Wednesday, November 29, 2006
JD: Amy, thanks for joining us in the studio.
AH: Good to be here.
JD: Out of the thousands of letters, notes, and curious phone calls we’ve gotten about you, we’ve narrowed our questions down to just five.
AH: I’ve got nothing to hide.
JD: Let’s dive in. Dolly writes from Peoria on scented pink paper: please identify your personal hairstyle best and worst. How old were you? What was the style?
AH: My worst personal hairstyle is commemorated still on the mantelpiece in my parents’ home in New Jersey. It s in a folding frame in the other half of which is a picture of my brother with a perfectly acceptable and timeless haircut. For a long time my mother and I were engaged in a silent war that consisted of me closing the frame and laying it on its side and her opening it up and repositioning it on the mantelpiece. Eventually I gave up. In the picture I was twelve or thirteen, just hitting puberty. My hair went through puberty too and spontaneously became wavy in a narrow strip on either side toward the front. The rest of my hair remained stick straight. As puberty progressed my hair becamemore and more curly and I have pictures to document my near banana curls toward the end of high school. In college it straightened out again. But on humid daysit still misbehaves. My best hairstyle was a bob-like thing when I was fouror five. There are pictures of me in a black dress covered with little roses and this very short hair. At that age I still had small ears. I don’t remember when my ears became disproportionately large, but it must have been soon thereafter.
JD: Bobby of Sacramento emails us: first thing that comes into your mind, firstthing first thing: what thing do you remember most about your childhood home?
AH: There was a staircase that led virtually right up to my room, so that if you were in my room facing the full-length mirror (full-length for a five-year-old) you could see in the mirror if anyone was coming up the stairs behind you. When I read your question Ithought of the time I was very pleased with myself for having gotten dressed totally by myself (for the first time?) and with pride I turned from the mirror to facemy dad as he cleared the last few steps. “Oops! No shirt!” My dad said. I had put an undershirt but I forgot the shirt. I was very embarrassed and disappointed in myself.
JD: OK. Lily from Queens writes, in angry, quite disturbing handwriting, actually: have you ever been wronged by someone in an office? What’s the most egregious, humiliating wrong done to you there?
AH: Hmmm…as I’ve thought about this question I’ve remembered five or six incidents that seemed really egregious and humiliating at the time but now seem kind of funny and harmless and even charming. That makes me feel optimistic about life generally. But toanswer your question…I once worked in a particular office during a particular time in my life when I was, well, crazy. The office’s hours were officially from 10-6 but I often worked from 8 AM – 9 PM, or longer. My boss was a workaholic himself, and of a somewhat competitive nature, and when he saw me already hard at work when he arrived at 8:30 or 9 each morning he would say “damn! Beat me!” It’s hard to explain whyit was clear he wasn’t joking. Maybe a more helpful greeting might have been, “hey, you work hard and that’s great, but maybe you should relax a little, enjoy your twenties, eat something. Have you considered eating?” So at the end of one particularly arduous day when I was feeling tragically underappreciated he walked by my office on his way outand asked me if I needed to borrow his key to lock up. (See what I mean by harmless? That’s the punch line. Of course I had a key. Because I locked up, like, every day, and opened up every morning. So I was mortally offended that he absent-mindedly asked me if I needed a key. That’s the whole story. Sorry.)
JD: Hey, no apologies here. Benjamin from Princeton wants to know: who is the literary character with whom you most identify?
AH: Emma Bovary. Do I have to explain that?
JD: This last one is on the technical side, from our staff here in the studio: what are your common writing habits? E.g., time of day, outlining scenes, free writing, idea journal by the bed?
AH: The last few years I have been big on the journal. My fantasy is that one day I’ll meet someone to whom I have an overwhelming desire to turn over my entirejournal. That’s the sexiest thing I can think of. But since September I have really been slacking off on journal writing. I write for deadlines. I spend a lot of time being really anxious and then I sit down and do it and remember that I love to write. Sometimes before I write a play I write a whole bunch of prose first…almost like chapters from a novel. Or sometimes I do no preparation at all. The uniting factor here seems to be inconsistency.
JD: Thanks, Amy. And now, a word from our sponsor.
Friday, November 24, 2006
THICKER THAN WATER
Published by Dramatis Play Service, this collection contains one-acts by previous and current members of Youngblood.
“Heights” by Amy Fox
At two A.M. on an apartment rooftop, three young New Yorkers face conflicts of sexuality and trust that jeopardize their relationships.
“Waterborn” by Edith L. Freni
Nothing comes naturally to Marc and Leslie—so it’s a really good thing that she’s pregnant.
