selfie #8: tim e. (with questions by mila g.)

The awesome Tim E. brought in FIREBIRD this go-round, a gritty and beautiful slice of life play about Brooklyn. Mila, a native Brooklynite herself, questioned him closely in this week’s episode of SELFIES.

#selfies are an ongoing interview series where Lather, Rinse, Repeat playwrights interview one another. They have free reign over the questions. The interviewee must then post an actual selfie, for the sake of being meta.

MILA G. As an original Tim, what is your opinion on all other Tims? Tiny Tim? Tim The Tool Man Taylor?  Tim D.?

TIM E. I love all the other Tims. Tim Curry, Tim Olyphant, Tim Tebow, Tim McGraw, Tim Burton, Tim Robbins, Tim Conway, Tim Duncan, the late Tim Russert, Tim Gunn, and especially Tim D, fellow playwright and scribe of Pirate Musicals. My faves are probably Olyphant, Conway and Tim D. But like the Highlander…there can be only one. So I accept the mantle respectfully.

MILA G. In addition to writing you also direct. What’s transitioning between the two like? When do you take the director’s hat off and when do you leave it on? What does your director’s hat look like?

TIM E.  It’s an interesting thing for me. I trained as a director, and have been directing plays for 20 years. I had done some writing early on and been successful with it, but for some reason it took a backseat to directing and producing. I’ve now found the discipline (hardly a word I associate with myself, but for the context of this idea) to finish writing something, to write the whole play instead of the outline only or the first scene only. In terms of the writing itself, I think I can visualize things as I write them, almost direct them as I write them, which helps me. I also have a network of director peers that I like and trust, and I can hand plays off to them knowing they will be taken care of, as I would when I direct. And for you, my director hat can be a fez or maybe a sombrero, you can choose. I have a distrust of people who wear non-functional hats.

MILA G. Speaking of clothing, I’ve noticed an ongoing fashion motif in many of your plays. From dress shirts and guinea tees to missing shoes, what’s the connective thread?

TIM E. You love this question, Mila. You were the one who mentioned this, and now when I write something or hear something out loud and there’s a clothing item mentioned, I do think “Mila’s going to tell me I’m a fashionista!” Now that you’ve brought it to my attention, I know when I feel like I look nice, or I’m dressed well that I have confidence, and so I think I apply that to my characters too. Clothing both as an outward symbol of how a person thinks of themselves (Flannel Shirts vs. Silk Shirts in my play MEGA) or as a detail that reminds them of a moment (wearing the black guinea tee while not being able to rest with a new lover in The Firebird), I find it all interesting. Not to mention clothes as pieces of art.

MILA G. Your last play examined the impact of returning home to the place you grew up. What made you write that story at this point in your life? Where are you from? Where are you going next?

TIM E. I was thinking about this recently. We had a moment during our last retreat in Greenpoint, and I was just spitballing ideas and I came to the thought that all of my plays are about freedom. Which was really funny, because so much of my directing work is about loss (Boy gets girl, boy loses girl, how do Boy and girl handle it). But the writing, while still dipped in the waters of loss, has this idea of freedom…from parents, from societal norms and politenesses, from geographic places like neighborhoods, from relationships. So I think I’m always going to be the guy who wants to shed everything and begin new. Just a car,  the road, no maps and no destinations. It’s one of the reasons long term travel interests me so much and why marriage to this point has not (but that’s changing rapidly). I grew up in southern New Jersey, which was a great place to grow up although we didn’t know it at the time. Very iconic American safe neighborhoods and working families and farms. So many of my friends wanted to either get out of there for cities and excitement, or embrace it and become small town cornerstones. I got away, and now find myself recognizing the immense impression that small town life had and still has on me. And so I still look for a way to be “big town” and “small town” and free at the same time. And I think that conflict comes thru in my work.

MILA G. You’ve been doing this theater thing for quite a few years now.  How has theater changed since you started in this kooky business? What does the future hold?

TIM E. I came to New York in the late 1990s, probably before Tim D was born. And the entire nature of Indie Theatre has changed, mostly for the better. Much more of a community feeling, started by people like Martin and Rochelle Denton, and continuing thru the various festivals like Fringe and Frigid and onto places like ESPA and to the New York Innovative Theatre Awards. Stringberg has the quote “Prospects, brilliant; Situation, desperate as usual” and I always think of the majority of theater in NYC like that. And while I’d love more money and security for my art and for my friends, I like the idea of the risk of taking on a production. Will we have the money? Will people come? Will anyone review it at all? Maybe the situation should always be a little desperate and uncomfortable.

For me personally, I am directing a production of Shaw’s CANDIDA for my own theatre company Boomerang Theatre Company opening on Sept 15th, as part of our 15th Anniversay season. I’m also producing three other plays in Boomerang’s season as well as our new play festival in November. You, lovely Mila, can find more details about these things at www.boomerangtheatre.org. I’m following that up with new drafts of The Firebird and MEGA and beginning my new play.

