Tuesday, February 09, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 814: Emilie Collyer



Emilie Collyer

Hometown:  Melbourne, Australia

Current Town:  Melbourne (with a welcome trip to New York!)

Q:  Tell me about The Good Girl.

A:  The Good Girl is set in a possible future world where people's lives  are tightly regulated and restricted. All sex work is carried out by  robots. The play tells the story of Anjali, a sexbot madam and Ven, a  maintenance guy. They start to push the boundaries of what their sexbot can do in response to what customers want. The piece digs into questions around power, ownership, exploitation and and the underlying violence in how women and the female body are perceived. It moves at a swift pace with rapid fire dialogue and moments of black humour.

Q:   What else are you working on now?

A:  I am currently working on a new play called Wing Attack Apocalypse.  I'm drawing on the myth of Cassandra and using the culture and structure of a netball game (a sport that is very big in Australia) to make a work about women, friendship and competitiveness. The play will combine text with a physical score. I'm excited to explore a world and performance style that is both poetic in its language and highly physical in its expression.

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 eight, I gathered a group of friends to reenact and stage our own version of the Royal Wedding between Charles and Diana. It was an all girl production. So I like to think it was the early seeds of my creative impulse, my love of collaboration and a propensity to take a known narrative and give it a little twist. I played Diana, my best friend Kayo was Charles. We made a very cute couple.

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

A:  I want to hear and see a greater diversity and broader range of voices, stories, narratives and forms. By that I mean work by women, people of colour, people with disabilities, people who cross gender, challenge gender, defy or ignore gender. Theatre, like many areas of the arts, is slowly playing catch up. The balance is shifting from what has traditionally been an art form dominated by a few narratives and perspectives, mostly white and male. Change is happening and it's thrilling. But it's also precarious this shift and it's on all of us to keep making space for voices and visions that haven't been heard and seen.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  The play that made me want to write for theatre was Angels in America by Tony Kushner. It blew my mind. Heroes of the craft include Beckett for his bleak, but hopeful, absurdity and use of language and Chekhov for the way he creates situation, relationship and character. More contemporary writers I am inspired by include Caryl Churchill, Elfriede Jelinek and Maria Irene Fornes, who all grapple so brilliantly with language, form and human dilemmas.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  If I can be both delighted and disturbed I walk away a happy punter. I love theatre that pushes form and messes with what is possible. But there needs to also be a deep human question or cry at its heart in order for me to be really swept away. The most exciting piece of theatre I saw in 2015 was a show called Bronx Gothic by Okwui Okpokwasili, which was presented at Melbourne Festival, by Arts House, as part of an exchange with PS122.

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

A:  Do a lot of messy, weird work, write, write, write, lots of words. Get out and see stuff. Lots of stuff. Go to play readings and performances of new work and also classics and much loved plays. Throw your work into the ring slightly before you feel ready. A workshop, a reading, four friends and wine. Get out and meet theatre makers. You need a community and luckily theatre is a broad church. If you see work you love, tell the people who made it. Passion and genuine connection is what leads to relationships and longevity.

Q: Plugs, please:

A: http://www.joyseekerstheatre.com/#!the-good-girl/ctzx

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Tuesday, February 02, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 813: Danny Ashkenasi



Danny Ashkenasi

Hometown:  Berlin, Germany

Current Town:  Brooklyn, New York

Q:  Tell me about Speakeasy.

A:  “Speakeasy – John and Jane’s Adventures in the Wonderland” is a Roaring Twenties fantasy blending Lewis Carroll’s Alice stories with the real life Queer subculture and characters that flourished in the illicit world of speakeasies during Prohibition. John and Jane Allison are loving newlyweds, who are initially not consciously aware of their own homoerotic capabilities. But then Jane Allison kisses her neighbor Roberta White and goes down the rabbit hole of a basement speakeasy entrance. And John Allison slides through the looking glass of a public bathroom mirror after accepting an illicit sexual favor. Both will experience fantastical Carrollesque adventures within the nightclubs, buffet flat parties and drag balls that flourished before the end of Prohibition as well as the social conservatism of the 1930’s that put an end to that world. Both John and Jane also will encounter the Wonderland nightclub’s master of ceremonies Chet Cheshire and make love to lesbian nightclub singer Duchess Bentley and famed female impersonator Julian Carnation. Will John and Jane’s relationship survive the revelations of their unspoken sexual desires and mutual infidelities?

