Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Meet Christopher Sullivan
Newly minted Younblooder Christopher Sullivan was interviewed by fellow newbie, Rachel Bonds. This is what he had to say.
Rachel Bonds: Where did you grow up?
Christopher Sullivan: I grew up in Warwick, New York, which is a sleepy little town about an hour north of NYC in Orange County. It's a popular fall destination for city goers who want to go apple picking and attend our annual "Apple Fest" (the name more or less sums it up). Growing up there I couldn't wait to get out, but now whenever I'm home I try and stay as long as I can to see my family and take in the foliage. Being so close to New York also sort of tainted my view of what a city is, because my idea of a city was completely shaped by this one, so when I began traveling and visiting others there was a certain disappointment. It makes it hard to imagine living somewhere else.
RB: How would you describe your work? Are there elements/themes/ideas you find yourself returning to again and again?
CS: I'm terrible at answering this. It depends. I tend to go back and forth between a very naturalistic style, where I try and really pin point how people speak and act, to a more heightened, "poetic" (I hate calling it that) language where the characters are a little more free
with their words. I feel like in the past couple years I've really expanded my horizons in terms of a character's language. I like to work with monologues. I've been trying to let the surreal happen and mix into the real world as if it's no big deal. That's something I find really interesting. I had a character who ate flowers when she was nervous.
As far as subject matter goes it usually lingers around couples, relationships, families. America always seems to make it in there. My plays are sort of always a half hearted, tongue in cheek love letter to America.
RB: What do you find frustrating in theater? And what do you find exciting?
CS: I've always been frustrated by the inaccessibility of theater. Number one, it's expensive. Even downtown off off Broadway stuff is almost always going to cost at least 20 dollars. That's crazy. Sure, I understand all the costs that go along with producing theater, but when you think about the kinds of art that are cheaper, or even free, it's no wonder the theater has a tough time attracting new audiences. I feel like every time I go to the theater the audience is almost
always much, much older, and when it's not, it's younger people who already work within the theater. So there's this exclusive, stuffy, formal atmosphere that I find totally uninteresting. And I guess a lot of people are just used to that. Most of my friends are in the music world, so I'm going to a lot of smaller shows and I've talked to countless people who would love to go see plays but have no idea where they are, what to see, and then don't have the money to drop 30-40 bucks on a play they would otherwise probably completely enjoy. It's a goal of mine, and I know a goal of many others, to try and make theater more accessible to someone who on a Friday night would go have a drink and see a band, to try and get that person to go to a play too.
Because, to answer the other question, there is something wonderful and exciting about theater that you don't get out of other art forms. To be in a room with actors where anything can happen is a great thing, and I think people who don't go see plays often have a sort of antiquated view of what theater is and does, and how fun it is, and how so many new playwrights and artists are doing these exciting, hilarious, touching things. To me theater is like a 'best of' of other kinds of performance. It's got everything.
RB: Any artists/writers/companies you find particularly inspiring lately?
CS: A few years ago Will Eno really changed the way I thought about writing plays. There was something so free, an almost disregard for the audience in Eno's words that I was immediately attracted to. There always seems to be a constant frustration in his characters as they contradict themselves over and over, feeling huge emotions and ending in this sort of ambivalence that really struck a chord with me. I got into Adam Rapp not too long after that and really appreciated the dark weirdness to his writing.
There were a lot of good records that came out this year. Probably my favorite so far is by Andrew Cedarmark, a young guy who comes from this community of "buzz" artists in Brooklyn and New Jersey. He plays this fuzzy, garage rock that's both epic and quiet and packs a big punch. You struggle to hear the vocals over the mess of all the music, which is pretty common these days, but there's something about the way he does it that seems to aid the overall experience. Like he's struggling to be heard and you're struggling to figure out what he's saying. I think that's something I like in theater, too.
RB: What are your interests outside of the theater?
CS: I'm a huge news/politics junkie, and spend most of my time reading the paper, listening to NPR/WNYC, or some kind of nerdy news podcast. I have a politics blog and webseries called "Tick Tock with Chris Sullivan" where I play this sort of roving reporter covering fake news stories. (Shameless plug www.ticktockwcs.blogspot.com). I've also made a few short films and hope to work more in film and TV in the future. I work at an events management company/women's rights non-profit owned by a very wealthy French couple, so when I'm not there I'm trying to sleep, out running around seeing music, movies, going to parks with big trees and the like. Right now I'm trying to put together a series of shows at DIY spaces in Brooklyn with short plays in between bands, so we'll see how that goes.