Dramatists Guild Fund

#5Q4F 2014: James Presson, Playwright/Librettist

Credits include: Words, Razors, and the Wounded Heart; Voices in ConflictFriends Don’t Let Friends.

James Presson Headshot

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  • Who do you look to for inspiration?

My grandfather is my greatest inspiration. He read to me from when I was a toddler, making sure I really heard every word and that I didn’t take a nap (“That’s for babies”). As a first-generation American with parents who barely spoke any English, he knew that a facility with language is key to a full life. Some of his favorites–Kipling, The Iliad, Shakespeare, and Casey at the Bat. And yes, he didn’t think it was weird at all to read The Iliad to a four-year-old. As far as writers go, my personal preferences are somewhat different than is (although The Jungle Book holds up better than you might think). My deepest inspirations are troublemakers:  John Osborne, Arthur Miller, Mike Daisey, Lee Breuer, Clifford Odets…

  •      What’s the best (or worst) job not related to your career you ever had?

Does selling pot count? #tenthgrade

  •      Where would you rather be if you couldn’t be here doing this?

Probably Italy or France. I love eating. Given the appropriate circumstances (endless food/wine) I think  could learn to love prose. Or something.

  •      When did you decide you were going to take over the universe?

At the beginning of high school, I was given a small role in the school musical–I would not stand for it. I wrote my own gosh-darn show and put it on in the library with my friends (most of whom had never been in a play) and it was awesome. The writing may not have been as “good” as the school’s show (it was West Side Story), but it had heart! And guts! That’s pretty much how it got started.

  •      Why would you ever stop writing, if you ever stopped writing?

Double amputation? But seriously—there’s no way. This summer, I had the privilege of hearing Tim O’Brien do a reading from The Things They Carried.  What he’s been through is so horrible, his scarring is so deep… If that guy’s still at it, there’s no way I could ever have a good enough reason to quit.

Bonus Question: How do you measure, measure a year? 

I don’t understand the reference…



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This entry was posted on May 14, 2014 by in 5Q4F, DGFellows and tagged , .
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