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  Producing the showcase performances of "Speakeasy" at the Theater for the New City; collaborating with Jack Hilton Cunningham on the 1950’s Mississippi musical “Feedstore Quartet” and with the Jazz singer Jacqui Sutton on the song cycle “American Anthem”.

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 fourth grade I wrote a short play called “Santa Claus is Sick,” featuring a grippe felled Santa and his six concerned elves. My teacher decided to produce it theatrically in our classroom, with me as co-director. When our lead took sick in real life I wound up having to take on the role of Santa too, since I knew the lines. Thus my future career as writer-director-producer-performer got its start or was at least dramatically foreshadowed.

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

A:  That the “business” of “show business” wouldn’t be the overwhelmingly operative word that it is.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Hard to choose just one, and the first names that come to mind can vary based on what day or time of day I am asked. So, on this day and minute: early 20th century innovators like Vachtangov, Weill, Gershwin, Astaire, Kelly; later 20th century innovators like Fosse, Bernstein, Robbins, Sondheim, Prince, Lapine…

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theater that opens up new worlds, reaches deep into our hearts and souls, inspires the imagination. Which can be achieved in any style, genre and venue of theater.

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

A:  Find ways to get your work performed and heard, anywhere, anyhow, even if it is a reading in your living room. You learn most by hearing and seeing your work brought to life by other artists before audiences.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  "Speakeasy" performs February 18 – March 13 at the Theater for the New City with the official opening night February 20, 8pm. For information and tickets, visit http://theaterforthenewcity.net/speakeasy.html


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Friday, January 29, 2016

Now Published!!

The Adventures of Super Margaret

https://www.playscripts.com/play/2782


(My youth play)  It was first produced at Oddfellows Playhouse ( I know the AD)  and now all those kids get their names in the front of the book.

8 more published plays of mine here. 

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Thursday, January 21, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 812: Matt Cox



Matt Cox

Hometown: Rowlett, TX

Current Town: New York, New York

Q:  Tell me about Puffs.

A:  Puffs is the story of the other kids in the class of 1998 who attended a certain famous magic school from a certain famous book series about a certain famous boy wizard. Our hero is Wayne Hopkins. Not exactly the ‘coolest’ kid, not particularly ‘good’ at magic, and also just happened to be placed into ‘not exactly everyone’s favorite’ house: The Puffs. The play follows Wayne and the other Puffs over the course of seven years. Seven increasingly eventful years full of snakes, monsters, a very evil wizard, and many other things that probably shouldn’t be around unsupervised kids.

Basically it’s sort of a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern-like trip through that previously mentioned book series. It a parody and a love letter, while also about growing up and all that sort of fun stuff.

It features a wonderful cast including Zac Moon, Julie Ann Earls, Langston Belton, Madeleine Bundy, Stephen Stout, Evan Maltby, Andy Miller, Ellie Phillips, A.J. Ditty, Jessie Cannizzaro, & Nick Carillo. Puffs was directed by the ever so talented and amazing Kristin McCarthy Parker. It is currently playing at The People’s Improv Theater.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  A few projects actually. A Game of Thrones-esque Fantasy Musical, with a working title (at least in my mind right now) A Song For Every Sword. A site-specific murder mystery/ horror/comedy The Last Request of Charles Beauxner, which just had a first read through the other night. I’m in the very very early stages of developing a big multi part Sci-Fi epic. And I’m always making tweak to Kapow-i GoGo, my first produced play/ darling. (It was a 9 episode celebration of Saturday morning cartoons/ video games/ lots of things. It was quite fun.)

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 don’t have a lot of fun theater or writing related stories as a child (except the time I got to do the line for the letter ’T’ in the strange alphabet/ Texas history hybrid, ’T’ was coveted as of course it stood for……. Texas. I’m sure that set me on a path somehow.)