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selfie #7: mila g. (with questions by jeremy w.)

The brilliant Mila G. brought her new play A GOOD GIRL’S GUIDE TO CORPORATE SABOTAGE, to the LRR gathering last week, a superhuman feat given that she was also about to open NOVAYA ZEMLYA OR A STRANGE NEW LAND at FringeNYC.  She and Jeremy even managed to find some time to put this little interview together.

#selfies are an ongoing interview series where Lather, Rinse, Repeat playwrights interview one another. They have free reign over the questions. The interviewee must then post an actual selfie, for the sake of being meta.

JEREMY W. I’m just getting to know your work and I’m wild about it.  First pirates squabbling in hyper-piratese over a manipulative mermaid, now a verse satire of an ad agency where the upper side of the glass ceiling is possibly worse than below.  How did this very contemporary play shape up like 119 perverse haikus?

MILA G. Before playwriting, I had an unsuccessful turn at spoken word. I quickly realized I loathed being on stage, performing for others and the sound of my own voice. However, I did enjoy short sentences, poetic turns of phrase and words that sound different then they read. This play utilizes some of those devices. Also, as a play about advertising, it seemed a natural fit for people to speak in taglines, catchphrase and jargon, rather than espousing deep thoughts.

As for the perverseness, corporate drudgery just asks for highly inappropriate behavior under conference room tables.

JEREMY W. You’ve said you write plays about people warped by technology.  What are you watching happen right now in the tech world?

MILA G. I think technology fundamentally changes the way we interact with others, often for the worse. For example, in a given day you’ll tweet your lunch to thousands of followers, ‘like’ the status of a near stranger, snapchat with god knows who while googling an ex, check into somewhere you think is cool, and then Instagram the one moment in the night that makes you look care-free or physically appealing, all be it with the aid of a flattering filter. It’s an extremely self-conscious way to live.  So much so, that when having one-on-one human interactions in real life you’re still eye-balling your iPhone. And that’s just the regular every day tech, not getting into drones, cyberattacks, supercomputers, genetically engineered robobabies and those highly disturbing Google glasses enthusiasts.

JEREMY W. Whatever the opposite of pretentious is, I think you and your work are it.  Where do you get that sensibility?

MILA G. As someone with no formal theater education, other then the catch up reading I do on my own time, I often don’t know enough to say pretentious things. I could say my plays are Chekhovian, Brechtian commentaries on the state of modern society with a hint of Pinteresque dialogue, blah blah blah early Shakespeare, but I wouldn’t even know what any of that means.

JEREMY W. What makes a hero heroic?

MILA G. I’ve always been a bit of an antihero girl myself. Since I was a child, the bad guys always intrigued me more than the good guys. I found their backstories murkier, their ticks fascinating. As a generally anxious, occasionally self-loathing individual, I find people who are unabashedly selfish with no care for public scrutiny or outward approval oddly sexy. Lex Luther is my superman.

JEREMY W. To the untrained eye, you don’t seem like the scented candle type.  Explain.

MILA G. Not big on scented candles and Barry White during sexy time, but I must admit candlelight is universally flattering. Also, scented candle makes me feel psuedo French. As does eating large loafs of breads daintily, buying fresh flowers from farmer markets and wearing twirly patterned skirts.

JEREMY W. Do you depend upon a writing routine to work creatively?

MILA W. Last night, my fiancé told me that he imagines my mind as a cavernous netherworld filled with endless staircases that just turn into other staircases, keeping me from sticking to any one direction or thought for more then two minutes.

Hence, the idea of a daily routine with allotted schedules and goals is pretty impossible. I do try to write in the mornings rather then night, which is a time I reserve for gorging myself on bad reality tv and complex carbohydrates.

JEREMY W. Is there one dream opportunity in the theatre you have in mind?  A certain theatre produces your work, residency, fellowship, or award?

MILA G. I think I’m still discovering my aesthetic and where I belong in this crazy industry, so it’s hard to pinpoint a theater or award. In a dream scenario, I’d be a resident playwright within a like-minded collective of talented actors and directors, all available on a whim to play around with a new work. A producer with deep pockets to fund all this rampant experimentation would be nice too.

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selfie #6: jeremy w. (with questions by tim d.)

On Tuesday, Jeremy W. regaled us with “Proximity,” a dark comedy in which a mysterious experiment leaves a modern-day mad scientist cohabiting with the consciousness of historical mad scientist Nikola Tesla. This week he and Tim D. chatted about science, the nature of comedy, and the vicissitudes of college bureaucracies.

#selfies are an ongoing interview series where Lather, Rinse, Repeat playwrights interview one another. They have free reign over the questions. The interviewee must then post an actual selfie, for the sake of being meta.

