Saturday, July 3, 2010

Meet your 2010 Festival Playwrights, Week 6: Introducing Yussef El Guindi!

Each week we will be posting an interview with one of the playwrights featured in this year's 2010 Bay Area Playwrights Festival.  We are thrilled to be working with Yussef El Guindi to develop his new play Three Wolves and a Lamb.  " Funny, sexy, and irreverent ", this exciting production explores the love and the tension between a Palestinian and Jewish married couple as they face a series of personal revelations while planning a children's peace camp.  Come see it at Thick House at 8 pm on Saturday, July 24 and Saturday, July 31 at 4pm.  

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

My failure as an actor was my main push into becoming a playwright. None of the graduate schools for acting accepted me. I’d applied to one graduating playwriting program (Carnegie Mellon University) as a back up plan since I also dabbled in writing (being an English Lit major). When CMU accepted me into their program, my first thought was, “oh crap, now what do I do?”

I never really thought of myself as a playwright until I stopped all thoughts of acting some time in the latter part of the nineties.

 2.   What inspired the creation of your play Three Wolves and a Lamb?  Tell us a little about the process of writing this piece.

The inspiration, truthfully, stemmed from a back ache. I had lain down to meditate, hoping a little deep breathing and relaxation would help with the pain. Within a few minutes of relaxation, the first line of the play came: “God damn. There are so many pork products in this fridge, you'd think there were a couple of Christians living here.” I jumped up (in pain) and started writing the play.

This play came in a rush. A rush for me is two months. Most plays for me take nine months to a year to complete (I’m that slow)....I had for a while been wanting to write an all out politically inflected comedy. My other pieces of late had been somewhat dour, so I was looking to have fun. I’m not sure why I thought wading into the Palestinian/ Israeli imbroglio might be fun, but some little imp in my imagination must have thought so.

Early on I worried that I would have to go into, and itemize, the history and grievances of this conflict. I didn’t want to do that and start splitting the audiences into “for” and “against”. Thankfully, I think I found a way to address what needed to be addressed without wading in into specifics. That can wait for another play. (Though I do glance by some issues.)

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

The main discovery to be had in a festival process is of course, does the play work? And with a comedy, that will become apparent pretty early on. I’m sure I will be making many adjustments, changes, as I hear the play in front of an audience. I will hear what lands, what needs cutting, what I can expand on, etc. Where do I lose the audience? How can I fix those moments, etc.

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

Immediately after the festival, in mid-August, I am workshopping another play called Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World with ACT theater and the Icicle Theater Festival. Hopefully it will be a nice hot summer of creativity and rewriting.

 5.   Desert Island Top Five Plays, go!

Well, lets the top of my head:

Edward Albee: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  
Eugene O'Neill: Long Day's Journey into Night
Eugene O'Neill: Mourning Becomes Electra
Tennessee Williams: Suddenly, Last Summer / Clifford Odets: Waiting for Lefty (two one-acts count as one play, yes?)
Shelagh Delaney: A Taste of Honey

For more information on Yussef El Guindi and the play, and to see a Festival Calendar of Events, please visit our website:
The 2010 Bay Area Playwrights Festival takes place JULY 23 - AUGUST 1, 2010 at the Thick House in Potrero Hill, SF.

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