But, one thing growing up that certainly contributed to the type of stories I love. All throughout my childhood my dad and I both read through the works of David Gemmell, a fantasy writer. He would read it first and then eventually I would catch up to the book he had just read. In retrospect these books probably weren’t super appropriate for 4th grade me, but the different blends of heroes and their crazy antics developed a very active imagination and a love of adventures. I was often that kid, the one reading the book with the guy holding an axe fighting orcs or something on the cover. And happy for it!

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

A:  Everyone should be represented across all aspects of theater. Writers, actors, directors. Diversity is important for representing life & creating different works across the entire spectrum.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  The first playwright I fell in love with was Christopher Durang. Just the way he used comedy, and often mixed with such serious things, was a lesson every time I opened one of his plays.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I enjoy theater with a touch of something unexpected for the stage. Fantastical elements, or an epic larger than life plot, or even just a real ambitious scenic design. Things that really reach into the imagination and makes something tangible and real for an audience. I like theater that thinks outside of the box in a still entertaining way, and has a real soul in it.

I also enjoy things that are on the lengthier side. It it’s longer than 4 hours I’m into it.

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

A:  Find a team. Starting off is so much easier when you have a group of talented friends/ collaborators rising through ranks with you. I wouldn’t be doing anything if it wasn’t for the people I’m surrounded by constantly making me strive to do better. It certainly helps.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Puffs is currently running through March at The People’s Improv Theater.
https://thepit-nyc.com/puffs/

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Monday, January 11, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 811: Casey Llewellyn



Photo by Laura Colella

Casey Llewellyn

Hometown: Boston, MA (specifically Brookline and Jamaica Plain)

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about O, Earth.

A:  O, Earth is an exploration of what we're doing here living on earth. It started with reckoning with the theatrical and cultural inheritance of Thornton Wilder’s Our Town and takes up many of his themes and concerns while incorporating my own. The characters in the play are concerned with happiness, justice, themselves, each other, their and others' place in the world. I am concerned in the play with the being here-ness and being here together-ness of theater and life (the play will also be at HERE!), so in the play very strange combination of iconic characters reckon with this (ghosts and living people, characters and real people). Part of what I'm interested in is how specificity and universality are represented in theater, and the real consequences of representation and visibility. We each experience life from a singular perspective, so O, Earth is a bunch of very different characters’ engagement with the universal experiences we all share: everyday life, love, and death. Something else specific that I am grappling with in the play is this current moment in gay/queer/trans politics and history in which some of us (white, cisgendered, middle class or rich gay or queer people) have been invited to join the mainstream in the form of unprecedented access to privilege (cultural acceptance, marriage, jobs, visibility, etc.), while issues that affect members of the queer/trans/gay community with less privilege disproportionately have been deprioritized in gay politics (trans and gender non-conforming peoples’ rights, racial justice, de-criminalization of sex work, housing for youth, police profiling, etc.). Even though the most marginalized members of our community are responsible for much of the resistance that has allowed us to get here. Vastly different experiences, access, and choices in the “community” have changed our sense of “our” since people fought together under the banner of gay rights in the last century. So I am thinking about that too. And it’s funny.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’m working on a musical called The Body which is The Town about a little girl in a small town in New England where there’s a prison. We showed an excerpt of that at Prelude in 2014. I’m also working on a play with puppets (and actors) that’s a loose adaptation of Mozart’s opera Zaide, called Zaide! We had a reading of that in the Bushwick Starr Reading Series last year. I’m working with director Mia Rovegno on both of those projects. I’m also in the very beginning stages of adapting a book of essays by an author I love, but it’s still in the very beginning stages.

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 second grade, I directed and starred in a play for children called Zatig the Observer. I played Zatig, the male lead, opposite my best friend who was a princess, I think. I remember the play as being very long and having to remember a lot of lines. Now, it seems like it was probably pretty boring since the main action hinged on “observing.” Also, I can't really imagine what the direction of a second grader was like for an audience. From the audacity to direct a whole play myself and make myself the lead, to the wanting to dress up as man and play scenes with someone close to me, to the cross-class romance and butch/femme dynamic, to the emphasis on watching and analyzing what is seen, that early passion project represents a lot of who I still am.

