Wednesday, June 20, 2007

5/5 Meme

E. Hunter Spreen tagged me with a meme started by Laura.
...its purpose is to get people talking about their passion in life. It’s called the 5/5 meme. Five questions, then pass it to five people. “Expertise” could be your profession, hobby, or area of intense interest.
If I haven’t named you specifically and you would like to do it, feel free. I’d love for everyone to answer these questions. I’ve named five just to get it going.
Remember: This is a “get to know you” meme. It’s supposed to be breezy and fun.

1. Name your area of expertise/interest:

Writing - specifically in theatre.

2. How did you become interested in it?

I studied theatre for a year at the University of Warwick in Coventry, England. It was accidental becasue I was really there to just be abroad while continuing my English program from the U of I in Champaign-Urbana. Between reading a lot of socialist literature, Bond's SAVED, Pinter's HOMECOMING, visiting Stratford every month and seeing a production of GODOT at the student union by a group travelling from Moscow, I became what you might call "hyper-interested."

I then wrote a play in response to FIVE FINGER EXERCISE (which I thought was terribly corrupt and middle class) but my own play was so awful I quit and returned to writing short stories. Years later, I took a class at Chicago's Second City in an attempt to meet people in advertising which I hoped would support a bad novel writing habit.

I had no real agenda to be any good and I loved the class. However, I was stone cold broke and so I quit, vowing to take another class later in life. It was alomst 6 years before I was able to scrape a few hundred bucks together to take a class at Dudley Riggs Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis.

I did a regular children's improv show on Saturdays at the Bryant Lake Bowl in the Twin Cities and was invited by Mo Collins (later to go onto MADTV) to join a late-night show based on my performances there.

I started writing sketches when I moved to San Francisco for an advertising job. The sketches became scenes and the scenes became plays. In 1997 I produced my first show, THINKING LTD. It was a fun show with a lot of talented people, but not any kind of high art. But I was totally hooked after that.

In 2004 I got my MFA in playwriting from Columbia.

3. How did you learn how to do it?

By making lots of mistakes. And I feel like the riskier the mistakes, often the more successful were the results.

4. Who has been your biggest influence?

Sam Shepard, Edward Bond, Pinter, Mamet, Viola Spolin.

Anne Bogart taught me a HUGE amount at Columbia while Eduardo Machado and Kelly Stuart taught me to never be afraid of taking a play to the most dangerous place it could go, even if the conclusion meant making the audience unhappy. TRUTH was the only thing that counted for them and I appreciate that even now.

I'd also say working directly with directors, actors and dramaturgs has had a bigger impact than I'll ever know about.

And then, of course, there's my wife whose involvement in my life has injected a lot more hope into my plays than they had before.

5. What would you teach people about it?

Trust your instincts. And follow the voices that are speaking to each other in there.

Don't "think" about your play until much later - long after you've written the whole thing at least twice. It will show you how to think about it and it will tell you what it wants to be.

If it's ugly, let it be ugly. It it's funny, let it be funny. Just don't try to tell it what it should be. Let it tell you.

I tag three people outside the theatrosphere but who read here regularly: Jeff Shattuck; Dave Tutin; Ms. Food Musings. I also tag Patrick and someone I don't know very well, though I've seen some of his work: Enrique of Pimp My Blog.

3 comments:

patrick said...

Nice post, Malachy. When were you at U of I? (My dad was a professor there, and then my wife went there to grad school from 1998-2000.)

I like your advice about not "thinking" about the play until you've written the whole thing at least twice. I think, especially as a young writer but even when we're older, that it's hard to keep track of what the play means to US, rather than trying to please all the voices that come from readings and directors and actors.

Guess I'm it and I'd better get to writing.

Malachy Walsh said...

I graduated from the U of I in 1987. English and Rhet with a minor in History.

I lived in Allen Hall - the dorm full of radicals - freshmen year and then Urbana and, the year after England, in downtown Champaign.

Praxis Theatre said...

Hi Malachy,

First, I'm going to steal your word: "hyper-interested". Consider it stolen.

Second, this bit:

"Don't "think" about your play until much later - long after you've written the whole thing at least twice. It will show you how to think about it and it will tell you what it wants to be.

"If it's ugly, let it be ugly. It it's funny, let it be funny. Just don't try to tell it what it should be. Let it tell you."

Very well put. I think this insight applies to many forms of non-commercial writing.

Incidentally, I'd be interested in hearing more of your thoughts on sustaining a career in advertising alongside a career in theatre – as I'm currently navigating those waters myself.

Regards,

Ian