“Charlie Blake’s Boat” by Graeme Gillis
Charlie Blake’s ex-girlfriend, the one who got away, tries to keep him from going to Scotland in a boat he’s built himself.
“D.C.” by Daria Polatin
Two overachieving teens get an after-school lesson in spelling and a bitter dose of R-E-A-L-I-T-Y.
“Welcome Back, Buddy Combs” by Ben Rosenthal
In a sexually charged atmosphere of obscured realities and hidden truths, Buddy gets the welcome of his life upon returning from basic training and finding his best friend shacked up with his wife.
To purchase, click HERE.
"Yit, Ngay (One, Two)" by Michael Lew
Published in PLAYS AND PLAYWRIGHTS 2006
A one-woman show that examines the tensions that arise as a Chinese-American family attempts to acclimate to the American way of life.
To purchase, click HERE.
"Vampire Comedy Trilogy" by Qui Nguyen & Robert Ross Parker
Published in PLAYS AND PLAYWRIGHTS 2005
A trio of irreverent action comedies about a paranormal detective, a pair of Cold War-era superduper-heroes, and a sassy teenage warrior princess.
To purchase, click HERE.
"Trial by Water” by Qui Nguyen
Published in SAVAGE STAGE by Ma-Yi Theater.
Two Vietnamese brothers set off for America with dreams of a better life, but when the boat's engine breaks down, their journey turns into a nightmare.
To purchase, click HERE.
“A Fair Affair” by Daria Polatin
Published in BEST STUDENT ONE ACTS: VOLUME 7
Based on a Chekhov short story, this bittersweet love story unfolds with a timely twist as two secret lovers attempt to reconcile their romantic dreams.
To purchase, click HERE.
“Virgin Rock” by Kevin Christopher Snipes
Published in THE BEST PLAYS OF THE STRAWBERRY ONE-ACT FESTIVAL: VOLUME 3
Two teenage boys share one hot summer together and are left with a lifetime of regrets.
To purchase, click HERE.
Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Where did you grow up?
I grew up and presently live in Brooklyn Heights. But I can proudly say I don't live with my parents. Even though I do live four blocks away.
What is your favorite holiday?
Thanksgiving. I think it's a holiday that really unites Americans in their love for over-eating. My Aunt also makes incredible yams.
Why do you like to write?
I think it's important to document ideas, both ideas about true events and ideas from the imagination. I also like the way writing exercises my brain.
If you had to read one play ten times, what would it be?
A Midsummer's Night's Dream. There's so much going on, but it all makes sense in a very fantastical, erotic, and comical way.
Have you ever written a haiku?
It's the only kind of poem I write. Here is one:
Edwin Dewind Has
Dawned in the Dew Found Himself
Rewound and Dewinged
How did you hear about Youngblood?
Sam Forman, one of my favorite playwrights and a member of the group, is a family friend and told me about Youngblood. I'm going to buy him a drink to thank him.
Sunday, November 19, 2006
Three words come to mind when I think of Mike Lew: preternatural, pyromaniac and pedophile. None of these words, however, are really appropriate. So perhaps it's best if I let Mike speak for himself.
1. Both of your parents are scientists, and you were a Westinghouse Finalist for your work on mouse homeobox genes. Does your background in the sciences affect your writing for the theater? Or do the two disciplines of science and art remain separate and distinct in your life?
I grew up with two parents who are doctors, and I'd spent three years working in a bio lab in high school. I made the jump from bio to theater when I was in college. At the time, I was acutely aware of theater being perceived as frivolous by my family and colleagues in the sciences. I had an impulse to fight against that by trying to maintain some of the discipline and rigor that went into my lab work. Now that I know how hard it is to make a living in the theater, I’m not so hung up on proving to myself that theater is a real discipline. However, I do think that I’ve retained some aspects of my scientific background.
Sometimes I think of my directing in terms of a loosely scientific method, trying to isolate and toggle variables in the hopes of seeing what kinds of new outcomes will develop. Rather than being goal-oriented during rehearsals and run-throughs, I tend to think of those sessions as contributing new data to an ongoing experiment.
I also find that scientific metaphors will creep into my work, or that science serves as the substratum upon which I've built my plays. For example, my latest play “A Better Babylon” starts with a free-response biology lecture on the evolution of shell patterns in gastropods.
2. In addition to being a playwright you are also a director. How does being a playwright inform your directing and vice versa? How do you feel about playwrights directing their own plays?
I fully support playwrights directing their own plays, but only insofar as they can separate their writing impulses from their directing impulses. I know that my writer side is more indulgent and poetic while my director side is more limiting and pragmatic. As long as the playwright is able to separate what works best dramatically onstage from what sounds perfectly writerly in their head, then who better to realize the playwright’s vision than the actual playwright?