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

A:  The relationship between a theater experience and the world stresses me out a lot. That comes up in O, Earth. Theater has so much power to move people, but often, for many reasons, it is presented or experienced as something to be consumed, and it stays in its little box even if it's an amazing piece that transforms. The part of theater that is an actual event is very important to me. I see writing plays as a way to create live events that I need to exist, and I hope that addresses need others’ have as well. How a play meets and engages the world in which it's happening, both in the writing and the production makes or breaks the experience for me. So much of the time I go see a play and leave at the end, and the whole experience of being in the room with other people, with music and text, becomes this thing that is privately consumed rather than feeling like it’s really traveling out into the world. So I try to make it travel.


Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Split Britches, Peggy Shaw and Lois Weaver have been heroes of mine for a long time. I keep learning from them all the time! Tammy Whynot’s last show was amazing! Adrienne Kennedy, Maria Irene Fornes, and Caryl Churchill are playwrights I love and go back to again and again to look for clues about form and what’s deeper. A new hero is Branden Jacobs-Jenkins. I was so inspired by An Octoroon. It did exactly what I want to do as a theater artist.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like theater that is surprising, total, connected, and tells a story we need to hear.

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

A:  Get in touch with your impulses and follow them even if you don’t understand them. Go deep and stay connected to your gut. My teacher Erik Ehn told me write into my brokenness. That really helpful because it allows you transform by using your fucked up parts as your healing strength rather than just thinking you are a horrible writer and person. Haha. That reminds me, I recommend being gentle with yourself too because the emotions you go through writing and then seeing it performed can be brutal. And obviously, pretty amazing.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Please come see O, Earth! It runs January 24th-February 20th at HERE. Directed by Dustin Wills, Produced by The Foundry Theatre.

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Thursday, January 07, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 810: James Anthony Tyler



James Anthony Tyler

Hometown: Las Vegas, Nevada

Current Town: Harlem, NYC and Minneapolis

Q:  Tell me about Dolphins and Sharks?

A:  “Dolphins and Sharks” is a play that started off as a 10-minute play that was produced in The Fire This Time Festival in January 2015. After the festival, I expanded the play into a full-length. It’s set in a copy and print shop called Harlem Office on 125th Street, in Harlem of course! It is the story of three employees Isabel, Yusuf and Xiomara.

Yusuf is the new employee. He is a Nigerian-American that follows the rules and eventually wants a raise based on his outstanding work performance. Isabel is the veteran employee. She is African-American and she bends the rules and just wants to get by. Xiomara has worked her way up to become the store manager. She is Dominican-American and she wants to keep order in the hope of further climbing up the Harlem Office ladder. The installation of an expensive new state of the art printer is the impetus for an upheaval that brings all three employees to a painful realization. The play explores how economically disadvantaged people function and collide in a capitalistic society.

I’m so excited about an upcoming reading of Dolphins and Sharks on February 1st as part of Labyrinth Theatre Company’s Up Next Series. The extremely talented Charlotte Brathwaite is directing, and the cast includes Pernell Walker, Chinaza Uche, and I was just told today that Raúl Castillo has agreed to be involved in this reading.

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  I have two projects in progress now. I will once again be involved with The Fire This Time Festival this year where a reading of my newest play titled “Stewart and Lamb” will take place on Wednesday February 3rd. “Stewart and Lamb” is set in the year 1994 in a video store called Primary Video in my hometown Las Vegas.

The protagonist of the play is Zack Lawson, a 63-year-old African American military veteran who works at Primary Video. Zack's supervisor is the owner's 25-year-old white son Ian Philipps, who Zack trained. The play is set in the time where 24-hour coverage of the O.J. Simpson murder case dominated the news, so the racial tension that grips the nation also starts to take hold of Primary Video, and when Zack finds out a secret about Ian he uses it to his advantage and it sets up a battle the leads to (what I hope is) a heartbreaking conclusion. Stewart and Lamb explores issues of race, addiction, and redemption.

I’m also working on a play titled “hop tha A” for Broken Watch Theatre Company. The h in hop is intentionally lower-case; I know it’s silly as hell but whatever. This play is about a lonely New York City nightclub doorman and his rides home on the A trains late at night after he gets off work. The play explores the need for intimacy and what happens when that need is not met.

