Meet Tom Coash
An Interview with Tom Coash

Indie Theater Now asked Tom Coash a few questions about his play Veils.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Bowling Green, Ohio and then my family traveled a lot, including a short stint in India, until we landed in Bakersfield, CA where my family still lives. My Dad was one of the founders of Cal State Bakersfield.

When did you first get the theater bug – and when did you realize that you wanted to become a playwright?

I never did any theatre until my last quarter of a very long and chequered undergrad degree. I had taken all the creative writing classes available and the only thing left was playwriting. I took the class, wrote a short play, it got produced, and, as happens, I was hooked instantly. My next step was to get VERY lucky and get an internship in the Lit Dept. of Actors Theatre of Louisville, which was a huge and wonderful learning experience.

Your career has taken you to a number of surprising places such as Bermuda and Egypt. Was that by design? Are there other places you’d like to spend time in your future career outside of the USA?

My wife and I have both had a life-long long of travel and, in fact, it is probably the biggest factor in our falling in love with each other. We absolutely loved Egypt and the Middle-East and really it changed our lives in so many ways. I think everyone should be required to live overseas at some point in their lives (college?!) as it really opens your eyes and mind to all the other cultures out there. We get so isolated and ego-centric here in America. Bermuda was also great. I’m sure that we will be ex-pats again one of these days. I’d love to spend a lot more time in Africa and SE Asia. I had a terrific visiting artist experience in South Africa recently and loved it. Just the names of the countries…Senegal, Mozambique, Ivory Coast, etc. All call to me. We also recently spent three months in Laos and Vietnam. Really fantastic. And cheap! Would love to go back. Travel has been an incredible inspiration for my writing.

What are some of the other plays you’ve written besides VEILS? And what are you working on now?

I’ve written several plays, long and short set in Egypt. I think that a good play should take the audience to somewhere they haven’t been, physically, intellectually, emotionally..hopefully all three. Setting a play in a foreign place/culture is, for me, a great start to that goal. One of the Egypt plays, CRY HAVOC, deals with homosexuality in Egypt and also follows that path of one man’s journey to the point of committing an act of political violence. I think it’s really important for us to understand how “terrorists” get to that point so we can solve some of these problems. I also have a trio of one-act plays, CAIRO STORIES, all set in Cairo, all involving a visiting American and a local. They each address various issues, such as veiling, AIDS in Africa, Palestine; trying to put human faces to these issues and addressing them simply and with humor. I’ve just finished a new draft of a play featuring an American family with several generations of Marines, set at the start of the first Gulf War. I’d like to do some development with this play, workshops or readings. I’m also working on an idea for a play set in Laos dealing with UXOs (unexploded ordnance like old bombs/mines left over from wars). It’s HUGE problem that we Americans created during the Vietnam war that is still a huge problem today. I was able to go out with some bomb clearance teams in Laos when there and it’s a very fascinating, humbling way to see a country. Why they don’t hate us, I’ll never know, but they don’t and I find this really interesting.

How did you learn to become a playwright? Are there particular teachers/mentors you would like to mention? Are there playwrights you’ve never met whose work has had an impact on the way you create plays?

I really became a playwright by doing a lot of writing. Who was it..somebody..who said something like “It’s not how much talent you have but how long you sit at your desk.” Also my many years spent working in theatre literary offices, reading thousands of plays both bad and good, was incredibly helpful. I highly recommend becoming a reader for a theatre that does new plays. Really helpful plus it gets your foot into a door. There are SO many playwrights who have influenced me. To name a few (and there are a lot more): Bryony Lavery, Athol Fugard, David Greig, Adam Rapp, Arthur Miller, the list goes on...

posted April 19, 2015