Personally, I’m trying to move away from directing my own work. I used to do it out of necessity but now I like seeing other directors move my plays in directions that I'd never imagined before, directions that are surprising and yet absolutely married to the heart of the play. In the same way that actors can deliver my lines with a style that’s in sync with my vision yet skew to how I'd originally imagined it, I like seeing directors apply the same kind of skew-yet-true interpretations to my plays.
I think I'm a great director for other writers because I tend to hold the writer's vision in such high regard. Since I’m also a writer, I understand the mechanics of other writers’ plays - how the lines work above and below the surface of the drama, what the lines are accomplishing in terms of both storytelling and character. That kind of awareness makes for good collaborations with other playwrights.
3. What already existing play do you wish you'd written and why?
“Steve” by Steve Belber. Steve Belber is my favorite writer and one of my favorite people. “Steve” is a one-act of his about three guys, each named Steve, who kill each other in an ongoing continuous cycle. It’s deep and it’s terribly funny. It’s existential, but while most existential plays have these characters who sit there sighing away about how existential their life has turned out to be, this is existentialism with real teeth. I like plays that make me laugh and laugh until I forget… and then afterwards stick with me and bother me all night for months. “Steve” does that to me. I wish my work had that effect on people too.
4. What do you feel is the role of the artist in today's society?
I think there’s a gamut of roles an artist can adopt in today’s society, and our artistic priorities dictate which of those roles we choose to adopt. For example, some writers have work that is far more overtly political than mine. I absolutely think the role of the artist in today’s society can be political, but I don’t often choose to assume that role.
On the other hand, as a Chinese-American I am particularly sensitive to the paucity of minority casting that goes on in today’s theater, and I think that part of my job as a director is to get more minority actors onstage playing meaty, nuanced, “mainstream” roles. Not every director feels as strongly about accepting that particular role, but it’s one of the ones I’ve chosen for myself.
In terms of my writing, I am most interested in experimenting and in inviting audiences and collaborators in on my experimentation. I like playing with language; I like being able to laugh uproariously while trying to figure out what exactly makes people laugh; I like delving into history and trying to predict the future with the past.
My role is to use my own observations about the world to create a larger discussion about the world. My role is to gainfully employ talented collaborators so that they too can enter that discussion. Some use their work to entertain, some to exact change, some to expose injustice, some to portray the human condition. I just want to use my writing to ask big questions and to get into a meaningful dialogue.
5. If you could get rip-roaring drunk with any playwright (living or dead) who would it be and why?
I used to really idolize Beckett’s writing, but I wonder whether he’d be an animated drunk or just sort of sit there sullenly sipping whiskey. So since I’m not sure whether drinking with him would be fun or not, I think I’d choose any one of the Youngblood playwrights. Getting drunk with an idol playwright sounds nice, but I always end up having the most fun with people who are comforting and familiar. I also tend to think about life in terms of how I’ll think about present experiences later on.
Whenever I drink with Youngblood playwrights I delight in thinking of how I’ll think back on this experience and be able to say “I knew them when.” There are such talented, compelling, full-of-soul writers in this group. There’s going to be a lot of “I knew them when.”
Also I don’t think Beckett would get me water if I drank too much whiskey and threw up on my shoes. What a fucker.
~ Mike Lew as interviewed by Kevin Christopher Snipes, November 19, 2006
It's Mike Lew. I sat down with playwright Kevin Snipes at his home in Sag Harbor for what I thought would be a fruitful interview. What followed was six straight hours of incoherent ranting as I drank Odwalla from an eco-friendly recycled bottle and he drank straight ethanol from a sippy cup. Here are the answers he slurred out when he was conscious, or at least what I could transcribe from the tape after listening seven times straight and then throwing up my hands in utter frustration.
1. Your full-length plays feature all male characters, yet you've used actress Julie Leedes as your muse for several short works. How do gender considerations affect your writing, and what is your source of inspiration for characters male or female?
There are certain ways men are expected to act with each other. There are behaviors and feelings that are considered appropriate and inappropriate. When a man steps out of line with those expectations, the conflicts and tensions that arise are usually quite dramatic. Or at least they become a starting point for something I can make dramatic. The men in my plays are always aware that there is an expected norm that they are defying and by doing so they are setting themselves up for a terrible fall (my plays rarely end happily). What interests me is what makes men willing to risk this defiance. Usually it's an emptiness they're trying to fill. Emptiness will drive people to some pretty interesting extremes. It's good fodder for a playwright.
