I first heard about Michael Albanese when Michael’s wife, the terrific Wynn Everett, told me how terrific her husband is. And that his plays are also terrific.
Now look, I was really glad that Wynn thought so highly of her own husband. But, you know, when a wife gushes about her spouse, you take it with a grain of salt.
But it turns out, spousal bias or not, Wynn is entirely right. Michael is really intelligent and really compassionate—as are his plays. And as I found out—and you’re about to find out—his writing spaces reflect this as well…
Me: All three writing spaces you’ve photographed for me make my mouth water. They are all so classy and elegant! Like, ripped from the pages of “Better Homes & Gardens!” How did this amazing design aesthetic come to pass?
Michael: I think this came to pass because we used to live in New York, and New York, for many years and many reasons, forced us to become creative with very little space. So, now that we live in Los Angeles, we’ve more or less re-created multiple work spaces because we have more room to play with. As far as the design, my wife, Wynn, and I dream of living in a cottage or cabin so our aesthetic is inspired by that.
Me: On a scale of 1 to 10, how much did you clean up/prepare these spaces before taking the photos?
Michael: If 1 is the least amount of preparation—
Michael: Then I would say 2. I am very anal-retentive—maybe “particular” is more appropriate—and organized. I need order and structure. And I just work best when I can enter a space as if it is already prepared for me to work. I don’t know when that will be, so why not keep things continuously neat? It drives my wife crazy, but that’s for another interview.
Me: “The Wife’s Rebuttal” interview—that’s a good idea! In the meantime, let’s start with the table with your computer on it. The one you kindly identify on your monitor as “one of the places where you write!” What is this space we’re looking at, and why does writing with your computer there work for you?
Michael: Writing here is inspiring sentimentally. This is an old school desk from the 1940’s. I bought it at a flea market in New York over 15 years ago for $40.
Me: I love a good bargain—and it’s beautiful!
Michael: I have always loved this desk because it’s the only workspace I ever really had in New York. I wrote my first play and screenplay at this desk and it has traveled with me through multiple apartments in New York and now here in Los Angeles. The computer itself is practically an antique, so I use it less these days and just write longhand on the desk.
Me: So is there a different computer that you use? Or are you a longhand-first kind of writer? Tell me a little more about that process for you.
Michael: I’ve always written my first draft longhand. I’ve had the same mechanical pencil since high school—I guess, that, too, is an antique—and there is something fulfilling about writing longhand, because it is not just the act of writing, but it is literally…writing. I also am a big eraser. I erase a lot and like the act of writing something, then literally erasing it with my “Pink Pearl” eraser. By the time I’m done writing and erasing, I’m ready for transcribing. When I type the words on the computer—I really wanted to lie and say “by the time I type the words on the typewriter,” but maybe I’m not really the purist I think I am—I am in edit mode.
Me: I think anyone who can reference their “Pink Pearl” eraser—I remember those!—is still very much a purist at heart. And how about the sweet writing desk in your second photo? What do you use that space for?
Michael: I use this writing desk to write in my journal.
Me: How does writing in your journal “translate” into your work with your plays and screenplays?
Michael: Writing in my journal is very personal and probably my most insular form of writing. I know it greatly impacts any fiction I write. I can’t really identify how and where and why the journal writing translates to my other work, but I know, inexplicably, it does. Journal writing is for an audience of one and if we can’t be real, raw and transparent with ourselves there, then I suspect we can’t be that in the writing that demands a larger audience.
Me: What about that stunning painting on the wall behind this writing desk? It’s a beautiful piece, but it really, really demands attention—at least from me. Does it affect your journal writing at that space, the thoughts that you have?
Michael: I love that painting and the painter. His name is Jim Varketta. He’s here in Los Angeles. Wynn and I met him when we first moved here and have bought several of his paintings. Apart from some Chagall prints we have framed, the only original artwork in our home is Jim’s. We even commissioned him to do an abstract painting of the West Village, which now hangs above our bed to remind us of our favorite neighborhood. Yes, there is a lot of energy and action in that painting—one friend doesn’t like it all, he says it scares him. It does demand attention and you would think it would distract me, but it doesn’t. It’s become part of the creative/home environment.
Me: I think that’s really wonderful. And I like the notion that you have a singular visual artist whose work is the creative through-line throughout your home. The final photo you sent me I’m calling the “Café Corner.” I might seriously break into your house and work there. Do you think I’m kidding? Because I’m not.
Michael: Please break in and work here, but let us know ahead of time so we can just leave the door open. Otherwise, our 96-year old Polish landlord may beat you with his cane.
Me: Good advice then! Those windows/doors and that light are so fantastic. And the fabric on those chairs…
Michael: I credit the chairs to my wife and her bohemian aesthetic.
Me: What really puts the cherry on top of this “Café Corner”—the guitar! Do you play? And how does music in general relate to your writing process?
Michael: I wish I could play the guitar, but I don’t. That is Wynn’s, and one of her alternative creative outlets. She doesn’t play it enough, so it spends most of the time looking out the window. But music absolutely relates to my writing process. I cannot write without it. Nothing is more immediate than music and where some writers I know need complete silence, I need to hear somebody else working in order for me to get to work.
Me: What is the notebook on that cute small table?
Michael: That is my notebook for a film I am working on.
Me: And are those two plays on the left-hand corner?
Michael: They are two of my favorite books about art: “Art and Fear” and “The War of Art.” They are in my top five must-reads for any artists who regularly confront the struggles of creating something out of nothing.
Me: I have not read either. So now I will. And is that an Obama mug?
Michael: I am not political enough to have a Presidential mug, although my neighbors would love to see Obama sitting in my window. That is a Jack’s Coffee mug. Jack is a good friend who owns my favorite coffee shop in the world in the West Village. It was my home away from home. And, besides the little school desk, my other constant workspace. I drink coffee from it to remind me of the large, inspiring community that exists in that small space on West 10th Street.
Sara Israel is a writer and director living in Los Angeles.