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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...

Jan 11, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1021: Dean O'Carroll






Dean O'Carroll

Hometown: Amherst, MA. I went to the same high school as Madeline George and Annie Baker. In 2014, Annie won the Pulitzer for Drama (for THE FLICK) and other finalists were Madeline (for THE (CURIOUS CASE OF THE) WATSON INTELLIGENCE) and Madeline's wife, Lisa Kron (for FUN HOME). So it was a very Amhersty year for the Pulitzers. I'm thrilled for them, though it's a little weird to be a relatively successful playwright and still be only be a distant third among playwrights who graduated from Amherst Regional High School in the 1990s.

Current Town: Philadelphia, PA

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  My new parody, MARVELOUS SQUAD: A SUPER-HEROIC TALE WITH AVENGEANCE, premieres this weekend. It's in Reno, being produced by my friends at Kidscape Productions as a Winter Break camp, so I'm not a hands-on part of staging it, though I'm trying to keep updated. I hope to get that one published soon. It's a parody of the Avengers movies, of course and I'm very excited about it. I think it's a lot of fun. After that, I have a few ideas. I want to do an alternate version of my play, BACK TO THE 80s: A RISKY, GOONIE, BREAKFASTY TALE OF TOTALLY TUBULAR TIME TRAVEL, where the main character travels to the 90s instead of the 80s, though I need to find a younger collaborator to help me with the 90s nostalgia. Then I'm not so sure. I may want to venture beyond the conventional kinds of parodies I've been doing. I've had an idea for something with princesses for a while and maybe something about Disneyland or a Pixar mashup.

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

A:  Here are a few snapshots:

When I was about three my mother took me to a play for the first time. I didn't know what live theatre was and afterwards I loved it so much that I almost resented my mother for not telling me earlier that this existed.

When I was five or six and my friends suggested we play "Fatman and Stupidman" I thought it was the greatest idea in history.

My father acted in a local production of THE IMAGINARY INVALID when I was six and I attended so many rehearsals I could rattle off long stretches of Moliere dialogue from memory.

In Elementary School, we put together a team-written play about Shay's Rebellion, a bit of local history that was celebrating its bicentennial. I kept trying to insert comedy into it, like wacky chases and Daniel Shays giving a long-winded speech that put his troops to sleep. By the time they cut out all of my contributions from the script, all that was left was just one line -- "Let's go!"

In third or fourth grade I set out to write a series of parodies of fairy tales. The only one I remember was "Rufflestiltskin," which was about a mysterious little man who could magically make potato chips.

In eighth grade music class, we were assigned to write about a popular singer or musical act and I chose "Weird Al" Yankovic

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

A:  Accessibility, both in terms of price and just how common it is. Seeing a play should be as easy and affordable as going to the movies, ideally even more so. Oh, and every theatre should have free babysitting, so parents can leave their kids with a sitter while they watch the play. This will all be paid for by ... I don't know, the magical golden eggs all the flying pigs are dropping everywhere?

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I suppose Shakespeare goes without saying. Oscar Wilde, George S. Kaufman, Moss Hart, Neil Simon, Stephen Sondheim ... I like dramatic playwrights and playwrights who aren't all white men, too, I promise!

People I actually know in real life, I learned a great deal from Tom McCabe and Jack Neary. And I want to be Don Zolidis when I grow up ... he's like a year older than I am.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Anything that takes you on a journey. You can wind up back in the same place you started, but a play works if it picks you up and brings you into a world, and takes you through a unique way of looking at things. Plays fail when they head off on a journey by themselves and don't take the audience along.

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

A:  Read and watch. Work in theatre ... whether you're an actor, a carpenter, a stagehand, an assistant stage manager, or whatever. Be a part of the process of putting on a play from start to finish. See what works. Learn the rules and play by them for a little while before you try to break them.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  You can find my plays at https://www.playscripts.com/playwrights/bios/912 and my Facebook page for my plays is https://www.facebook.com/sallycotterandthecensoredstone

I'm on Twitter https://twitter.com/deanocarroll and I've been on a bunch of podcasts if you'd like to hear my voice ... that might be searchable.