As for Julie Leedes. She's an amazing, amazing actress. And if you have the opportunity to work with her then you do what any smart writer would do and you build plays around her.
2. Your play "A Bitter Taste" was produced last year at Ensemble Studio Theatre as Youngblood's mainstage production. Can you comment on the transition between imagining your play on paper and seeing it realized as a specific production?
The transition from page to stage was a very smooth one. I had a clear image of the play in my head, which the director shared, so together we attempted to create a production that was faithful to what I had envisioned two years earlier when I sat down to write the play. I'm afraid I don't have any horror stories about that. "A Bitter Taste" was (and is) a very dark play. I think one of the challenges was getting everyone involved to realize how dark it is. There's a lot of humor in the play and that often masks some of the atrocious behavior that the characters commit. It was only a few days before we opened that everyone started realizing just how fucked-up their characters were. Perhaps in future productions I will make a disclaimer speech at the beginning of the rehearsal process, "Yes, this is a fucked-up play. Your character is as dark and twisted and messed-up as you can imagine. Now, have fun." It's a play that asks a lot of its actors. To use a boxing analogy, the actors have to come out swinging, and they don't get to stop until the play is over two hours later. It's very demanding.
3. What drew you to theater initially, and what sustains your interest?
I've always written plays. Even as a child. I think I wrote plays before I'd ever read or seen one. Before I knew what plays were. I would write out scenarios and make my friends act them out. Perhaps that was just an early manifestation of my need to be a control freak. I liked things scripted in advance. So I don't know what prompted me to want to write for the theater. I have a bit of a God-complex. Or maybe a Creator-complex. So the idea of inventing entire worlds that I get to populate and control in order to advance my own ideas has always been appealing to me.
What sustains my interest is the electric rush I get when I see that the worlds I've created are affecting people in the audience. I think all writers write because we think we having something important to say that no one else is saying. When I write a play about something that I feel needs to be discussed - something that needs to be in the spotlight - and other people respond to it, it's very gratifying. It's a validation that what I'm trying to communicate about the world - about who we are - is important. The theater is one of the few mediums where artists can portray humans as complex individuals and not just black & white stereotypes. I find most film and television to be dehumanizing. Theater is the only performance medium where people are allowed their full humanity. That's important. That's so important.
4. Write your own eulogy.
Shakespeare. Shaw. Snipes. They were, are, and will be all that theater ever needed.
5. One time you said you were looking for a new job and as luck would have it a temp agency had just contacted me saying that they were looking for a copywriter so when I told you about the job you sounded tentatively interested but after I stuck my neck out for you asking the temp agency if they would hire you, you declined to interview for the job even though you'd initially expressed interest. Why are you such a total fucking ingrate?
Wow. You are never going to forgive me for turning down your advances, are you? How many times do I have to tell you, you are not my type? Nothing can ever happen between us. Please move on. There are so many people out there capable of loving you. I am not one of them.
How'd you get to Youngblood?
I WAS TAKING A SCREENWRITING WORKSHOP WITH AMY FOX, WHO WAS THE THEN ASSOCIATE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR, AND SHE BROUGHT ME INTO THE FOLD.
What sorts of plays do you write?
GOOD ONES. USUALLY ON THE FUNNY SIDE OF DRAMA.
What will you never write about?
SO FAR, I'LL SAY NOTHING.
If you could be famous for one thing except your writing what would it be?
Why do you hate yourself? (If you don't, please explain)
UM, I TRY NOT TO HATE MYSELF-- I FIND IT VERY UNPRODUCTIVE.
What do you want to be doing in ten years?
WRITING PLAYS, MOVIES AND TV SHOWS AND MAKING A GREAT LIVING AND ENJOYING A GREAT LIFE.
Saturday, November 18, 2006
The People, Qui.
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with the charming playwright and fight-choreographer Qui Nguyen about his loves (football, comic books, chasing tail) and his hates (racists, Ibsen and… Mike Lew?).
You mentioned being Vietnamese and growing up in Arkansas. Was that difficult in any way?
Not really. I fight good.
Was there any type of Vietnamese community there, or were you all alone?
Besides my immediate family, nope.
Did that sort of thing matter to you when you were a kid?
Honestly, no. As a kid, I just figured beating up racist assholes was part of the deal. It wasn’t until much later that I realized that getting into daily brawls wasn’t quite normal. Luckily, I have a talent at being punchy so I didn’t mind. Besides that, I was much more preoccupied with things like girls, comic books, football, and hanging out with my friends than thinking about my racial identity. Shit of that nature didn’t mean much to me in those days. In a lot of ways, it still doesn’t. I’d still rather be chasing tail.
