Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Interview with Melissa James Gibson

Current Nobody Director Jonathan Spector speaks with Melissa about the play and her process. Just Theater presents the West Coast Premiere of Current Nobody November 14-December 13 at the Exit Theater.

Jonathan Spector: You have a very idiosyncratic way of writing dialogue, which seems to both mimicking the rhythms of actual human speech while creating a very specific kind of heightened language. Can you talk about how you evolve this style of writing?

Melissa James Gibson: It's really just an effort to capture the way I hear things, the way peoples' thought processes are reflected in the way they speak--all the self-edits, misfires, revisions and pauses that surround and inform, and sometimes form, human expression.

JS: In so many ways this piece appears at first glance to be an extremely loose adaptation, yet on the plot points and structure it’s actually very faithful to the original. How did the process of adaptation differ for you from writing an original work?

MJG: Well, it's both thrilling and daunting to be grappling with source material of genius. My hope was to honor that material by turning it on its head, while also retaining its heart. At the same time, I've dispensed with many elements that didn't feel germane to my particular take (and, of course, plays and epic poems are different beasts).

JS: Current Nobody is a project that had a somewhat lengthy development process. So much of the play deeply integrates the dialogue with the physical action and design in such a way that it’s all completely interdependent. How much of the physical action of a piece do you conceive in the writing, and how much do you typically develop while working on it with actors and a director?

MJG: The short answer to the two parts of the question is A, lots, and B, lots. I think about the architecture of my play worlds carefully, and in ambitious and sometimes unrealizable terms--the Brooklyn bridge is assembled before our eyes, for example--and then rely on the visions of talented designers and directors to imagine ways of elegantly executing these notions in three dimensions. The actors we work with in first productions play an important investigatory role, as well.

JS: What's up next for you?

MJG: I'm working on commissions for playwrights horizons and the Atlantic Theater company; a musical with composer Michael Friedman and director Mark Brokaw for Center Theatre group; and a film for a small independent company.

An Excerpt from Current Nobody

This is good This is good I’m doing
good I feel good

(Tel makes a small cry. Od rocks the crib.)

She’s been gone

(Od look at his watch.)

six no seven and a half hours and it hasn’t felt like more than five and
I support her decision to do this
as I always support her decision to do this This
is the woman I married I feel good

My wife has
places to go people to shoot in thirty-five millimeter
wars to cover wars to capture and no one captures atrocity like Pen
Everyone says so everyone says
she’s got an eagle eye and a daring heart and My Wife
needs to see things first-hand God I miss her hand It’s okay It’s okay

She’s Never Not Come Back and
it’s just for one or two weeks
This is good

(Od looks at his watch and then crosses over to the sleeping Tel.)

said the general said this was a
Besiege Becalm Begone type of thing and
she said the general said In And Out and
generals are generally right

I mean I’m not one of those children
I mean I’m not one of those people who wanted to have children but didn’t want to have to raise them Well
I am a little bit like that I guess or I was until I met you
And you just fall in love you do
But you know when there’s so much you want to accomplish
(large exhale)
Parenting is a complicated mathematical equation
to which there is no known solution
It’s easy for us all to say we put our children first but a messy and contradictory business in practice or I mean
that’s what I’ve heard
Was it awful all the time

No no
not all the time
not at all
I mean
definitely dad was in despair a good bit
And I was in despair mostly too but
We did try to you know stagger our despair
unsuccessful though we were