Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Interview with Thomas Bradshaw

New York City playwright Thomas Bradshaw is coming to the Bay Area this April to workshop his new play Job as part of our in the ROUGH series. He'll also be teaching a class, Provocative Playwriting in our New Play Institute. PF Associate Artistic Director Jonathan Spector spoke with Bradshaw about his career and his goals as a writer.

JONATHAN SPECTOR: You've garnered a reputation over the past few years as a "provocateur" playwright, with characters who behave in shocking, outrageous ways. For instance in PROPHET a character gets a message from God telling him to enslave women, and he attempts to follow through, or in PURITY, two professors travel to Ecuador and "rent" a 9 year-old girl. Yet no matter how terrible the actions of characters in your plays, you never seem to pass judgment on them. How do you approach creating characters with such extreme moral stances?

THOMAS BRADSHAW: First of all the issues that I'm dealing with are part of the landscape of our world. We had a president for eight years that claimed that god told him to do things, including going into Iraq, then on the flip side, we have people who want to blow up the western world in the name of god.

So yes, one might say that my characters behave in shocking, outrageous ways, but I would say that they're frighteningly real.The involuntary prostitution of young girls, teenagers, and women is our modern form of slavery. It wouldn't be a problem if there weren't a high demand for it. Look at the show “To Catch A Predator.” It shows men trying to have sex with young girls and boys by the drove — and the people who were caught engaging in this behavior were rabbis, policeman, priests, doctors, lawyers and teachers. My plays deal forthrightly with serious issues that many people don't care to face. I categorize my plays as hyperrealism. They are like reality on crack — reality with out the boring parts.

Most plays make characters fit neatly into clear moral categories. This is pure artifice. No person is pure good or evil. Everyone fits somewhere in between. To stuff a character into a clear moral category is to make that character inhuman. I try to show the human side of characters that people might rather call monsters.

JS: Do you have an ideal audience in mind for your work?

TB: I think everyone should see my plays.

JS: You studied playwriting with Mac Wellman at Brooklyn college and collaborated a number of times with Young Jean Lee. How have they've influenced your work?

TB: I think we all have a desire to push the boundaries of what theater is and what theater can do.

JS: What's up next for you?

TB: My play The Bereaved is opening in New York at The Wild Project in September. I'm currently working on a commission from The Goodman Theater.

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