Micro-Interviews: The Playwrights of PLAY/ground 2012

playgroundThe Theatre @ Boston Court presents PLAY/ground, the Annual New Play Festival on Saturday, December 8 and Sunday, December 9.

The Theatre @ Boston Court’s New Play Festival presents works that are in keeping with Boston Court’s mission with a special emphasis on plays which are inherently theatrical, textually rich, and visually arresting.

This year’s lineup includes Pluto by Steve Yockey, Mesmeric Revelation…Before Edgar Allan Poe by Aaron Henne, Modern House by Kira Obolensky, Se Llama Cristina by Octavio Solis and A Public Reading of An Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney by Lucas Hnath.

Below is a brief discussion with each playwright about their work…

BOSTON COURT: This is not the first script you’ve written that’s somehow based on Greek myth. Why do you think you’re drawn back to that source?

STEVE YOCKEY: (Author of Pluto) I have a lot of fun playing with myth because it lends a quick-hit reference to images. Many audiences will identify the images and then immediately begin assigning archetypal qualities that they’ve brought into the theater. That creates a really great short hand for character and context, but it also gives you ready made expectations to tease, subvert, or repurpose in your storytelling.

BOSTON COURT: The process of creating this play was quite different from the traditional methods of playwriting. Can you talk about how this specific technique brought shape and meaning to the script?

AARON HENNE: (Author of Mesmeric Revelation…Before Edgar Allan Poe) The play was developed with Central Works in Berkeley, utilizing a really unique process by which they create a script. Here’s how it works: First, the playwright presents a basic premise along with supporting materials or thoughts and then the show is cast, before a single word is written. The playwright, the director (in this case, I was both), the actors, as well as the sound designer and the co-directors of the company have a series of meetings, during which the writer brings in pages for discussion and the whole team participates in research and dramaturgical consultation. By the end of the series of meetings, with a little extra time built in for rewrites, a draft is produced which will be used in rehearsals and the show production process proceeds. It is similar to most playwriting processes in the sense that there is a sole playwright and the actual writing of the text takes place while the writer is working alone. It is unique, however, in that along the way the writer has the privilege of being challenged to question all of his or her assumptions and to have the exact performance space and collaborators in mind while the piece is being written. By needing to create for some inflexible parameters with constant dramaturgical support, the play actually got closer to the heart of its matter than might have otherwise been possible. Are there struggles with creating a play in a swift manner with no real down time and with many voices in on it? Absolutely. I had to be able to find a way to allow for mystery to take hold, which meant sometimes not being able to have an answer (just yet) for even the most important questions. Overall, however, hearing the inquiries from my partners meant that those questions were there, working their way through my head and through the play.

BOSTON COURT: Modern House asks questions about what it means to be a consumer of art, and what we artists expect of our audience, focusing on the medium of architecture. How did your personal experience as a playwright influence your thinking about these concepts?

KIRA OBOLENSKY: (Author of Modern House) There are so many layers to this question for me. I write plays and I also have written about architecture; there are some interesting parallels I think between the two worlds. For one, I think plays and houses are collaborative forms–they exist because of the vision of more than one person. They both can be inspired as a reaction to something; a conversation with what has come before. Plays find their specific audiences, just as houses are occupied by the people who feel at home there. I think you build a play much like you build a house in terms of its form: in this play, I tried to make the “walls” transparent, with the thought that a play about this sort of house could take some risks with form and could find its metaphor in transparency. I think the question of how we might think of ourself as the consumers–or the creators–of art is an interesting one. Even in a play that is about an architect who blatantly disregards his audience/client, I am always thinking about the audience because it’s the audience that the play ultimately has to have its conversation with. I also believe as a person who interacts with art that its potential to change me often has nothing to do with whether or not I like it.

BOSTON COURT: In the search for identity in SE LLAMA CRISTINA, characters morph into other characters and stories are slippery. How did your writing process differ from your more linear work?

OCTAVIO SOLIS: (Author of Se Llama Cristina) Actually, in SE LLAMA CRISTINA, the characters only morph into themselves. We are different people throughout our lives; I’m not the person I was last year, nor the person I was ten years ago. We are changed by powerful events, some of which take place only in our minds. In my play, the main characters role-play who they were before in order to know who they are now. The past is prologue. Most of my plays fuck with Time in some way. Time is such a binding construct that I regard as inadequate to the stories I want to tell. And physicists have taught us that Time is not real but an invention we created to measure our existence. So I am constantly looking for ways to subvert it in my stories.

Boston Court: You made a very particular choice to have the play presented as a reading. What was the inspiration for this decision, and how does it specifically relate to your subject of Walt Disney?

LUCAS HNATH: (Author of A Public Reading of An Unproduced Screenplay About the Death of Walt Disney) I go to a lot of readings, and I find myself always hyper-aware of the physical script as a kind of track that leads the actors. I see the stack of papers, and I watch the actors flip though the pages, watch as the pile dwindles, until the play is finally over. It’s as if the actors are “on-rails.” And that makes me think of the whole Disney aesthetic: rigorously structured stories, carefully planned theme park environments and rides. You read about Walt, and you see a man who obsessively controls and micromanages people’s experience of his world. I imagine that if Walt were in a play, he would have to sit slightly outside of it–crafting it, cutting it up, snipping out the uncomfortable parts. And of course, he wouldn’t make a play. He would make a screenplay, because he loved the movies. After all, what are those theme parks but his attempt to render the world as a cinematic experience.

Click here to learn more about the plays. To make a free reservation to any of the readings, contact Brandon at 626-683-6883 or via email BrandonD@bostoncourt.com.

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