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Dec 29, 2018

My 2018 in Review


This year was my best year in some ways-- Most productions I've ever had.  First LORT production (Kodachrome at Portland Center Stage) as well as the premiere of Mercy at New Jersey Rep and the west coast premiere of Marian at Theatre of Note in LA.  Although there was oddly not that much press for these shows.  I don't know if it's because they weren't in NYC or if it's the all around loss of arts coverage.  It was also my worst writing year in a long time.  I average 3 full length plays a year, or have for the past 10 or 15 years.  This year I had a lot of months when I just couldn't write.



And partially this was because I don't write a lot when I'm working on productions but also I had some existential why-am-I-even-doing-this-still questioning about writing plays.  I've written 48 plays now and even though I am often able to get a lot of plays of mine produced, I have a lot on the shelf waiting for a production and it didn't seem like there was a point in writing one more play to sit on this metaphorical shelf.  So that.  But in the last couple months, I found some momentum again and re-realized once again I can't deny I'm a playwright and so I should keep writing plays and keep trying to get people to do them, even though it's still harder than it should be and takes a lot of work and I'm exhausted.  It's still what I do.  And I managed to end the year strong and ended up writing 2 1/2 plays in '18.  But also, maybe I'm working on some fiction now and a screenplay and a pilot.  It might be time to branch out again.  Ruts aren't good for anyone.

I had 31 productions of my full length plays this year.  Up until now, my best year, in terms of number of productions was 28 in 2015.  Of these 31 productions, 7 came about through some previous relationship or production.  There were 6 productions of Kodachrome, 1 Mercy, 11 Marian, 6 Clown Bar, 4 Hearts Like Fists, 1 Food For Fish, 1 Rare Birds, 1 Adventures of Super Margaret.

9 of these were high school productions.  10 were college productions.  1 was at a theater camp.

There were 6 productions of my night of one acts, 7 Ways to Say I Love You.

Clown Bar went up in South Korea in Korean.  This year I had 2 plays translated into Turkish and 3 translated into German.



I traveled to Portland, OR, Charlottesville, VA, Long Branch, NJ, Nazareth, PA, Orange County, CA, and Portland, ME.

I was in a writing group at the Tank and with Project Y.

I continue to work as Literary Manager at The Juilliard School, supporting the playwriting program there.

I wrote a commission-- a sequel to Clown Bar  -- that will have a reading in March with Majestic Rep in Vegas.  Before that, I will head to New Orleans this January for the premiere of Stockholm Syndrome-- a Commission from The NOLA Project.  It has a lot of songs.  It might be a musical.  I also have the first production of Wooden Heart coming up in Acadiana in Louisiana.  Also coming up--shows with Actor's Bridge in Nashville and Theatre Conspiracy in FL, both of whom have done plays of mine before.  And maybe some other stuff.  So far 15 productions scheduled in '19 including ones in Turkey, and Australia and my first show in Alaska.   The night of short plays will be done in Qatar.  Some of the upcoming productions are listed here.

Kodachrome and Mercy will be published in the new year.  That will bring my total number of published full length plays to 14.




I started up the interviewing again this year after taking a year off.  20 interviews this year.  Probably sometime next month, my blog will hit 2 million page views.

I sent out submissions to 165 places.

That's it.  Another year wrapped up.  May all good things come to you.  Hope you have a Happy New Year!

My previous year in reviews, in case you are interested:

2017
2016
2015
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007

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Dec 23, 2018

I Interview Playwrights Part 1020: Vivian Barnes





Vivian Barnes

Hometown: Stafford, Virginia

Current Town: La Jolla, California

Q:  Tell me about your Clubbed Thumb commission.

A:  It’s reallllly early in the process but the idea was inspired by my weird hometown and the absurdity of the suburbs and some biblical stuff.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’m in my first year of grad school at UC San Diego so quite a few things! A one act for our new play festival in the spring about two duchesses (sort of Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle-esque); a new full length I’m hoping to get started next quarter about a group of young women on a dance line at an HBCU; a rewrite of a play about a group of black girls at a predominantly white Christian boarding school.

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 didn’t see a ton of theatre growing up but both of my parents are ministers so I spent a ton of time at church for the first 18 years of my life which informed a lot of my theatrical sensibilities (something I’ve only recently started to realize). This was the jumping and shouting, speaking in tongues, banging on the pulpit kind of church. People felt those sermons in their bones. I have a complicated relationship to church now but I think that’s always stayed with me: wanting to impact people on an inexplicable cellular, full body, in-their-bones level. Being really interested in incorporating movement/the body. And music/aural landscapes. I got all that from church.

