Credits include: Defacing Michael Jackson (winner of the 2014 Lincoln Center Act One Contest); Freefalling (winner of the 2014 InspiraTO International Theatre Festival in Toronto and the 2013 Fiat Lux Award from the New York Catholic Church); To Whom It May Concern (Arclight Theatre and winner of LGBT awards for best play, best writing, and best actor in the Fresh Fruit Festival); OBAMA-OLOGY (The 2014 Juilliard School New Play Festival, Finborough Theatre in London).
I look to anyone who is making cross connections in their field. Cross connection is a concept described by Isaac Asimov where you take 2 seemingly separate items and then you link them together to the point where it becomes so obvious that other people can’t believe they didn’t think about it. So Asimov’s “I, Robot” is about the individuality/personality of something which doesn’t have that on the surface: a robot. And he uses the examination of robot ethics to question humanity’s ethics. It’s more interesting and creative to use something that seems distant and mechanical: robot. You cross connect two ideas and achieve a third reality or awareness. Now a great writer like Asimov can take it to another level (a double cross?) and then show how a robot is human in ethics, and how humans can be robotic-ally barbarous in our split reactions. All great thinkers deal with cross connections, so I get inspiration from cross-connectors in the world whether it be Lord Buddha (using cold and analytical wisdom with warm compassion to achieve enlightenment) , Martin Luther King Jr. (Hindu non-violence ethics with Black church organizational skills), Tolstoy (Christian orthodoxy and existentialism). As far as theatre artists around right now who are cross-connectors, I look to Mary Zimmerman, Sarah Ruhl, Suzan Lori-Parks, Doug Wright, Annie Baker, Christopher Durang, and Marsha Norman (I can name about 20 more people but I’m going to stop there). These are some of the artists who have great works of cross-connection that make new synaptic links in the brain of the viewer.
One of my teachers said most writers have an expiration date on getting that personal story about family dysfunction. The theory is that in order to really write something that has those fresh bruises you need a certain youthful anger and idealism but also distance. If you write too close to the source, then it becomes caustic. If you write too far away from the source then the emotions become too nostalgic. They say we are too harsh on our parents when we’re young and too forgiving when we’re older. So I think I’m at a point where I would like to try my hand at one of those stories during this period in my life before I begin to tip into charming revelry and mint-julip tea memories of ‘daddy and momma.’
Best job I’ve ever had was writing and producing web videos for clients. I still have this job on a freelance basis but it allows me to pitch an idea, create outline, write the script, get a director, cast, set up dates, deadlines, budgets. Within a short period of time (1-2 months) it’s amazing to see something go from just an idea to a completed video. And then the results are clear based upon metrics of how many people watch and like the video. Very immediate and -unlike theatre- its fairly clear whether I’ve succeeded or not.
Worst job was temping for a fashion company (that will remain nameless) during Fashion Week. I had this job over 10 years ago but it just made me feel awful. The people were nice but it was just the work itself combined with the feeling of dealing in fashion that made me feel like laying down on some railroad tracks.
I was supposed to be a reporter. That was the dream. That was why I went to Northwestern and had internships at the Chicago Tribune and the Miami Herald. I still enjoy freelance gigs for random magazines and periodicals. If I couldn’t be in theatre, I would probably dive into magazine e-journalism full-time.
Okay I’ll play along. I decided to take over the universe when I was in high school (like most people do). I would sit in the school’s front office and talk to my football coach, who also doubled as a guidance counselor. My coach didn’t discriminate against race, gender, or religion: he gave truly terrible advice to every student. I would sit there aghast as he would dispense with these depressing/don’t rock the boat/hold on for dear life pieces of knowledge. I remember him giving me advice one time that was so ridiculous that I erupted. I was angry at him, at the system, at the students too blind or scared to see that they were being lead down the safest (and probably worst) road for many of them. I just blew up at him and went on this epic rant (as self-righteous teenagers do) about adults being full of shit, about schools not caring, about most students being oblivious. And he kind of just smiled at me and said ‘that’s right!’ From that point on, he became the first adult I could openly rant and rave at without any self-censorship. Every teenager needs an adult like that and it should NOT be their parents, because there should be some basic respectful etiquette toward people who are keeping you fed. So this Coach became like a Drunken Monk, giving drunken advice so that I could see the error in it, sharpening my own mind. It was at that point that I had a deep sense of calm. I started to develop this inner voice. It was like I got a phone line to this guide of immense clarity and precision that cut through the reality. I could see how most rules in life are just suggestions. I think everyone has this guide in them, but we either nurture or smother it. Be not afraid. Move forward in the world.
If I took up painting or another visual media of expression that was more fulfilling.
Bonus Question: How do you measure, measure a year?
By where I save my scripts. If you look in my computer you will see folders for all my scripts that are organized by years. But the years aren’t consecutive. For instance, I’m still saving my new work in the 2013 folder. Something isn’t complete in the cycle that began in 2013. I feel like I’ll have a 2015 or 2016 folder that will last for 18-24 months.