I should be actually working on that play now instead of using this interview as an excuse to procrastinate!

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 5th grade I was delusional enough to think I was an actor, so I auditioned for the lead role of Santa Claus in the Christmas play at my elementary school. Somehow I got the part, and I remember being so nervous before the 1st performance that my teach Mrs. Champagne pulled me into a classroom and gave me a Coach Phil Jackson like pep-talk, she said something along the lines of, “You can do this. Believe in yourself and when you’re on that stage just keep going. If you forget a line just move on to the next one that you remember, just keep going and don’t stop. Everything’s going to turn out just fine!” Anyone that was in the audience at Lincoln Elementary School would tell you that the highlight of the show was when my bright red Santa Claus pants fell down mid-performance exposing my tighty whities (I didn’t buy my own underwear in 5th grade, thanks mom!). I quickly pulled them back up and continued to perform. The pants fell down again; I pulled them back up and continued to perform. The pants fell a 3rd time! (I really hope whoever was in charge of costumes received a tongue lashing) I pulled the pants up a 3rd time and just kept going.

This is how I approach being a writer. Keep writing, keep submitting, keep seeing shows, keep reading plays, keep supporting fellow playwrights, fall down, get back up and just keep going!

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

A:  It would be fun to poll an audience after a play on if they enjoyed it or if they were bored to tears. If the audience enjoyed the play then the playwrights should be rewarded with 50-80% (this would be negotiated in advance) of the box office. If the play bored the audience them immediate execution of the playwright on stage!

Okay, my serious answer is that I don’t think theater in New York is as diverse both on stage and in key positions off-stage, so making theater more diverse is something that I would change.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I wouldn’t write plays today if I didn’t study with Janet Neipris, Liz Diggs, Richard Wesley, and Gary Garrison. For putting my on the playwriting path they are my heroes.

These are playwright heroes that I don’t know, most I won’t know because they are dead, but their work inspires me; Lorraine Hansberry, August Wilson, Alice Childress, Charles Gordone, Ed Bullins, Caryl Churchill, Annie Baker, Rajiv Joseph, Dominque Morrisseau, Tarell Alvin McCraney.

These are playwrights that I do know and am friends with who inspire me, Christina Ham, Andrea Lepcio, Diana Son, Tracey Scott Wilson, Tanya Barfield, Laura Marks, Dan McCabe, Martyna Majok, Jessica Moss, Ted Malawar, Camille Darby, Aurin Squire, Naveen Choudhury, Kristine Reyes, Sandra Daley, Bernard Tarver, Mark Green, Stacey Rose, Cerstin Johnson, Cesi Davidson, Charlie Sohne, Tim Rosser, Mark Sonnenblick, Ben Wexler, Sophie Jaff, Kathleen Tagg, Dana Levinson, Stacey Weingarten.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  What excites me is a clear story with lots of believable conflict. I know this sounds horrible, but I just don’t want to work that hard when I’m in the audience for a show. I don’t want to be confused either. That doesn’t mean that I need to know everything immediately, but I absolutely hate when a show confuses me. I’m like a grumpy old man, “I want clear old fashion storytelling!”

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

A:  Write everyday, try to read and see as many plays as possible, and most importantly stay true to yourself and your own voice. Don’t shy away from writing about the people and things that you are most familiar with. Be truthful!

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The 10-minutes version of “Dolphins and Sharks” on Saturday January 16, 2015 @ 6pm @ Casa De Beverley
Link to Event: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/one-acts-and-snacks-january-dolphins-and-sharks-by-james-anthony-tyler-and-upstairs-by-erin-lane-tickets-18641129119

“Dolphins and Sharks” (full-length) reading Monday, Feb 1, 2015 @ 4pm Labyrinth Theater Company
http://labtheater.org/up-next/

“Stewart and Lamb” reading Wednesday, Feb 3, 2015 @ 7pm, 7th Annual Fire This Time Festival
http://www.firethistimefestival.com/

“Some Old Black Man” production presented this summer 2016 by Berkshire Playwrights Lab.
http://www.berkshireplaywrightslab.org/

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Wednesday, January 06, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 809: Eric Bogosian

photo by MONIQUE CARBONI

Eric Bogosian

Hometown: Originally I come from Woburn, Massachusetts about ten miles northwest of Boston. Used to hang out at the Burlington Mall. We were the first "mall rats."