Has that informed your playwriting?
I'm really excited about joining Youngblood, but I doubt it can be all it's cracked up to be. Tell me something that really fucking sucks about it.
I'd like to hear about your theater company. How did it get started?
My buddy Robert Ross Parker and I started Vampire Cowboys in graduate school as a reaction to seeing our younger undergraduate peers doing plays like Hedda Gabler, Doll’s House, Three Sisters, etc. We saw how thoroughly bored they were with the whole thing. And the sad part was, they really seemed to believe this was what theatre was suppose to be – that it wasn’t something that they could connect to, that could be about them and for them. They were being trained that theater was always these bad productions of old dusty plays. With this in mind, Robert and I got fired up and created what would become our our first piece together, Vampire Cowboy Trilogy. The reaction we received was overwhelming. After that, we kept making shows together, moved to NYC, and kept it going here with always the same thought in mind – to make shows that were fucking fun to watch yet bold enough to kick you in your crotch (metaphorically speaking, of course) when you least expect it.
What's its mission?
To create and produce new works with an emphasis on stage violence and dark comedy with a comic book edge. To actively pursue the mating of different genres (Film noir, Teenage Comedies, Horror, Sci-Fi, etc.) and conventions (Musicals, Dance, Puppetry, etc.) to create an eclectic structure to tell its stories.
What the hell is a Vampire Cowboy?
A cowboy bitten by a vampire.
You're also a fight choreographer. How did you get involved in that?
I went to Louisiana Tech University for undergrad which has one of the most intensive stage combat programs in America. My instructor, Mark Guinn, saw that I had a talent at this stuff, so he encouraged me to pursue being a fight director. Years later, I’m still doing it. It's fun.
Do you write plays with a lot of fighting in them?
Have you ever staged or been involved in a fight-choregraphic fiasco?
In undergrad, I played a werewolf in a “Haunted Trail” that was hosted by my theatre department. My job was to attack the tour guides as they led their groups through the grounds. All the guides were trained actor/combatants which meant the attack was a pretty elaborate choreographed fight . A really fun bit to watch. However, due to back-up and a huge surplus in demand, a last minute tour guide was added into the mix to help bring more people through the trail at a greater frequency. The new guide was not taught the fight and no on bothered to radio me about the change, so when I jumped out of the bushes to attack, the new guide freaked and actually slugged me in the head with a mag light (a metal flashlight for those who don't know). It was the first and only time I have ever been knocked out. That shit hurt.
You say you're a fan of both football and comic books. On a purely stereotypical level those things seem diametrically opposed. In high school, did your 'football self' ever try to beat up your 'comic book self?
My comic book self is also a ninja. So . . . no.
How old were you when you wrote your first play?
What was it about?
The apocalyse, God, dinosaurs, and one really horny angel of death.
What is your next play about?
It’s called MEN OF STEEL. It’s about superheroes, luchadores, and an indestructible drag queen out to save the world. It goes up at CENTER STAGE, NY in MARCH 2007. It’ll be awesome. For more info, goto www.vampirecowboys.com
- Qui Nguyen as interviewed by Matt Schatz, 11/2006
Friday, November 17, 2006
Delaney Britt Brewer seems like a really nice person. Here she responds gamely to my questions:
DID YOU GO TO YOUR HIGH SCHOOL PROM? IF SO, DID YOU ENJOY IT? IF NOT, WHY?
Prom: Okay, that's a weird question for me because I went to three different high schools. The junior prom, I actually had to work. At a place, and maybe you're familiar, called chi chi's. The loose translation is: a women's breasts, boobs, what have you. I was a hostess. I was on my third highschool at that point. I washed the menues down. However, my senior year, a quiet junior asked me to the prom. I had little to no interaction with him, and the painful memory of enchilada stained khaki's and teenage heartache pulled me to a yes. I went. He kept trying to lure me to his abode, claiming, 'my parents are at a Celine Dion concert, they'll be out all night'. How all night can a night be with Celine? Hmmm....Did I enjoy it? I mean, you know, where did you come from Cotton Eye Joe...
DESCRIBE THE WORST YEAR OF YOUR LIFE.
Yipes, the worst year of my life would have to be when I graduated, kinda, college and was saving up to move to New York City. I cocktailed at an Irish Pub. Sometimes I dressed like Brittney Spears, Catholic school girl style. Just for the tips. The bartenders were mean. The clientele was ridiculous. I used to run my hand down the window slowly, like Kate Winslet in Titanic, and think, this is not my life.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE FACT THAT EVERY DAY IN THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES HUNDREDS OF PEOPLE GET THEIR ANUSES PROFESSIONALLY BLEACHED?
