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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