Current Town: New York City for forty years. Started here as a "go-fer" at the Chelsea Theater, then worked at the Kitchen for a number of years.

Q: Tell me about 100 Monologues.

A: 100 Monologues is a collaboration between me, my son Travis (who has produced all the videos and commandeered the shooting) and the community of great actors I've worked with over the years. I was playing cards with some of these guys about three years ago and the book "100 (monologues)" which was a collection of all the monologues I did Off-Broadway was just published and someone suggested that other actors try to do them, and we shoot them and post them.

Turned out it was a little more complicated than that. (All these actors are SAG actors. The shooting was more expensive than we expected.) Once we got all the union paperwork figured out, we formed a small production company and the actors basically donated their time. We rehearse for a couple of days and then shoot on the Black Magic camera. Many of these actors are character actors most people only get to see for a few minutes at a time in movies or tv. Here they get to stretch out and do their thing. It's all about having fun.

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: I just completed a big project, a history book about the true story of a group of Armenian assassins who avenged the Armenian genocide in 1921. It's pretty incredible. You can go to the Facebook page operationnemesis (one word) to learn about the book and Operation Nemesis.

I'm also acting on a new Netflix tv show called "The Get Down" about the birth of hip-hop. But we had to sign a confidentiality agreement promising that we wouldn't talk about it so that's all I can say.

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 spent most of my time by myself when I was small. I read endlessly and didn't get along with other kids. I spent most of my time in my room either reading or fantasizing in front of the mirror. Later I would find out that this was called "acting" and that I was good at it. So I started acting in high school, loved it and never gave it up. My beloved teacher had us write our own plays and I guess that was what got me started writing. My favorite story is writing the scariest story I could, reading it front of the class and having everyone laugh. I have learned by performing.

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

A: Make tickets cheaper. I think it's absurd that the people who work in the theater can't afford to see each other's shows. How are we going to learn and grow if we can't see the work of our colleagues? A less expensive theater is more vibrant. It is a younger theater. The union situation is problematic. We need a union but we also need the freedom to do shows for and by ourselves.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A: My first and foremost theater hero is Richard Foreman. He had a simple credo: put on stage what he would like to see himself. That's basically the impulse of a non-commercial, radical theater. I love commercial theater too, but for me, all the good stuff is happening on the fringes. It's where the invention happens. Joe Papp and Wynn Handman was/is also heroes of mine since both these men lived and breathed theater and dedicated their lives to spreading the word and making theater something that includes everyone!

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: I like energetic, awkward, slightly manic theater. I like theater that draws you in by its humor and energy and specialness. I'm a member of LAByrinth Theater Company and love what we do and how we do it. Probably my favorite piece of theater ever was "True West" produced by Steppenwolf Theater with John Malkovich and Gary Sinese. Dangerous and funny. The best. I like what Adam Rapp, Tom Bradshaw and Hallie Feiffer are doing . But you never know what's coming next that's going to blow you out of your socks.

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

A: Do everything you can to get your stuff on its feet. Table readings are not enough. Even if it's in the tiniest basement with an audience of ten, you have to get it on its feet. Theater makes it's own rules and you can only learn them by making theater and making mistakes. Theater is not for the timid. You have to throw yourself out there. There is too much emphasis on how things sound and not enough focus on how they PLAY.

Q: Plugs, please:

A: I love what is happening at Rattlestick, Playwrights Horizon, SoHo Rep, PS 122 and what's going on out at in Brooklyn at the Theater for a New Audience. Their production of "The Killers" with Michael Shannon was fantastic.

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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 808: Stephen Kaplan



Stephen Kaplan

Hometown: Northridge, CA - home of the '94 Northridge earthquake. My high school had to cancel our production of Into the Woods because our auditorium was so damaged and there were budget issues (so sadly my Cinderella's Prince/Wolf was never seen) - so we did Working instead because we could do it on a smaller budget).

Current Town: Bogota, NJ - about 15 minutes over the GWB from New York City.

Q:  Tell me about The Community.

