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Robot Songs

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Scott McCarrey
July 7, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Playwright.

What is your show about?
Robot Songs is a tragicomedy about a super-intelligent robot created to destroy the human race, but who decides he would rather play music.

What type of theater do you like most to work on?
I like the form of the well-made play, but I love it when you can stretch and break the boundaries of it. As a playwright, I always want to start with the tightest structure, then fill it to the gills with lots of other stuff until it starts to take the shape of something new.

Are audiences in New York City different from audiences in other cities/countries where you’ve performed? If so, how?
They're younger, which is nice. Even in the "cool" theatre cities in America, the average age of the audience is at least ten years older than in NY. I think you also get more people who aren't as familiar with theatre, which can be really cool. If you live in Phoenix, AZ and you don't go to the theatre, you're probably not going to start any time soon. In New York, you're more likely to have a friend or relative convince you to come out, and that first experience is totally irreplaceable.

Do you think the audience will talk about your show for 5 minutes, an hour, or way into the wee hours of the night?
I hope the latter. If the audience is only interested for the 90 minutes they see, I've kind of wasted their time. Time is such a precious thing, I never want to waste anyone's. But if people see the play and then spend the rest of the night talking about it, they're taking that 90 minutes and spinning it into something more. That's great. That's all you want to do when you write.

Which cartoon character would you identify your show with: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Marge Simpson?
My all-time favorite cartoon is "Duck Amuck," wherein Daffy Duck gets into an argument with the animator and finds his entire world falling apart. It blew my mind when I saw it as a five year old. I think I just sat there with cereal milk dripping out of my mouth. I was like, "You can do that!?" That sense of delirious catastrophe is something I really had in mind when writing Robot Songs. It's a play where the world we know starts to unravel pretty quickly and, I hope, spectacularly. That being said, Daffy gets pretty pissed off in "Duck Amuck," so he would probably hate this play.

Who are your heroes?
A big touchstone for me with Robot Songs is Friedrich Dürrenmatt. He was a playwright in the same era as the absurdists, but for my money he was the funniest. And he had this incredible ability to go from hilarious to heartbreaking, on a dime. His plays are so moving and when you read or see one you feel like you've experienced the whole gamut of human emotions in one evening. Dürrenmatt's plays always make me feel very alive.