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Eudaemonia

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Jerry Lieblich
August 21, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Playwright.

What is your show about?
Faust, but for hipsters.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I came to theater pretty late, really only in the second half of college. I had been a pretty intense hard science dude, and was set for a while on being a professor of cognitive science or philosophy. But I guess it was right around the time I was finishing up my thesis paper for Philosophy of Language (a painstaking critique of a critique of a critique of a paper about, no joke, the word "the") that I started getting frustrated with academia. Granted, I have nothing but the deepest admiration for academics - they're our coal miners chipping away with itsy-bitsy pickaxes at the invincible mountain of the unknown. Still, I knew it wasn't for me - I'm more interested in asking big questions than in finding small answers. So I started writing plays. In my writing, I do what I can to articulate the big, itchy, ineffable questions that hum in my ear in my day to day. And how neat that in the theater, we can all listen to them hum together?

Who is more important in the theater: the actor, the playwright, or the director?
Stage Manager. I mean everybody, yeah, but mostly the stage manager.

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
Marshall and Brennan I've known since we were theater-makin rascals in college (they did all the cool-kid shows; I didn't). Emma and I have been working together on a crazy new devised piece with my company Tiny Little Band (which is me and Stefanie Abel Horowitz, who's directing KILLERS as part of this crazy thing!). Emma's an amazing deviser, but it's been great getting to work with her on, you know, a script. A.J. and Brandon are new to me, and holy Jeebus are they incredible to work with. It's pretty freakin sweet that Jac, Kevin and I, who are in a writing group together, have found a way to make our plays together. The team we've assembled is freakin amazing, this space we're making is freakin special, and I'm freakin proud that we're able to bring our friends and fellow artists along for the ride.

Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo?
Harpo, easily. First off, he was the big musical talent. I mean, like, who ACTUALLY plays the harp? But then there's the whole "wisdom in silence" thing (which I put in quotes as if to say it's a real thing. It sounds like Buddhist or something, right?). Harpo's silence makes him a constant mystery - you really can't say what he's going to do next. Plus, he's always on the sideline, never quite the center of the action, which I think I'm just really attracted to. (I once watched about a half hour of a Balanchine ballet before I realized there were soloists - I was too interested in the background dancers.) You could also say that his silence is a commentary on the marginalization of Jews in the early twentieth century, and the fact that even though he's projected larger than life on a movie screen, he can never truly say what's in his heart - he's all image, and that image is all yuks and no pain, which, you know, is like, symbolic of, like, something.

Why are theater festivals so very important?
In short, because there's strength in numbers. The big thing we talked about in creating (not just) 3 New Plays is that joining forces doesn't detract from an individual's work, it strengthens it. There's no way Jaclyn, Kevin or I could have achieved this scale of production alone. But by teaming up and pooling our resources and efforts, we've been able to make something that's far larger than the sum of its parts. I think it's easy to fall into the poisonous, competitive, and self-serving mindset of "the only way for me to rise up is to keep everyone else down." And frankly, that attitude sucks. So it's the job of festivals and events like (not just) 3 New Plays to prove that that sort of hoarding mentality, that sort of me-versus-them attitude, is as unproductive as it is shitty. Instead, when a whole mess of young artists band together and share their resources to do something a little crazy and a little impossible, everybody wins.