A:  Chris Marshall has just been cast as George in Mt. Laurel Community Players’ production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? He invites Zach, the young, Black actor who’s been cast as Nick, over for a drink to give him some actorly advice – and possibly to kill him. Whatever works. When the production’s Martha and Honey show up uninvited, they find themselves caught in a play about a play (within a play?) tackling deadly issues like race and, perhaps even more dauntingly, community theatre. The play asks questions about how we view stories about race and the not-just-color blindness that many have when trying to talk about it.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm currently in my first year of the MFA program at Point Park University and writing screenplays for the first time (which is really cool to stretch different writing muscles) along with working on some other new plays. Revising my play una casa/a home. In the very very early stages of developing a couple other new pieces that don't even quite know what they are yet.

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 7 years old I wanted to take acting lessons so I asked my mom and she said she'd be happy to drive me anywhere and pay for it but that I'd have to do the initial legwork myself. I remember looking up Dramatic Classes in the Yellow Pages (it was right before Draperies) and calling all of the places listed and asking to send me a brochure. I've always known that I wanted to do theatre and I love that my mom empowered me to make those dreams a reality and taught me, from a very early age, that I'd always have support, but that if I really wanted this, it was going to take work on my part. Nobody forced us to do theatre (in fact, the opposite is usually true). So if we want it, we've got to remember the legwork involved is all part of the process (though I still constantly need to remind myself of that.)

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

A:  How dismissed it is by the world at large. I wish theatre could once again be considered a crucial part of society and culture - though I do take some solace in the fact that Entertainment Weekly features it more than it used to. That's a true barometer of cultural importance, amount of page real estate in Entertainment Weekly, right?

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  (in absolutely no particular order): Chuck Mee. John Guare. Christopher Durang. Stephen Sondheim. Stephen Schwartz. Flaherty & Ahrens. William Finn. John Patrick Shanley. Tony Kushner. Tina Landau. Robert Lepage and Ex Machina. Ibsen. Michael Frayn. Margaret Edson. Ken Davenport. Signature Theatre. Playwrights Horizons. Jeremy Cohen and the Playwrights Center. All of the people at the Dramatists Guild and my fellow Regional Reps for the Guild (I'm the NJ Regional Rep) who work tirelessly on behalf of writers everywhere. Anyone that runs a young playwright's contest or festival. The writers who take the time to support and cheerlead for other writers - people like you, Adam, Donna Hoke, Patrick Gabridge, Dusty Wilson, Ken Jones, Jeff Talbott, Lia Romeo, Gwydion Suilebhan...my own students who inspire me every day to keep creating and dreaming...I'm sure there are others that I'm forgetting and that'll hit me at 2am tonight, but those are the first that come to mind.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  My two most amazing experiences in the theatre ever were Tina Landau and Expanded Arts' production of Chuck Mee's Orestes which I saw when I was in high school doing a summer program at NYU, and Robert Lepage and Ex Machina's production of The Seven Streams of the River Ota - both of which pushed me to fully lose myself in the immense worlds they were creating. I love theatre that fully engrosses me and makes me giddy and like a kid in a candy store.

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

A:  I just read (well, I actually listened to the audiobook) of Elizabeth Gilbert's Big Magic which I HIGHLY recommend. The entire book is so inspirational but her epilogue sums up all her thoughts and I think is the perfect advice for anyone involved in any kind of creative pursuit at any stage of their career:

"Creativity is sacred, and it is not sacred.

What we make matters enormously, and it doesn’t matter at all.

We toil alone, and we are accompanied by spirits.

We are terrified, and we are brave.

Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.

Only when we are at our most playful can divinity finally get serious with us.

Make space for all these paradoxes to be equally true inside your soul, and I promise – you can make anything.

So please calm down now and get back to work, okay?

The treasures that are hidden inside you are hoping you will say yes."

I mean, come on. Isn't that the best advice ever?