TIM D. Why Tesla? Also, who is your favorite scientist and why?

JEREMY W. The week before I went to Bosnia, I thought I’d do a little Wikipedia research on the place since I knew next to nothing about it.  After several hours, I knew less than I knew when I started.  In the backseat of a car leaving Sarajevo, I felt like writing 50 plays about the place.  Just as soon as I figured out what the hell was going on.

I think I might write a few plays that have something to do with Yugoslavia.  I was looking for some kind of way in.  So I tried Tesla out.  I researched him up and down; as people who knew me knew what I was researching, they kept sending me articles and links about Tesla and how he’s more and more in the dreaded Zeitgeist.  I’m a lot more ambivalent about him than most people seem to be.  And I’m a lot more interested in that parts of him that have nothing to do with Edison.  You’ve got to be a bit of an asshole to think you see something nobody else seems to see.  I’m that asshole.  So was Tesla, now that you mention it.

My favorite scientist right now is Sir Francis Galton, Darwin’s cousin.  I envy the scientists of yore and their ability to advance a number of different fields in one lifetime.  Galton was a little bit of everything, seemingly in search of analytical justification for common sense.  He coined the phrase “nature versus nurture”, established the uniqueness of fingerprints, devised the first weather map, and sorted out regression to the mean.  Galty and I would have been homies.

TIM D. Though set twenty years in the past, “Proximity” touches on issues of great relevance to today’s world — including the military-industrial complex, drone strikes and the ethics of war. What leads you to write about contemporary issues?

JEREMY W. When I started the play, drone warfare wasn’t so topical.  I came at it more from piecing together these odd coincidences from Tesla’s inventions, his writings, and what happened in the former Yugoslavia in the early 90s.  That the father of wirelessly controlled vehicles and wireless power transmission was, himself, a Croat. Serb, and New Yorker just seemed to fit.  I kept wanting to kiss Tesla’s feet and punch him in the face.  He’s infuriating.

Drones are tough.  World War I kicked off in Sarajevo, and Tesla living through World War I, he experienced second-hand what trench warfare was.  If you put yourself in his shoes, you can see why he dreamt of an unpeopled war.  Now that the era of the drone is upon us we know they are no panacea.  I don’t think we’ve determined if war is less or more terrifying the more impersonal it becomes.

TIM D. In a blog on your website, you call yourself “a deep, morbid, brooding soul” and conclude that this is why your work is often comic. Can you explain this a bit more? What kind of humor most excites you?

JEREMY W. I wrote that?  I couldn’t have been serious.  Really?  I wrote that?  The whole idea of me having a blog about playwriting is never going to work for me.  I should probably take it down.

I’m naturally gregarious in social settings.  I think I’m deep when I’m alone.  I’m not.  My trying to be profound while I simply want to go be an idiot in public is probably what’s funny.  It’s undignified at the very least.

There are two very different pathways through the brain to smile.  The forced smile, the awkward one in so many photographs, runs through your more evolved, conscious brain.  It’s actually quite a nuanced muscular feat, the genuine smile.  That instinctual smile of yours runs through the old, reptilian brain.  A smile is very similar to that menacing face meant to ward off would-be dangers.  The baring of teeth, the narrowing of the eyes.  One of my favorite neuroscientists has a theory that the smile is a way to turn “I’m going to eat you if you step any closer” face to “Oh, hey, hahaha, it’s cool” face.  Laughter is inherently a stress reliever.  We laugh to tell each other, and ourselves, it’s okay; but first there’s danger.

TIM D. You designed your own major in college. What was it? Why?

JEREMY W.  Long story.  Technically, it’s called “Humans and the Arts”.  When asked, I have instinctively given a very different answer every time.  I took the idea of my major very personally for some reason; it would be a topic unto itself to give you all the whys and wherefores.  Essentially, somehow I was aware I was a very young man, even for my age, was a fist-by-fist eater of everything I could stuff down my brain, and I thought it would be an insult to call what I did in college anything that was already a single or combination of majors.  I couldn’t specialize.  I wouldn’t lie about it.

I might hold the record for denied applications to the self-designed major program at the university.  I played academic chicken with them; eventually, they just let me graduate.  Come graduation, the Dean who seemed to feel my approach cheapened her program, did something shitty at the podium in front of my family.  I thought that was pretty low.  I’m left with a lot of conflicting feelings about that major o’ mine.

TIM D. What do you think your next play is going to be? Where did the inspiration come from?

JEREMY W. I recently finished a first draft of a play I recently titled “Pre-Fabricated Homes”.  It was originally going to be a very short play that couldn’t end in less than 90 minutes.  After Elevation and Proximity, I needed to do very little research for whatever it is I was going to write.  I really just tried to follow myself, see where I was going.  Once it hit me, I thought it was terrifying in a “Hey, I’m right here!” kind of way.

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