Anal bleaching must have been what Sting was raving about in that Fields of Gold song.
WHERE DID YOU GROW UP?
I grew up all over the place. North Carolina, then Germany, then California, then Wisconsin, then back to N.C. All had an equal impact. Though I claim North Carolina. Raise up, take your shirt off, twist it around your head like a helicoptor.
IF YOU HAD TO SPEND AN EVENING SPOONING WITH A FAMOUS NOVELIST, WHICH FAMOUS NOVELIST WOULD YOU SPOON?
Do they have to be alive now? Well my favorites are Carson McCullers or John Kennedy Toole. Though, that sounds like a depressing evening with either of those. I'd rather have a saucy evening and get drunk. So, Anais Nin.
DO YOU REMEMBER THE FIRST PLAY YOU EVER SAW? IF SO...UM, TELL ME ABOUT IT.
I think it was this adaptation of a southern novel, called Rainey. It was a community theater type of event. Either that, or Annie, after which I developed an obsession with the musical. My parents feared I'd become an Annie the Musical groupie, and sell merch to make a living.
- Delaney Britt Brewer as interviewed by Annie Baker, 11/2006
On August 5, 2006 a great storm shook the Catskills. What did Youngblood do? The obvious: they went swimming. (Note: Graeme looks smaller than everyone else not because he is further back but because he is actually only three feet tall in real life.)
1. Follow instructions listed. Please cut and paste your 'about me' section from your most used internet social networking account(i.e. myspace, friendster, etc.) into the space provided:
I don’t actually belong to an internet social networking thingie. Whenever I try to describe myselfit gets way too disturbing. I will say that I like talking long walks in my boots with the orthopedic insoles.
2. Pyramids. Built by the ancient Egyptians, or constructed by visiting Martians? Consider this before you reply: http://www.circlethepyramid2007.com/photopages/photo_abydos.htm
Britt? The Pyramids don't exist.
3. Okay, so 'method' actors (like Daniel Day Lewis)completely immerse themselves in roles (gangster, boxer, left foot user). It seems like they always choose sexy roles though. Describe the process of such an actor playing either Mr. Craig the high school guidance counselor, or Lance the assistant manager at Structure?
I was a male high school guidance for many years before I moved to New York and became an angry25-year-old woman. During that period of my life, I listened to a lot of “Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me” on NPR, read the complete works of Pema Chodron, and refused to touch my wife.
4. Compare and contrast the first cassette tape youever owned (maxi single or full length), to the most recent music purchase you've made? What is the correlation?
Uh…I think the first cassette tape I ever bought was a“They Might Be Giants” album. The one with “BirdhouseIn Your Soul” on it. I thought that “They Might BeGiants” were like the wittiest band EVER. I was in seventh grade. I think the most recent music purchaseI made was this four-volume box set called “Anthems InEden: British and Irish Folk, 1958-1970.” It has someof the worst music ever performed on it. It isincredible. Similarities: both purchases are very,very white, like maybe as white as you can get.Differences: They Might Be Giants are kind of tongue-in-cheek. I guess. Or at least I thought so when I was twelve. “The Luke That Never Was” by Trader Horne may be the most earnest song ever written.
5. You recently met someone that you were amazed by,the whole time thinking to yourself, "Damn, I wish I could do that." What is that?
I think schmooze? I don’t know how to schmooze. I wishI were better at schmoozing. I also sometimes see abeautiful woman wearing a beautiful coat, and I think:“I wish I had that coat.”
6. Seriously though: I have to go on a bike ride right now because it's 67 degrees in the middle of November, but, what is the current project that you're working on and what are your hopes for it?
I’m working on a play called “Selected Letters” about a depressed 26-year-old guy named Skaggs. It is alsoabout a 19th century fictional lady poet namedElizabeth Collins. It is also about Elliott Smith. Ireally, really hope it’s not boring.
- Annie Baker as interviewed by Delaney Britt Brewer, 11/2006
What inspires you to write?
The simple answer is, that I really enjoy it. Writing plays has never been an especially romantic and mysterious thing for me. I see writing as a tangible skill that I enjoy exercising – like building birdhouses or making macramé wall hangings. I think I finally matured into a “career” playwright when I first admitted to myself that writing is a thing I like and that it doesn’t necessarily have to be anything more complicated than that. I don’t have to – and don’t – strive to change the world with every play I write. Writing is just a tangible skill I use to process the world, and I think everyone in some form does what they do in order to processes their experiences. And, frankly, I find it really inspiring when people do things they truly enjoy without concern as to how it defines them or what it means to others. (Of course, this excludes illegal behavior.)
