Thursday, May 27, 2010

Meet Our Festival Playwrights: J.C. Lee

J.C. Lee's new play Pookie Goes Grenading will be developed as part of the BASH (Bay Area SHorts) program in the 2010 Bay Area Playwrights Festival.  Read more about this prolific young playwright...

1.   How long have you been writing for the theatre?  What was the creative spark that led you to become a playwright?

  • At 17 I was a freshman in college and my roommate (a surly, awesome dude) brought home a flier calling for new plays. I'd always been a writer and he posed a pretty straightforward question: "yo, you always writin' shit an' you always doin' theatre; why don' you juss write theatre?" I'd never ever thought about writing theatre before because, truth be told, up until that very moment, I didn't even realize you could write theatre. That night I wrote a one-act play called The Sleepover that wound up getting produced that spring. Ever since then I've been a playwright. Thanks, surly roommate.

2.   What inspired the creation of your play, Pookie Goes Grenading?  Tell us a little about the process of writing this piece.

  • I've been lucky enough to be surrounded by incredible actors for as long as I can remember. One of them was auditioning for the Bay Area Generals and needed a monologue. I love writing monologues; it's like getting to write the best part of a play without having to do all the hard work of contextualizing it within a dramatic framework that justifies it. So I wrote her one (and coincidentally, that audition landed her a role in the Sleepwalkers Theatre production of my play This World Is Good in August 2010). It went over really well so I thought "what the hell?" and just ran with it. I'd never written anything as outrageous as Pookie before and really wanted to test myself . Plus my husband Adrian, who serves as resident dramaturge in our home, is always nagging me to write a comedy. So I did. Well...we'll see if I did.

3.   What do you hope to discover, improve, or change in your play during the festival process?

  • Ultimately I want this play production ready. That's always my goal in development. I'm lucky enough to have come from a school of thought that recognized the importance and pragmatism of the theatrical form - all developmental roads should lead to production - thus that's always in the forefront of the rewriting I do. At a more nitty gritty level, I'm interested in developing and clarifying character spines and choices, ensuring that the comedy of the piece doesn't mean the characters are sketches instead of people. I never know what that means in terms of discovery, which is why it's so fun to be a playwright.

4.   After the 2010 Bay Area Playwrights Festival, what’s next for you?

  • Sleepwalkers Theatre in San Francisco is producing a trilogy of my plays called This World and After which opens in August with the first play in the trilogy This World Is Good and rolls on all 2010-2011 with Into the Clear Blue Sky (which was a Bay Area Playwrights Festival finalist in 2009) and The Nature Line: all the plays deal with the end of the world, comic books and dorky joy. That project will be keeping me pretty busy all year. I'm also constantly blogging and spitting out new plays. I'll be spending plenty of time dancing, snuggling my cat and exploring various bars throughout the Bay Area.  Also,  I just found out (like a few minutes ago) that I'll be heading to Juilliard for graduate school in 2010-11! 
5.   Desert Island Top Five Plays, go!

  • In no particular order: King Lear, Hamlet, Angels in America, The Piano Lesson & The Pillowman though to be totally honest, if I was stuck on a desert island, I'd much prefer trading plays for hot island boys, an abundant food source and a mosquito net.

JC Lee is a playwright and director whose work has been seen throughout the country. Originally from New York City, he is the former founding Artistic Director of the Omicron Theatre Project and a former faculty member at the Lehigh Valley Charter High School for the Performing Arts. His plays have been seen at The Williamstown...
For more information on J.C. Lee and to see the rest of the festival lineup, please visit our website.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Interview with a Playwright: Aaron Loeb

Abraham Lincoln's Big Gay Dance Party was a smashing success last year in San Francisco, and will premiere off-broadway at the Acorn Theatre on July 27th.  Meet the mad-cap creator of this hilarious play, Aaron Loeb.

Where do you most often find inspiration?
Watching and reading theater most often provides me visual inspiration – ways to accomplish theatrical moments, for instance. But my primary inspiration comes from people – conversations with friends about their passions, the news, watching people be irritating in public spaces...

What one tip can you offer aspiring playwrights?
Writing is solitary, but writers are not. Theater is a collaborative form and to get produced requires a whole long line of people saying “yes.” An aspiring playwright should be out there getting to know their future collaborators, making friends, being helpful and useful. Volunteer for your local theaters. If you have the resources, donate. Be a patron – go see plays. You should know the people in your theater community. Because when you have the script that is ready for production, it’s those same people who are going to have to say “yes” to get it onto the stage – despite the fact that all economic incentive in the theater is for them to say “no.”

And then, when you do get that production, be grateful! Listen to your collaborators and thank them for working with you. No one is obliged to produce your work, no one working on it is making enough money, and any theater producing a new play – even if it’s their entire mission to do so – is taking a risk producing your play in particular. Thank them.

How did you get your start in playwriting? Where and when was this seed planted?
My sister is an actor and I grew up watching her. I knew I wanted to make theater too, And for a long time, I was certain I would be an actor as well. When I was 14 a couple vital things happened – my high school hired a local artist named Jeff Glassman to come and work with the students to write that year’s Fall Play. We wrote it as a group (it was a collection of short scenes) and I was bitten. Then later that year, my high school gave an award to one of its famous graduates, Tina Howe. I think she had just been nominated for a Tony for Coastal Disturbances. She came to our school to speak about playwriting and I had the opportunity to perform a scene I’d written for her. It was thrilling and she was very encouraging (though I’m sure the scene was ghastly). I knew then I wanted to be a playwright. Years later, I ended up studying with Tina at NYU in the Dramatic Writing Program.

What was your most embarrassing high school moment?
Good grief, there are so many. I’m a chronic foot-in-mouth person, primarily because my family subscribes to the sacred belief: “anything for a laugh.” I have more stories than I can recall of saying something I thought would be funny only to have it deeply offend someone. The most embarrassing, though, was that rare case where I did nothing wrong and involves a love letter being read aloud in the student lounge. It went beyond the “embarrassing moment you laugh at years later” to the “embarrassing moment that gives you a painful appreciation of human cruelty.”

Beckett or Stoppard? One word only please.

Aaron Loeb has had plays produced in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Sacramento, Ft. Worth, San Jose, Connecticut, Virginia Beach and Atlanta. He was won two “Best New Play” awards from the San Francisco Bay Area Theater Critics Circle for his plays, First Person Shooter and Abraham Lincoln’s Big, Gay Dance Party, and seven Emerging Playwright Awards from PlayGround. His 10-minute plays have been...

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