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  There's another reading of The Community that Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey will be doing in February in their reading series (along with some other kick-ass playwrights that I'm excited to be in the company of). A 10-minute play of mine, "For Unto Us," is being done at Exit 7 Players in Ludlow, MA in February as well, and two 1-minute plays of mine are being done by Stage Left Players in Spokane, WA the end of January. And another 10-minute play, "Tim Eless, Private Eye," is having a production in June at Bergen County Players - a community theatre that I've been involved with as an actor. Beyond that, my play A Real Boy has three productions slated for late 2016/early 2017 (in NYC, LA and Austin) which I'm very excited about and I'm also looking forward to working with The Brooklyn Generator where I'll be writing a new play in 30 days - scary, but very cool! Please visit my website, www.bystephenkaplan.com for other updates and news.

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Thursday, December 31, 2015

My 2015 in review

I wrote 3 full length plays this year.  Two of them were commissions, one from Texas State University which will go up with them in 2017 and the other from my friends at Flux Theater Ensemble who produced both Pretty Theft and Hearts Like Fists in New York.  I also wrote one ten minute play, one five minute film, and two 30 minute plays. 

I had 28 productions this year of my full length plays.  Up until now, I think my best year was 11.  Productions this year included 11 Hearts Like Fists, 9 Clown Bar,  3 Pretty Theft, 3 Nerve, 1  premiere of my youthplay, Adventures of Super Margaret and 1 workshop production of Where You Can't Follow.  Five of these productions were at high schools.  Ten were at colleges or universities.
Of these productions, seven came about through some previous relationship with a theater or theater artist.  The rest were found through word of mouth or because of publications.

I had 10 productions of short plays (2 ten minute plays, 8 thirty minute plays) and a production of my night of short plays 7 Ways To Say I Love You which if I counted them individually means I actually had 17 productions of short plays.  Except one, these were all high school or middle school productions.

I taught Web Series Writing for two semesters at Primary Stages' ESPA.

In June, I started a job as the Literary Manager at The Juilliard School, supporting the playwriting program there.

This year I went to the The Poconos, San Francisco, Bennington, VT; Charlottesville, VA; Saratoga Springs, NY; Portland, OR and Orange County, CA. Wallace had his first plane ride on our California adventure.

So far there are 15 productions of my full length plays planned for 2016 and one planned for 2017.  Some of them (those with dates set) are listed here.

The interviews continue.   The first 800 are here.  I did 93 interviews this year.  So I guess in 2 or 3 more years I can get to 1000 and then that would be 10 percent of American playwrights  . . . or 6 percent if the number I heard more recently, 15K, is closer to the truth.  There's a lot of us.

So I guess this was another busy year for me.  I am always feeling like I can't do as much as I want and I never get enough sleep but things are pretty good right now.  How are you?

Hope you have a Happy New Year!

My previous year in reviews, in case you are interested:
2014
2013
2012
2011
2010
2009
2008
2007

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Sunday, December 27, 2015

UPCOMING


Hearts Like Fists


Production #24 of Hearts Like Fists
St. Francis High School
St. Francis, MN
Opens January 29, 2016

Production #25 of Hearts Like Fists
La Feria High School
La Feria, TX
Opens March 10, 2016

Production #26 of Hearts Like Fists
Theatre Threshold, Cal State University, Long Beach
Opens April 6, 2016

Production #27 of Hearts Like Fists
Adirondack Community College
Queensbury, NY
Opens April 7, 2016

Production #28 of Hearts Like Fists
University of Findlay
Findlay, OH
Opens April 13, 2016

Production #29 of Hearts Like Fists
Muskingum University
New Concord, OH 
Opens April 14, 2016

Production #30 of Hearts Like Fists
Shadow Horse Theater
Minneapolis, MN
Opens May 27, 2016

Clown Bar

Production #13 of Clown Bar
Springs Ensemble Theatre
Colorado Springs, CO
Opens May 13, 2016


Production #11 of Pretty Theft
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA
Opens April 26, 2016

TBA (workshop production)

The Chance Theater
Anaheim, CA
August 4, 6, 7, 2016.


7 Ways to Say I Love You 
(a night of short plays)

Production #2 of 7 Ways to Say I Love You
Rolling Meadows High School
Rolling Meadows, IL
Opens Feb 11, 2016

Production #3 of 7 Ways to Say I Love You
Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep HS
Sacramento, CA
Opens May 11, 2016

PUBLISHED PLAYS



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