I was born in NYC. I grew up in northern New Jersey, right over the GW Bridge. Went to Sarah Lawrence, spent three years living in England, and then spent over a decade in NYC and Brooklyn.
I moved to Nashville, finally, because I’m also a songwriter. There are a lot of things I like about Nashville: a community of songwriters, really good people to collaborate and hang out with in terms of that, and a job teaching at Vanderbilt University (along with some classes at Nossi College of Art) that I enjoy. It’s a creative, vibrant city. However, there is less of a community of theater people for me in Nashville, and there are other trade-offs.
Tell us about your play:
AFTER TARTUFFE in some ways reflects adjustments I had to make when I moved to Nashville. It’s interesting but very different for me, living in the Bible Belt, in the midst of many conservative people, and in some sense I feel like I’ve switched universes, which is how one character in the play feels. The play is an update/re-imagining of Moliere’s play Tartuffe, set in a post-apocalyptic America which has become a Christian Fundamentalist state. A religious hypocrite, the Reverend Chadwick Pusser, has completely taken in Oral, a rich, foolish businessman. Pusser lives in Oral’s home and monitors his family. Oral breaks up his teenaged daughter’s engagement, saying she must marry Rev. Pusser instead. Meanwhile, Oral’s gay son, Daniel, can’t be free with the guy he loves because he thinks Rev. Pusser has put a hidden camera in his room. Oral doesn’t believe it when he hears Rev. Pusser has made a pass at Daniel, and one at Oral’s wife, Alma. He won’t listen to Doreen, the outspoken housekeeper, or anyone else who says a word against the preacher. Daniel begins to suspect that they are all trapped in some kind of false universe, and thinks that if a website called oracle.net were to send him a pdf of the lost, uncensored, original draft of Moliere’s Tartuffe, the universe would shift back to how it’s supposed to be. As with many dystopias, the play is a look at where our society may be heading but also holds up a distorted fun-house mirror to our society now – and we may recognize ourselves in it.
What are your goals with the Newborn Festival:
I want to see how the play works before an audience in terms of tone. Like Moliere’s play, my play combines sociopolitical commentary with comedy – even a bit of sex farce. I’m a big believer in mixing comedy with drama, but I want to make sure that the funny aspects of the play and the darker elements work well together, for an audience. The play is in verse (?!) and I’ve never attempted that before, so I’m hoping that the actors will find a way to feel comfortable with the dialogue, and that the audience will still find it accessible, and even conversational. At times the characters talk about political issues, and/or scripture, in detail – I want to see if those sections flow smoothly and if the audience keeps tracking along with them. Moliere created four strong, interesting women in his play. There are things Dorine says in his play that I have hardly changed at all when I have Doreen say them in mine; they are that sharp, funny and incisive. I have added some scenes for and dimensions to the female characters in my play, but I’ve also built up some male characters’ roles, and made Daniel central, whereas the son in the original play did not do much. I want to see how that balance works, and make sure that the strong women do shine through, still.
Most interesting feedback you've received from an audience member:
I have a play called CELL which got nominated for an Edgar and is published by Samuel French. It involves two brothers who are more than ten years apart in age, and they have some arguments about Baby Boomers vs. Gen Xers. This play has caused some very strong reactions in some audience members. After a reading it had, one person who was older than I am told me: “Your generation never experienced anything – not the civil rights movement, not the Kennedy assassinations or the Dr. King assassination or the walk on the moon, not the Vietnam war – nothing important happened when you were growing up!” So, some folks who are older than I am have reacted quite strongly against the play. I’ve incorporated, over time, more of the viewpoint that it’s silly to speak in generalized terms about differences between generations into the play; I’ve given one character that point of view in very clear terms, at least partly in response to feedback about the play. It’s interesting to me, though, that Kelley Elder, who directed CELL in the International Mystery Writers Festival in Kentucky, is older than I am and actually responded to the discussion of generations in a positive way; that was one reason he wanted to direct the play, he told me.
How would you like to be remembered?
I’d like to be remembered as a good writer of plays, songs, novels and screenplays – largely because that would imply that more of my stuff would get published, produced and find a larger audience. I’d hope that some things I wrote would get people thinking and would tilt the world slightly in a more positive direction – since my parents raised me to believe that you should try to leave the world a slightly better place than it was when you got here.
DON'T MISS THE 2014 NEWBORN FESTIVAL - FREE
FRI, FEB 7 @ 7:30 PM
By Judy Klass
Directed by Tom Slot
A re-imagining of the Moliere play "Tartuffe", set in a post-apocalyptic future America that has become a Christian Fundamentalist state. The population has been decimated by a super-strain of the Avian Flu – stolen from a lab, probably by Fundamentalists.
- Talk-Back hosted by MTWorks' Co-Artistic Director Antonio Miniño
- Monologue from finalist The Butcher by Gwydion Suilebhan