensemble effort to put a play on that everyone involved becomes a hero! A couple of plays that made a big impression on me were George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion, and Jennifer Haley's The Nether.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Work that is beautifully written, beautifully acted and beautifully produced, addressing themes that are applicable to our lives now. This could be Shakespeare re-directed to appeal to a school audience, or new work specifically written for the same purpose. I just love the feeling that live performance gives the audience - of all of us being party to a magical, unrepeatable moment. And I love that a night spent at the theatre is always an event, a special moment to be shared with special people.

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

A:  I don't think I have any particularly amazing advice! I guess what I find to be useful for me is to force myself to write, even on days when it feels like terrible gears are grinding together. The more words you get out, the more shit you clear so you can get to the good stuff. Read a lot. Watch plays so you know what sort of stuff you want to be writing, and look and listen to people - you'll be recreating them on stage. Best to know what they really sound like :)

Q:  Plugs, please--

A:  A small plug

Treya's Last Dance is on for 6 Wednesdays at the Hudson Guild Theatre in Los Angeles. Tickets are available here: https://www.onstage411.com/newsite/show/play_info.asp?show_id=5029 but are selling fast!

https://www.instagram.com/treyaslastdanceplay/

https://www.facebook.com/treyaslastdanceplay

http://www.shyambhatt.com/reviews?fbclid=IwAR0JCW-dOlnk0WQQzJc4GzspsYmMgvEfH8njg5iytpqbsVV8Koz3V6oEIiI


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Aug 24, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1058: Cailin Harrison




Photo credit: Courtesy of Cailin Harrison


Cailin Harrison

Hometown:  Chicago, nothing like it and a great place to save a few pennies after getting my undergraduate degree in Broadcast Journalism from the University of Illinois (roasting summers, bitter cold winters and fantastic parties), but NYC is where my professional life really began in television. London holds a special place in my heart for all the inspiring plays I saw living there while working in film and tv. Ironically, this experience led me to be a playwright. But I have never been able to do anything in a straight line, ask my better half about that issue.

Current Town:  Los Angeles, I love LA! It's not just the weather but the fantastic creative community that is here and of course, being able to walk to the beach. Dolphins, pelicans, stoners...what's not to like.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  That's a loaded question. I have a dramatic comedy, Last Swallows, going up about a multi-cultural dysfunctional family in New England that so far as resonated with everyone who as read the play. I have a fantastic cast and Kiff Scholl is an amazing director. This play goes up in September in the heart of West Hollywood. On the heels of that play, I have a mystical drama that takes place in Iceland during a storm in WW2 called, Defenders. This play was my writing sample to get into the graduate film program at USC which I survived with a diploma in hand at the end of it. For this play, I will be working for the second time with the wonderful Reena Dutt, who directed and won me awards at the Hollywood Fringe for my two hander Waitless which went on to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and got some great reviews.

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

A:  As I have mentioned before nothing happens in a straight line in my life. I became fascinated as a toddler by Henry VII and his wives and started practicing Elizabethan English. Oddly enough, although I was terrified by him, I ended up marrying an Englishman, still not sure how that happened. Anyway, writing and school in general was particularly challenging because I am dyslexic. I often felt like I was crazy but was talked off the ledge with family support and a great therapist. It does take a village and I could not have gotten to where I am today without one.

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

A:  I would like Equity to get its act together in terms of what theater does off Broadway. If they could just understand the struggle small theater and producers have while trying to provide outlets for actors, I think we'd all be in a better space.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A:  I got the opportunity to work with Ted Lange, who has done so much beyond his character Issac, in the Love Boat, especially for theater in the African American Community and Los Angeles theater. He writes what he wants, gets it on stage and is confident about every minute he spends doing it.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?
A:  I view theater as an enclosed urban safari. You never know exactly what you are going to get at any given show. That includes the shows with my name on it which, at least up to this point, have not called for an ambulance to cart me away.

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

A:  It's not just about the show, it is about the process and that takes dedication. In any aspect of the arts where writing is involved it is really, really, really hard to get people to read your work let alone come together and read it live. If you can find a community and reward them in some even small way for helping you in development (pizza and beer) you will reap the rewards hopefully down the road. Only you can decide when a show is ready to try to find a backer. Or if you can back it yourself, do it and try to create a buzz for reviews to give your show a life beyond your creative nest that it is flying out of on to the stage.


