Friday, April 4, 2008

Interview with James Price

Back to Playwrights Foundation

Check out In The Rough Reading Series

James Price’s Collision Course will receive a reading on Tuesday, April 8th as part of PF’s In The Rough Reading Series, and will be presented at the Ashby Stage, hosted by the Shotgun Players. 

James has spent the last twenty years building an impressive career as a Broadway and off-Broadway actor and musician, performing in the critically acclaimed Batboy: the Musical, touring internationally with Les Miserables, and producing and writing all the songs for award-winning actress Kaitlin Hopkins’ debut CD, Make Me Sweat, available at

Recently, James decided to become a playwright and talks about this transition in an exclusive interview on our PF Blog:

PF:  You're wife is coming out to the Bay Area to direct your reading.  Have you and your wife worked together before?  What about working with your wife is/will be different than working with a someone less familiar?

JP:  I have been fortunate to work with my wife on a number of occasions.  We actually met working on the original New York production of BAT BOY--THE MUSICAL. We were both actors at the time, but we have worked together many times since then both as actors and in the writer-director relationship. She has a dramaturgical flair as well, and being able to look up from my computer at just about any time during the day and instantly get her feedback on tone, direction--even how individual characters sound, is an amazing gift for a playwright.  When we get into the rehearsal room, she's already way ahead of the game.


PF:  As someone who's had a long professional career on Broadway, what brings you to playwriting?  How do you feel about working in theatre from behind the text?

FP:  I love it. As and actor, I spent a significant part of my career doing workshops and readings of new plays and musicals in New York.  It's a fascinating environment because you get exposure to all the upcoming stuff on and off Broadway before anyone else sees it. I've always been a writer, mostly a songwriter, but as an avocation, not as a profession.  At one point a few years ago, I found myself really under-whelmed with the new projects I was seeing and doing and complaining about them more and more. Bad writing. Weak music. I finally decided to stop complaining and try to write something myself. I found that writing a play or musical was a long and difficult process, much harder than I had ever comprehended it to be as an actor, but one that I absolutely loved as a writer.  Making that transition was the best decision I ever made.


PF:  Your piece in the ITR Reading Series is called Collision Course.  What would you say are the origins of this play?  What about this play is particularly engaging to you?

JP:  This play started out as a series of unconnected monologues. I was exploring different environments in which people have a reason to directly address a group without any interaction with the group. At one point in this exploration, my wife was listening to some of the monologues and she said, "These are all characters in the same play.  It's just not necessarily linear." I thought about that for a while, and Collision Course is what emerged from that dialogue. It's great having a director in the house.


PF:  You've studied economics at the University of Michigan, before you studied at ACT in San Francisco and then went to New York to start your career.  Can you talk a little about how you made the jump between economics and performance?

JP:  Yeah, people are always confused by that. I grew up performing as a musician. I started studying classical guitar at seven and was already performing professionally by the time I was eleven. Not a lot of classical guitar players in Michigan. I started writing songs in my teens, performing them and winning local talent shows, doing club gigs-- anything to be in the spotlight. While at Michigan, I sang with a male octet called THE FRIARS, which was a high visibility close harmony group on campus that was basically a musical comedy act.  I loved the live audience interaction.  I took a year off after graduation (I intended to go back to Michigan to Law School) moved to Chicago and took a couple of acting classes with Jane Brody at the Audition Center.  I was hooked. I started getting cast in shows, and the rest is history. And now I'm a playwright. Who'd a thunk it.

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