Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Interview with a Playwright: Steve Yockey

The 2016 Season of Rough Readings continues with a fresh set of new plays still in development. The March Rough Readings features Mercury from playwright Steve Yockey. We were fortunate enough to ask him some questions about this delightfully dark comedy:

Rachel Finkelstein: Thanks for taking the time to speak with us! Much of your work, Mercury included, is so surreal -- what draws you to that? 

Steve Yockey: I love when anyone says “surrealism.” It’s sexy. But as alluring as that label sounds, I honestly can’t own it. Sure, the mythic qualities are definitely there, the unexpected punctures in the natural world, but all of my work adheres to a pretty strict internal logic. There are rules; we’re driving towards something. 

Steve Yockey
I guess for all intents and purposes, it’s really just dark realism with some pretty grand theatrical gestures. I’ve always been fascinated by taking these intimate, very human stories and placing them right at the edge of something epic in size or unknown. Seeing the scale of those two things create friction. That’s where most of my plays live. Mercury takes something simple and familiar like failing relationships and casts them against the literally immense and horrifying mechanics of a vengeful universe. It’s fun. Or at least it should be fun. 

RF: Because underneath all of those more “mythic” details, the play really is about some deeply dysfunctional relationships. How do you want the audience so feel about relationships when they come away from the play? 

SY: Amused by the terrible choices? Although I’m betting some people will leave identifying with the terrible choices, which would also be pretty great. It’s essentially a dark comedy and only one character of the seven in the play is anywhere even close to being a “good” person. So it’s tricky. Maybe I’d like the audience to come away hoping these characters will become better people. I want to say it’s never too late for anyone, but the play doesn’t really make that case. 

RF: Why do you use so much overlapping speech in Mercury

SY: Oh, that’s something I use in all of my plays. In real life we don’t wait for other people to finish speaking, especially in heated exchanges. And it’s also a way of tuning rhythms and builds, like in a piece of music. 

RF: You write for several different forms of media, including for comics and TV -- how does that compare to playwriting? 

SY: Playwriting lets you be a little bit more ambitious with storytelling. I think that’s the best way to say it. In theatre we ask audiences to suspend their disbelief and imagine a lot more. That means we can take bigger swings.

RF: That's the beauty of it. Thanks again for your time!

The Rough Reading Series is Pay What You Can. The 2016 series continues with "Mercury" by Steve Yockey, playing Monday, March 14th, 7:30pm at Roble Hall, Stanford University and Tuesday, March 15th, 2pm at Custom Made Theatre, San Francisco.

Read more about "Mercury", Steve Yockey, and the Rough Reading Series at  Playwrightsfoundation.org

Save a Seat with an RSVP! Email rsvp@playwrightsfoundation.org or call 415.626.2176.