Q:  Plugs Please

A:

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Aug 19, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1057: Brenda Withers




Brenda Withers

Hometown: Merrick, NY

Current Town: Wellfleet, MA

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I'm in the middle of a play about eugenics, IVF, and shelter dogs.

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 in fourth grade making (what I thought was) a huge mistake by telling my Mom about a girl at school who had no friends. At lunch, while everyone else was doing something sporty or braiding hair, she would walk in slow circles around the perimeter of the field, totally alone, until the bell rang to call us back inside.

My mother made it made clear immediately, unequivocally, that I was to spend lunch with that girl from then on-- I could either convince the other kids to invite her into a larger group activity or walk that perimeter with her myself, but either way I was not to leave her on her own. This made me very nervous, as hanging with outcasts requires a certain insouciance my 10-year-old self had not yet mastered, but I knew my mom was right.

I wish I could say the outcome of this story involved the girl and I becoming champion field-walkers or even just actual friends, but really it was just a lot of me keeping her company next to a chain link fence. I do think having a companion made her feel better, which made me feel better. That was a big, tangible lesson for me-- that our collective well-being is impacted by the welfare of individuals, that we owe it to our community (and ourselves) to look out for each other, even when it seems hard or futile or unfair. I know my parents taught me this lesson in a thousand more significant ways, so I'm not sure why this instance sticks out. But it definitely encapsulates my current worldview-- most of my plays are about the ramifications of upping (or abdicating) personal responsibility.

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

A:  Fix the money! Ticket prices need a radical drop, big donors need to stop wielding influence over artistic directors, and artists might want to get on board with theater as vocation instead of cutthroat career. If you're not in this for love, it usually shows, and not in a good way.

Who are or were your theatrical heroes? Ken Branagh, Caryl Churchill, Martha Graham, Tom Stoppard, Ariane Mnouchkine, Joe Papp, Ivo van Hove, Eugene Ionesco. And all artists toiling in obscurity who maintain a sense of humor and service.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theater that has layers, good jokes, danger, and poetry. Plays that are actually new (in structure, content, style), not just recently written.

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

A:  Do a crossword puzzle at the start of a writing session. Or read a poem. Aim really, really high, then take the shot.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I have a few projects happening this Fall: my play Jordan is premiering at Northern Stage in Vermont, my very loose riff on Jarry's Ubu Roi is going up at the Modern Theatre in Boston, and the adaptation Jason O'Connell and I did of Cyrano is traveling to Two River in NJ. I must also mention our little-theater-that-could, the Harbor Stage Company, which I've been running with a stellar team of misfits for eight years on Cape Cod. I take everyone who visits for a swim.


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Aug 16, 2019

A thing I wrote about Kodachrome


Here is a short essay I wrote for Sam French's magazine about my play Kodachrome.





My Town: Adam Szymkowicz on Kodachrome

Most of us have lost someone. Some of us a lot of someones. The longer you hang around the earth, the more people you lose. So when I see a young woman crying during intermission during a D.C. workshop production, I assume someone she loved died recently, because the play is in part about grief. And that monologue towards the end of the first act of Kodachrome drops shivers down my spine every time and I assume her tears have something to do with that part. Although, honestly it's not the only part where people cry.



PHOTOGRAPHER

It was never supposed to happen. Or it was never supposed to last long. When I asked him out, he said yes to make her mad. Probably. I wasn’t supposed to get pregnant. Definitely. We got married right away. Quickly, quietly. Days turned to weeks. Weeks turned to love.


HARDWARE STORE OWNER

Love.

PHOTOGRAPHER

He turned down his scholarship. He took over the family business. The future Librarian went to college. And then my baby came and she was stillborn. We mourned. Instead of driving us apart, we grew closer together. After two more miscarriages, we stopped trying. The future Librarian came back from college and got a job at the library. And then life and life and life. Until four years ago when I came down with bone cancer and then two years ago when I stopped being alive.