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

A:  Get rid of unpaid internships. I cannot wrap my head around theatres that tout how invested they are in the next generation of theatre artists to their audiences and donors while they aren’t paying their interns. Y’all can find the money for the craziest stuff—pay your interns.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Lynn Nottage and Ntozake Shange changed my entire trajectory in the theatre. They broke open my whole understanding of what stories could be told and put the seed in my head that I could maybe be a writer. 

Also: Lorraine Hansberry, Pearl Cleage, Dael Orlandersmith, Will Eno, Caryl Churchill, George C. Wolfe, and Dominique Morisseau.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Okay, this is not specific at all and very “I know it when I see it” but, I’m always always always in my head. When I see something that grips me so hard that I’m no longer thinking about a million other things, that really excites me. Theatre that makes people who don’t usually feel welcome in the theatre feel like they belong there too. Theatre that doesn’t let you get ahead of it.


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

A:  I am a playwright just starting out so I feel a little unqualified to answer this. But for anyone who might be like me and not have taken a bunch of formal playwriting classes in school/is learning by doing: READ! My undergrad didn’t offer playwriting classes while I was there so what I lacked in formal writing classes I tried to make up for by reading everything I could get my hands on and creating a writing independent study for myself. Read everything.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  If you find yourself in Southern California, The Wagner New Play Festival at UC San Diego May 7-18! There will be some incredible work by all of the playwrights in my program: Ava Geyer, Steph Del Rosso, Ali Viterbi, Mara Nelson-Greenberg, and Dave Harris!

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Dec 20, 2018

Upcoming Productions

PRODUCTIONS

WORLD PREMIERE

Stockholm Syndrome
or Remember That Time Jimmy's All American Beefsteak Place Was Taken Over By That Group Of Radicals?

Production #1 of Stockholm Syndrome
The NOLA Project
New Orleans, LA
Opens January 16, 2019.



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

MORE SHOWS

KODACHROME
Production #8 of Kodachrome
Our Town Theatre Group
North Creek, NY
Opens March 8, 2019.

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

Marian or The True Tale of Robin Hood

Production #16 of Marian
Theatre Conspiracy
Fort Myers, FL
Opens February 7, 2019.

Production #17 of Marian
University of North Carolina
Wilmington, NC
Opens February 21, 2019.

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.

Incendiary

Production #3 of Incendiary
Farmington Valley Stage Company
Collinsville, CT
Opens January 25, 2019.

Clown Bar

Production #33 of Clown Bar
Sussex Regional High School
Sussex, New Brunswick, Canada
Opens January 4, 2019.

Production #41 of HLF
Cyrano's Theatre Company
Anchorage, AK
Opens Sept 19, 2019

Production #42 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.

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

Production #26 of 7 Ways
American School of Doha
Doha, Qatar
Opens January 30, 2019.

Production #27 of 7 Ways
Pope John XXIII High School
Katy, TX
Opens February 14, 2019.
Production #28 of 7 Ways
Northern Illinois University School Of Theatre And Dance
Dekalb, IL
Opens March 20, 2019.

Production #29 of 7 Ways
Ursula Franklin Academy
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Opens April 20, 2019.

Production #30 of 7 Ways
Auburn Community Players
Fiskdale, MA
Opens July 12, 2019.


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Dec 14, 2018

I Interview Playwrights Part 1019: Malcolm Tariq


Malcolm Tariq

Hometown: Savannah, Georgia

Current Town: Brooklyn, New York

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Right now, I’m doing edits for a book of poems, Heed the Hollow (Graywolf Press, 2019), that will be published in November. The collection won the 2018 Cave Canem Poetry Prize, which is an absolute dream. We just chose the cover and the process is slowly making everything more and more real. I’m so thankful to have a supportive publishing team and, of course, Cave Canem.

When I’m done with edits in a month or two, I’ll go back to working on plays. Currently thinking about magical realism (whatever that means), AIDS, slavery, and the South(s). Always the South(s). I have a few ideas, but nothing concrete. Meanwhile, I wait.