The complicated answer lies somewhere in the core of my reptilian brain. Sometimes I feel that writing is a little like breathing.
Why do you get out of bed every morning?
The prospect of bed sores freaks me out.
And I have stuff to do. I have a pretty healthy work ethic, thanks to my mother insisting I make my own lunches from about the second grade on.
What do you want people to say about you behind your back?
“Here lies David St. Hubbins… And why not?” Wait, that’s what I want my tombstone to say. I mean, wait a minute, that’s how David St. Hubbins responds to Marty DiBergi’s request for him to write his own epitaph in This Is Spinal Tap.
Aside from sentiments of appreciation about all things related to my back – the pleasing discoloration of my leather shoulder bag, the cut of my sportcoat, my ass – I would hope that the root of popular opinion about me lies in my being a generally nice, open person.
Does your sex life make you who you are?
Lately, no. Though my parents’ sex life made me who I am.
If you could close your eyes in one place and open them in another, where would your start be? Where would your end be?
I wouldn’t mind closing my eyes in the middle of a busy shift at work and to open them at the opening night of one of my plays. Other than that, I’m pretty good with where I am right now. I mean, I like my apartment just fine.
What is the first and last book you have read?
I don’t remember the first book I read because I grew up watching hours and hours of television and rarely – if ever – read. Perhaps I can make this clearer – I was the kid who wrote reports on Choose Your Own Adventure books.
The last book I read is Knut Hamsun’s Growth Of The Soil. He’s an incredible Norwegian writer who once publicly ridiculed Henrik Ibsen (to his face!) at a lecture. Oh, and when you read his fantastic books (start with Hunger), try to forget that he was a Nazi sympathizer. It was a, ahem, complicated time for Norway…
Do you like my shoes?
Yes, they’re stylish and sensible.
What type of music makes you feel alive?
I am an unapologetic indie-rock geek. (Though unlike most indie-rock geeks, I’m very non-judgmental when it comes to the musical tastes of others. Just ask anyone I helped out when I worked at the record store in college.) Thanks to my extremely cool older brother, I have no musical skeletons in my closet. Not even during the lean years of the late 80s. (And, by the way, I have no remorse, absolutely none, for buying Motley Crüe’s “Shout At The Devil” on vinyl.)
Music means a lot to me. The first thing I do when I wake up or come home is turn on the stereo. I alphabetize my CDs. I check and re-check music websites. I listen to my iPod on shuffle whenever I’m on the subway. Get me into a conversation about music – over a beer or two – and I can geek out for hours. And if you approached me – without being coaxed – to say that American Music Club never made a bad album (not even “United Kingdom”), we might just be friends forever.
As far as how music figures into my writing, I’m partial to indie rock – unsurprisingly – but like listening to jazz while working on rewrites.
Are you proud of the first play you ever wrote?
I’m very proud of the first play I ever wrote. (I’m not counting that scene I wrote and that my drama class performed in front of all the kids of the high school at an assembly. I think I specifically remember seeing a nerd getting pummeled by a group of staple-spitting cholos.) My first proper play – A Dying Art – is the rawest, most visceral thing I’ve written. It’s about an electronics repairman who has dreams of becoming the world’s greatest snuff filmmaker and ends up dying for his own film because he believes too deeply in the power of his “art.” Well before I had any right to, I think I was calling out artists for being self-centered, manipulative, and disgusting in the pursuit of their “art.” I think that’s pretty ballsy for a young kid.
I was more vicious back then.
Where do you get your character names from?
They always – almost always – are metaphorically relevant to the characters’ roles in the story they’re telling. And they should sound kind of cool. And if not cool, right. We all know how weird it can be to meet a “Jim” who looks more like a “Dan.”
- Michael Sendrow as interviewed by Courtney Brooke Lauria, 11/2006
Thursday, November 16, 2006
Playwright, songwriter, trained assassin.
Okay, maybe not a trained assassin. Maybe just a junior league amateur assassin.
Either way, don't fuck with him - he'll kill you.
Anyway, here's some shit on the Schatz:
What's the shittiest play you've ever written?
I entered a contest about two years ago held by the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia to write a play about the 19th century actor Edwin Forrest. I called the play "Hiss" which is actually almost an anagram of "Shit." Almost.
Regardless of its shittiness, what still makes this play completely awesome?
I never got a letter from them. I found out I'd not won by reading of the wining entry in the newspaper. I was pissed. Here I'd spent like a month on this shitty play, done research, paid a fee to enter; I figured I was at least owed a letter.
So I wrote them an email. They replied and thanked me for submitting the play and wished me luck on finding a home for it. I wrote back saying, "There is no home for the play, it's useless to me. I'd just as soon burn it."
