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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Oct 15, 2020

I Interview Playwrights Part 1095: Cavan Hallman

Cavan Hallman

Hometown: Orlando! – You have to sing it, like in The Book of Mormon.

Current Town: Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It’s harder to sing, but a really good place.

Q:  Tell me about Night Launch.

A:  It’s inspired by my family. It struck me deeply at a holiday dinner a few years ago how diametrically opposed some of my family members’ memories were, the different ways that people choose to re-write their shared histories.

In the play, Brenda is exploring memories and traumas that her mother either remembers differently, or flat out denies. It’s set in Cocoa Beach, Florida and jumps around in time, backdropped by rocket and shuttle launches from the early days of the Space Program.

It’s a different type of play for me. A memory play, and I think memory plays are shifty and deserve a little magic. While the characters go to some difficult places, I hope that people also walk away with a sense of awe and wonder.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’m writing a comic screenplay about a Catholic priest and a hedonistic ghost. It sounds like a “… walks into a bar” joke, and maybe that’s all it’ll end up being. It’s a throwback to 80’s ghost comedies like Heart and Souls. I’m having a ton of fun and it’s serving as a kind of palate cleanser.

The other thing I’m working on right now is best described as a tragi-comedy and it’s more in keeping with whatever my “normal” style is. It’s coming in fits and starts, but that’s normal for me to work on more than one project at a time. This one takes place in a mega-mansion on Lake Superior during the collapse of society. We track the journey through the perspective of a woman with a rare and real inner ear disorder that gives her supercharged hearing.

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 must have been about six years old and we were living in McIntosh, Florida, which was a tiny little orange grove town without a stop light. I was allowed to walk the few blocks from our house to the public park whenever I wanted.

It was shortly after Christmas and I had gotten this amazing all-white sweatsuit that I appropriately treasured. I put the sweatsuit on and head down to the park and the big slide, alone. I climb to the top and just a few inches down, right in the center of the slide, right where my little all-white sweatsuit butt was supposed to go, was a big fresh dollop of bird poop.

But I’m a problem-solver.

I throw my legs over the edges, figuring I’ll scoot down with plenty of room to spare between my body and the slide. My pants will stay pristine and fun will be accomplished.

And, of course, I fall from almost the very top, breaking my arm. I’m stranded, a solo six year-old in a park, as the bone keeps fighting to break through the skin.

And I look back on that story and don’t think it’s horrifying – I find it ridiculous. To go to that kind of extreme to protect an all-white sweatsuit is pretty hilarious, and that probably best explains who I am as a writer.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Read something written by Ike Holter, Gina Femia or Calamity West. These are contemporary writers who deserve to be on people’s reading lists, and their work inspires me.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love a play that is satisfactorily complete, but also feels like the characters and the stories live on beyond the fall of the curtain. Since I mentioned Ike Holter’s writing before, I’d say that Sender is a great example of this ideal. I directed a production for Mirrorbox Theatre, where I’m the AD.

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

A:  Don’t edit until you have a complete first draft. It took me forever when I was getting started to actually complete anything. I had a very strong inner critic that wanted to tinker and refine before there was ever any tangible object to be examined.

Create something, and then turn your critical eye towards it. Then do it again. And again. And again.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  I mentioned that I’m the AD for Mirrorbox Theatre – and I’m so proud of what we do. We’re in our third season as the only company in Iowa exclusively doing state premieres of contemporary works. On March 20, we started a series of free Friday night readings, Out the Box, and you can track our events and register at mirrorboxtheatre.com/out-the-box

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