DONKEY at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity.
An Interview with John Patrick Bray
Indie Theater Now asked John Patrick Bray a few questions about this upcoming event.
Who were the key figures who made this production happen—could be other artists, people who inspired the story, producers/producing company, etc.
This story is personal, and somewhat political. The key problem I have with our political discourse is how divisive it has become; were I a conspiracy theorist, I might be led to believe that someone was making money on all of our bickering. I wanted to look at a small town and see how the townsfolk dealt with economic issues. It is also inspired by a true story (though, I certainly changed the characters and made them my own). In the end, it is my belief that all political systems will be flawed, because they are made by flawed people. So, let's calm down, grab a cup, and acknowledge we all hope for what's best.
Why is this a play, as opposed to a film or a web series or a novel (or anything else)? And what is it about live theater that attracts you most, that keeps you revved and jazzed to work in this form?
I love language, and I love characters. The characters in my plays might get a little lost in the film. There's too much room to roam. They would never be able to speak their mind. There aren't enough explosions. There's not enough sex (well...actually, there's a lot of sex). Also, I made myself a promise to write another play was Naturalistic, but this time, longer. My short plays are Naturalistic, but my longer plays are not. They tend to be adaptations where known characters from literature or genre-based tropes wonder around as if in a dream, moving from location to location, desperate to understand a single communicative act. For DONKEY, I wanted to look at real world, small town problems, and set it all in one place. DONKEY is a fulfillment of my promise to myself.
Who taught you how to be a playwright? This could be specific teachers, or role models whose work you’ve seen or read, or of course any combination.
Teachers Neal Bell, Jeffrey Sweet, James Ryan, Laurence Carr, Leslie A. Wade, Femi Euba, and Andreas Manolakakis all got the ball rolling. From there, too many to list! I love the language playwrights of the 70's and 80's, I love the first-wave-avant-gardists; it's tough to nail down. I try to write plays that I would want to perform in, or I would want to direct. Directors definitely have an impact on my work. Two of my biggest influences in that respect are Akia with Rising Sun and Rachel Klein with Rachel Klein Productions. Akia has taught me to embrace my more tough exterior/sentimental interior nature. Rachel Klein has taught me to be visually bold, without fear or apology. They are two of the best directors working in NYC (alongside Tim Errickson, of course!). I've also learned *a ton* about writing from my students at the University of Georgia. Seeing their concerns, fears, joys (as well as seeing how they easily adapt to new technologies and medias - truly, new modes of being!) have shown me how much I still need to learn about the world. It really is a joy reading their work, and listening to them to respond to each others' work.
What have you learned about this play as it has evolved from first draft to the present version? And what has surprised you in this current production-what did you discover in the work that you didn’t realize was there?
The play is funnier and more romantic than previous drafts. I wrote the play when I was very angry, and I took it out on the characters. I like to think that the characters are now all loveable - flawed, but loveable. I've worked a lot with director Tim Errickson on this production (and with Susan Lane on the production in Athens, GA), and each director has brought their own insight. The play is clay, and the directors find what's hoping to emerge through careful cutting and shaping.
Without giving away any important surprises—what moment or moments do you most look forward to when you see this play being performed?
The magic moment.
posted May 12, 2014
John Patrick Bray