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.