How to Break
nytheatre.com q&a preview by Aaron Jafferis
October 17, 2012
What is your job on this show?
Book and Lyrics.
Where were you born? Where were you raised? Where did you go to school?
I was born and raised in New Haven, CT. At the height of the crack epidemic, when the economy sucked so bad more than half of my high school classmates got sucked out of school – into work, jail, or the cemetery – in the middle of a life-and-death moment for my city and friends, I went on school trips to see theatre at Long Wharf and Yale Rep, and none of their shows had anything to do with us. So I write shows about us, about them, about underdogs surviving the killing city. How to Break is based on my experience as writer-in-residence at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital, where I've worked for the past 8 years.
Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
The audience will talk about this show into the wee hours of the night, they will text their friend about it while they’re on the toilet at the bar, they will think about it while they’re having sex (it will make their sex better), they will dream about it far into morning, and when they eat breakfast their corn flakes will arrange themselves into sickling cells. It is about how we love, how we break, how we heal, and how we deal, but in a much funnier and less pretentious way than the first half of this sentence sounded, so people will talk about it for a long time.
Who are your heroes?
My mentor June Jordan was a political poet, essayist, activist, and a hilarious and ferocious human being. In her Poetry for the People classes I took and student-taught at UC Berkeley, Berkeley High, and Dublin (CA) federal women’s prison, she had us study and write poetry from different cultures (reading the Koran while reading Arab and Arab-American poetry, for example, and then writing an “Arab-American” poem). The impossibility of that was a challenge and a liberation. And partly what’s drawn me away from just hip-hop poetry (where I’m always writing from my own point of view) and towards theatre (where I get to write from your point of view too).