I wonder sometimes why I write so much about grieving. I've had some death, but not as much as many people. I guess I think about tragedy more than most people and live in a somewhat constant fear of something happening to my loved ones. I also think and write about love a lot — new love and long-lasting love and love that never was. I guess these to me are what being human is — having love and losing love and wanting love and connecting to other people. Kodachrome deals with a lot of different people falling in and out of love at different times in their lives. It’s a play that takes place in my home town of Colchester, CT and the locations described are real places that you could visit. You probably wont be able to find the people from my play walking around town, but part of what the play believes is that there is magic in the mundane so you may be able to find folks like this wherever you are right now.

I started writing plays over twenty years ago. I am currently writing my 50th play. And some of these plays are hard to write and some of them come easy. Some of them, especially early on, were not so good. Kodachrome is, I think, the best play I’ve written. It also came to me pretty quickly and was mostly enjoyable to write. Maybe because I love these people and maybe because I tapped into a nostalgia inside me I didn't know was there. “The Perfume Maker” was a character I thought of long before the play but I never knew what to do with him and when this play came along it turned out, he lived in it. Everyone else was already there waiting for me to finally write, I suppose, about the world I grew up in, albeit with a slightly magical lens.

I’m very excited this play has already had so many productions, at high schools and colleges and in small theaters and professionally in a very beautiful production at Portland Center Stage. This play is most often compared to Our Town but if we are making comparisons, I liken it more to Almost, Maine because of both subject matter and flexible cast size. But I see what they are saying. Structurally, Our Town is a more apt comparison, although Kodachrome is less existentially bleak.

I'm very fond of this play and of the productions I've seen so far. The producers and actors and directors and designers and crew who have built this world have come with full gentle open hearts and I'm grateful to them and excited for you to see it too. I don’t know. I like it. I hope you will too.

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Aug 15, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1056: Richard Ploetz




Richard Ploetz

Hometown: Metuchen, NJ

Current Town: New York City – Manhattan – East Village

Q: What are you working on now?

A: TRYPTCH – set in the Whitney Museum of American Art during a Picasso and the American artists he influenced show.

We’re also currently in rehearsal for an evening of my one-acts, Dining with Ploetz, which opens next month at Theater for the New City.

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

A: While serving at a Naval Air Station in Morocco I wrote long homesick letters home describing my experiences – my mother responded in long descriptive letters telling of life back home. The letters became my Journal which I keep to this day – the primary source of all my writing.

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

A: Nothing. It’s always been hard getting your work out. Unfortunately, it’s very expensive putting a show up these days. But you can do it with friends and determination.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A: Samuel Beckett; Harold Pinter

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: I love quirky, well-written dialogue – strange but ordinary stories that slide off the stage and lodge in your head.

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

A: Write, write, write – listen to good actors saying your words – revise, revise – no matter how convincing a critic or friend – trust yourself. Of course, don’t write to fashion, write for yourself. Only a very very few, by luck and bulldog perseverance, manage to make a living at this game. So, what.

Q: Plugs, please:

A: My new plays DINING WITH PLOETZ runs September 5 – 22 at Theater for the New City. Tickets and info are available at http://nedworksproductions.org

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Aug 12, 2019

UPCOMING

PRODUCTIONS


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

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

Production #21 of Marian
Spirit Gum Theatre Company
Winston Salem, NC
Opens October 11, 2019.

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
Michigan State Univeristy
East Lansing, MI
Opens April 10, 2020

Production #37 of Clown Bar
Theatre Downtown
Birmingham, AL
Opens September 19, 2019.

Production #38 of Clown Bar
Elon University
Elon, NC
Opens October 3, 2019.

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


Production #43 of HLF
Anchorage, AK
Opens Sept 19, 2019.

Production #44 of HLF
Christopher Newport University
Newport News, VA.
Opens April 3, 2020.


Production #10 of Kodachrome
Monett High School
Monett, MO
Opens November 11, 2019

Production #11 of Kodachrome
Labette County High School
Altamont, KS
Opens April 16, 2020.


Production #24 of Nerve
MAD Acting Studios
Valley Village, CA
Opens August 17, 2019.

Pretty Theft

Production #15 of Pretty Theft
Mohawk Valley Community College
Utica, NY
Opens October 24, 2019.

The Adventures of Super Margaret

Production #9 of Super Margaret
Clarksville Middle School
Clarksville, IN
Opens December 20, 2019.

a night of short plays

Production #34 of 7 Ways
Fountain Central Jr-Sr High
Veedersburg, IN
Opens November 22, 2019


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