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 very young, my mother worked at a hair salon on Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard in Savannah. There was an empty lot next door. One day when I was visiting the salon, I made some sort of house out of scraps, litter, and other things I found in the lot. At the time I thought it was a huge house, but that was most likely not the case. I expected the house to be there the next time I drove past. It was not. Perhaps all of my writing is a response to this intersecting expectation and destruction.

Another time, I turned my room into an art gallery with images I drew on the backs of pieces of cardboard. This is something I still do, though with better art and more visitors.

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

A:  I wish more people bought and read contemporary plays. This is probably isn’t exclusively a theater issue, but a reading and a commercial issue in the United States. Long before I saw plays performed I read them. Teachers and school districts should diversify the plays they assign in schools. This is how we get more people interested in wanting to go and engage with theater. This is how we bring theatre to places where there is no theater to go to. This is how we support playwrights.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  My first theatre heroes are my family. My grandmother had eight children, and all of them have children. I grew up with lots of cousins in the same neighborhood that my mother did. Living in a black working-class community was where I first learned how to tell compelling stories. Voice. Humor. Signifying. High drama. Then I found Suzan Lori Parks. Reading Topdog/Underdog made me realize that there was possibility in theatre, there was no necessary form that I had to follow.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love a good story that plays with history and form in unsuspecting ways but still delivers dramatic characterization. I love that spellbinding moment that’s supposed to get people fixed into a zone or make them cry. I’m the weird person in the back row looking at all faces in the audience, smiling.

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

A:  Find whatever journey your writing is taking you on and ground yourself there. But always be prepared to venture down the unexpected. I went into college expecting to study creative writing. I studied literature instead, and spent four years barely writing. Afterwards, I had more personal direction and purpose. The writing was much more intentional.

I usually find that a healthy balance of living and writing works for me.

1. Live:

Read. Study. Listen. Read the newspaper. Study your family history. Listen to music from your childhood. Read something from a genre you aren’t familiar with. Study something you think you are familiar with. Listen for what isn’t being said when something’s being said. Read something suggested by a friend. Study a foreign concept (go to a random library shelf and draw a random book). Listen to the way you respond to those around you. Read a biography of someone you don’t like. Study craft (read interviews and essays of your favorite writers). Listen to conversations around you (write these down).

2. Write:

First some imitation, then creation. Know the rules (if you must) and break them (if you want). Know why you are doing this. Read books you are in conversation with. Study the world around that conversation. Listen to what your writing/philosophy is saying to you and the world (these may be different).

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Remember to check back in on the book late summer 2019 for preorders. I have poems from the project coming out in the forthcoming issues of The Iowa Review, Connotation Press, Washington Square Review, and American Poetry Review.

My play, Social Work, will be part of the Brave New Works 2019: Ditmas Park reading series by Brave New Worlds Repertory Theatre on March 23, 2019. This is my first public reading in New York City so I’m very excited.

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Nov 29, 2018

UPCOMING PRODUCTIONS OF MY PLAYS

PRODUCTIONS

WORLD PREMIERE

Stockholm Syndrome
or Remember That Time Jimmy's All American Beefsteak Place Was Taken Over By That Group Of Radicals?

Production #1 of Stockholm Syndrome
The NOLA Project
New Orleans, LA
Opens January 2019.


MORE SHOWS

KODACHROME

Production #7 of Kodachrome
Fire Exit Theatre
Alberta, Canada
Opens November 28, 2018.


Production #8 of Kodachrome
Actors Bridge Ensemble
Nashville, TN
Opens July 12, 2019.

Marian or The True Tale of Robin Hood

Production #16 of Marian
Theatre Conspiracy
Fort Myers, FL
Opens February 7, 2019.

Production #17 of Marian
University of North Carolina
Wilmington, NC
Opens February 21, 2019.

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.

Incendiary

Production #3 of Incendiary
Farmington Valley Stage Company
Collinsville, CT
Opens January 25, 2019.

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

Production #26 of 7 Ways
American School of Doha
Doha, Qatar
Opens January 30, 2019.

Production #27 of 7 Ways
Northern Illinois University School Of Theatre And Dance
Dekalb, IL
Opens March 20, 2019.

Production #28 of 7 Ways
Ursula Franklin Academy
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Opens April 20, 2019.

Production #29 of 7 Ways
Auburn Community Players
Fiskdale, MA
Opens July 12, 2019.


Production #41 of HLF
Anchorage, AK
Opens Sept 19, 2019

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