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Rubber Ducks and Sunsets

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Catya McMullen
July 1, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Playwright.

What is your show about?
Edible Arrangements...Rock and Roll...Lucky Merkins...and Grief.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I have been doing something in theater pretty much my whole life. My first plays were actually musical retellings of the Passover story at my family’s annual seder. I think I dressed my jock cousins up in felt costumes I had stapled together and forced them to sing biblical themed versions of “Row, Row, Row your boat” while they pushed a plastic baby Moses down the carpet river in my Grandparents’ basement. Poor kids just wanted to play Sega. I think the real answer to this question, however, lies in the first reading of my play “The Collective” that Ground UP produced while I was still in college as a part of their education program, The Underground Project. The play worked. The audience was receptive. My life changed. There’s nothing like the feeling of hearing or seeing my work up. It’s still one of the greatest things I get to experience.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this summer that...?
Has a toilet that lights up, original music (by Scott Klopfenstein of Reel Big Fish!) and may make you cry.

Why did you want to write/direct/produce/act in/work on this show?
This project was initially commissioned by Ground UP Productions last year. They wanted to work with me as a writer and also wanted to find a new project that would showcase some of their younger company members. I was really excited, as this company has been my homebase since college and has been instrumental in my development as a writer. This play is the portrait of five people and their deep desire to change in the face of grief. This play speaks, in particular, to a generation of young adults who have grown up too fast and are forced to reconcile where responsibility lies in the face of great adventure, the thrill of recklessness, passion and love. This is a play that vacillates between uproarious humor, violence and soft poignancy. I think we’ve all seen the play where the 20 somethings come together after their friend dies, I wanted to tackle this in a new and refreshing way. Additionally, Scott Klopfenstein and I have been trying to work on something for a long time. This seemed like the perfect project to bring him onto. I can’t wait for people to hear his music. It’s amazing. Lastly, this play took on a whole level of significance in the last two months when Dan Wheeless, a founding member of Ground UP, passed away. Dan was the Ground UP member who initially commissioned the project. Both the script and the production would have never happened without his enthusiasm and support. On a personal and professional level, almost every success I have had in my career thus far can be traced back to a moment of Dan’s generosity. The production is dedicated to him.

Which famous person would you most like to get a fan letter from: Denzel Washington, Maggie Smith, Ang Lee, Audra McDonald?
Oh, man! What a hard question. I went back and forth between Denzel and Maggie Smith. However, I have to go with Maggie Smith because…come on. It’s Maggie Smith. I feel as though if Maggie Smith tells you she’s a fan, she means it. And, I feel as though she doesn’t like everyone. And she has great taste. And doesn’t mess around. Plus, she has so much heart without being sentimental. And she’s an amazing wizard. And Countess. And Wendy. (Sigh). I love Maggie Smith.

If you had ten million dollars that you had to spend on theatrical endeavors, how would you use the money?
I’ve joked with a friend about setting up either a farm or townhouse for young playwrights when we get older. Kind of like an orphanage for twenty something writers where we house them, mentor them, make sure they bathe etc. (kidding). Definitely an option for my ten million. Actually, I would love to start a center (in the woods somewhere) to develop new work; like my own Ryder Farm. The new play development process is such an important one and has been such an exciting part of my last few years. I think the real work of playwriting is revision. I’ve seen the way a piece can transform if given the time and space to facilitate this. Right before we started production, Ground UP brought me and a cast to a house in Vermont for a week of workshopping. Scott came and composed. Before this week, there was a heart and a depth to the script that I felt like I was only scratching the surface of. When we left Vermont, I felt as though Rubber Ducks and Sunsets, finally had become the play I set out to write. I would love to be able to provide these kinds of opportunities to other writers.