Tuesday, April 17, 2012
We're going back-to-back! Our April Rough Readings Series continues with Bekah Brunstetter's House of Home! It will be read on April 23rd at Stanford and April 24th at Thick House in San Francisco.
People start writing at different stages of their lives. How did your career as a playwright begin?
I've written stories and poems since I was a kid, starting doing theater in high school to make some friends, was an actor (BADLY) then wrote my first play freshman year of college. I was instantly hooked - it was something that felt like it was mine, while simultaneously connecting me with other people. I continued to write plays all through college. I had no idea what I was doing, but was able to see these plays produced. Next up, grad school for play-writing, then life, and here we are!
House of Home is based on a true-story, is it more or less difficult to depict a true-story without over or under-exaggerating specific events? Or how do you go about not offending the people that were actually a part of the true-story?
I think it's important (unless you are creating a Laramie Project-esque piece) to fictionalize the event and characters that are serving as your source material. A.) Because usually, you don't know every in and out of the story, and you don't want to pretend to know - so it's important to make it yours. Creating a new narrative basedon the actual event allows you to actually be a dramatist with the story. Otherwise, when receiving notes, you end up with this defense mechanism of 'well, that's not what really happened' which oftentimes isn't helpful for the play's development. As for the Maxwell family - I can't pretend to fully understand them as human beings, or understand what happened to them. But I was so gripped by what happened to them - they felt so familiar to me, as humans, that I had to write a play about it. To do so, I had to invent, as opposed to fully recreate.
There is an abundance of topics to write about out there, and I would think that would make it difficult to hone in on one topic. If you could narrow your favorite writing topics down to three, what would they be and why?
I always come back to religion, love/relationships and the military families. Religion and faith because it is something that always has and always will intrigue and confuse me, in the best way. I was raised in a very Christian household, and even as I move far into adulthood, it's still something that I'm trying to figure out for myself. I'm constantly worried that I'm not making the right decision in my terms of my faith, and I always come back to writing about things that I'm afraid of. Love / relationships because of unrequited needs from middle school. Military families because of my brothers serving in the Marine Corps - and what I perceive to be a lack of plays dealing with those in the service, and their family members, that aren't about politics or post-traumatic.
Let's end with inspiration! What single piece of advice would you give an aspiring playwright?
It's important to write, and write a lot. It won't matter what awards or productions or fellowships you might get if you're not writing constantly. The more you write, the more you'll find and hone your voice. Not just write constantly, but submit constantly! The more you put your work out there, the more it works for itself. It's incredible what can happen because of a tiny ten minute in a tiny theater - if the writing is truthful, and you - people will respond to it, and it will beget more opportunities for you.
To obtain more information about Bekah's Rough Reading, please visit: http://playwrightsfoundation.org/index.php?p=53
Want to delve deeper into Bekah's mind? Visit her blog at: http://blog.bekahbrunstetter.com/
Monday, April 9, 2012
We are kicking off April's Rough Readings Series with Keith Josef Adkins and his play, The Final Days of Negro-Ville!
His play will be read on April 16th at Stanford's CERAS Hall, as well as on April 17th at Thick House in San Francisco! Playwrights Foundation recently interviewed Keith about the process of writing his newest piece!
Let's start with the basics! How long have you been writing plays, and what inspires you to do so?
I've been writing plays since the late 90s. However, I have been shaping characters from my imagination and personal observations for as long as I can remember. Sometimes I think I actually channel the voices and experiences of my ancestors that are trapped in my DNA. (And I'm serious). In fact, before I became a teenager and easily embarrassed by vulnerability, my cousins would sit me in front of tape recorder and record my impersonations of character. I am inspired by many things. I am inspired by great literature, kick-butt music and courageous cinema and theater. I'm also inspired by my own spiritual and personal evolution. I am someone who admits to loving the truth, but also admits it's hard to face and tell. The more I face the truth of my life and how I live it and all the components that have help shape it, the more inspired I am to give testament to my journey as a human being. Oh, I am very very inspired by laughter.Down to the nitty-gritty, how did the story line for The Final Days of Negro-Ville come about?
I was born and raised in suburban Cincinnati. Both sides of my family have historical and/or present-day middle-class experiences. Recently, many of my relatives have been hit hard by the recent economic crisis in our country. Foreclosed homes, lost jobs, dismantled marriages. It's been a difficult thing to watch, however, I've been wanting to write something about it. A few years ago I saw an amazing production of Our Time with Michael Shannon at the Barrow Street Theater in NYC. I walked away from that production with a fricking awesome idea: blend a little of Our Town with my interest in black middle class suburbia. Less than a month later, Valerie Curtis-Newton of The Hansberry Project in Seattle called me and said they wanted to commission someone to write a play about the recession and the black middle class. It was kismet!What's the first thing you did when you finished writing The Final Days of Negro-Ville?
I don't think I'm finished writing The Final Days of Negro-Ville. As an artist, I'm honest enough to admit when things need work or attention or love. The Final Days needs a few final touches. (I hope to provide those final touches while during the Rough Reading.) I think once I get a production of this baby, I will definitely find a real cool lounge with some amazing vocalist, like Jill Scott or Lizz Wright, singing live and I'll have somebody buy me a glass of Pinot Noir.Rough Readings are a great opportunity. What excites you the most about having your play performed as a staged-reading for an audience?
I love staged-reading audiences. Actually, I love any opportunity to have a dialogue about what I find interesting or funny or important. I think the drastic attempts of black suburbia to hold on to their financial success can be funny and interesting. Audiences teach me amazing lessons. They teach me when to be smarter, when I'm being too smart, when to have more fun and when to move them to feeling something deep. And I get this from their reactions and body postures. During talk backs, great audiences will share their enthusiasms as well as their confusions. Their confusions inspire me to be clearer. I want to be understood.And, just for fun, if you were able to have your "fantasy cast" for The Final Days of Negro-Ville, who would that include?
A fantasy cast? Mmm... Are you talking a cast from theater or film? Mmm...How about I just name two of my favorite actors? Don Cheadle and Viola Davis. If we snag those two for a future production, I will be one happy dramatist.
To learn more about Keith's play or for ticket information, please visit http://www.playwrightsfoundation.org/index.php?p=53