A few days later I got a nice letter from them explaining how much they liked my play and how they hoped I don't burn it. That was was nice of them.
What was the question again?
So you're a songwriter, huh? If Youngblood had a themesong, what would be the chorus?
Youngblood is a lively little troupe
Though maybe a depraved and dirty one
And it's the only "under-thirty" playwright's group
With a median age of about thirty-one
(The chords for that are as follows: G, C, G, C, G, Em, C, C)
What genre of music would the "Youngblood themesong" be catergorized?
Would the Youngblood themesong be something a person would want to be playing in the background as they were making sweet love? If not, why didn' t you write a better song?
No one would want to make sweet love to it. I write what I know.
If you and all the new members of Youngblood (Britt, Michael, Emily, Justin, Jihan, and yourself) were stranded out at sea and you ended up having to slay one and eat them, who would it be and why?
I'd slay Michael and Justin with plans to populate the island with Britt, Emily and Jihan.
Once the girls get wind of my plans, I'm sure they'll slay and eat me. It probably would be for the best.
Speaking of eats, what's your feelings on Arby's roast beef sandwiches?
I like them fine. I like fast food. I have horrible eating habits. Can you pick one up for me?
If Graeme and RJ were to get into a fist fight and both were to turn to you and say "Yo, get my back", which one would you end up punching?
I guess I'd punch RJ. I don't care for either one of them to be honest.
And, of course, any plays, performances, gigs coming up that the public should know about? And why should they show up?
My Sloan commission "The Tallest Building in the World" is scheduled to have a spring workshop as part of the "First Light Festival." I'm still working on the play. Either it will be the best Sloan play ever written or I'll have to change my answer for question 1. Either way, I hope to see you there!
- Matt Schatz as interviewed by Qui Nguyen, 11/2006
What brought you to playwriting? Why write plays as opposed to writing novels, or acting, or, even, practicing medicine? I don't have a great answer for that one; I just write, I get ideas or funny lines and I write them down. I enjoy my daydreams and my ideas about what someone should be doing or saying, and I just write. I have to try to enjoy one part of my life. I don't want to be in a cube forever.
If you weren't pursuing playwriting, what would you be doing? It hurts my brain to think of an answer for this question
What is or was your greatest experience in playwriting, to date? When I was having a reading at NYSAF and one of the actors was fighting with the director on how the lines should be delivered... The actor was right. He knew exactly how that character should have sounded, and I was so proud to see him fight. I felt like my writing was being understood without the actors or the reader knowing me.
Alternatively, what has been your biggest playwriting fiasco to date? Although I like the word "fiasco," I can't think of anything. Sorry to let ya down.
Whose work do you most admire? The only writer that has ever kept me interested was Roald Dahl. From James and the Giant Peach to Switch Bitch, I love the way he writes.
What excites you most about theatre? What enrages you most about it? One answer for both: Limitations. You are so limited in the space that you have, which is good to keep your mind on track on what to write, but also sometimes your ideal vision is cut because "Oh yeah, you have no budget."
What do you hate most about writers? I love everyone.
What themes do you find are consistent in your work? I always write about families. Questioning the structure of a family, what makes it up, what relationships will crumble and which ones will hold firm.
What is the weirdest thing that has ever happened to you? When I went to Emerson I had a roommate who had some emotional problems, it is a very long story, but it ended with her getting angry with me and physical with me and she locked me in our dorm room closet... I'm not making this up, she locked me in the closet and ran away for 2 days and then ended up in a psych hospital outside of Boston -- the same hospital from Girl, Interrupted.
What is the grossest food you've ever eaten? I am still getting use to sushi, and the first time I had sushi with wasabi already in it, that was pretty gross. I do like spice, but it was a different kind of heat... I just started shouting, "What's happening to me? What's happening to me?" It was a gross act all around.
- Courtney Brooke Lauria as interviewed by Michael Sendrow, 11/2006
Thursday, November 02, 2006
A ONE NIGHT ONLY EVENT!
REVAMPED: THE SUPERHERO DIARIES
Five all-new adventures by NYC's hottest playwrights:
Chad Beckim (...A Matter of Choice; 'Nami)
Andrea Ciannavei (Pretty Chin Up)
James Comtois (The Adventures of Nervous Boy)
Graeme Gillis (Charlie Blake's Boat; The Moon Bath Girl)
Lloyd Suh (Masha No Home)
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 19, 2006 @ 8pm
at BOWERY POETRY CLUB (308 Bowery, NYC)
For tickets, CLICK HERE!
For more info: goto www.vampirecowboys.com