Wednesday, January 12, 2011

David Wiener, Playwright

David Wiener’splays have been produced in London, India, Canada, the United States and have been published three times in the Smith & Kraus best short plays anthology series. He is the theater arts consultant for the Akwatia Communications Center project in Ghana, Africa, the writer for the San Diego Shakespeare Society, and the theatre writer/dramaturg for The Starlight Theatre. He has written cover, feature, and interview articles for a variety of journals, including Cahiers du Cinema, The Producers Guild Journal, American Cinematographer, The Journal of the Royal Photographic Society of Great Britain and is the author of Burns, Falls, and Crashes, a book about Hollywood stunt performers and pilots. In 2007, he completed a Literary Internship with La Jolla Playhouse and went on to work as that theater's Dramaturgy Associate during the 2007/08 season. In 2006 and 2009, he won Best Play at the New York City 15 Minute Play Festival (Turnip Theatre/American Globe). The 2009 winner, Feeding Time at the Human House, was directed by Susan Einhorn, who will also direct two staged readings of Wiener’s full-length play, The Master Forger, at the Rosendale Theatre and at the Gerald Lynch Theatre at John Jay College in New York.

What do you see the trends to be in contemporary theatre?

I’m seeing a lot of interest in self-production - this comes and goes, of course, but over the past two, three years, I’m hearing this come up more often. And it could be a very good thing - writers who bring a group of people together and just get a show up on its feet to see what comes of it. I’ve heard about this happening in school auditoriums, vacant warehouse space, even bowling alleys. It’s going to be very interesting to see if and how this continues to develop and where it might lead.

What do you think are the toughest challenges for new playwrights today?
The Dramatist just published an article that has some great information on this. I can give you three quotations from it, which are very incisive:
“[Playwrights] wonder why everyone is doing the same handful of plays. And artistic directors acknowledged that they are all after the same small group of playwrights.”
“There are specific things that are startling to hear. An artistic director saying, ‘We are all fighting over the same ten playwrights,’ is a startling revelation.”
“So one of the things we are hearing is playwrights saying, ‘This has made up my mind. I’m opting out. I’m going to produce my own work. I’m going to follow Young Jean Lee or Richard Maxwell’s model.’”
Is there a playwright or philosophy that has inspired your work?
I get a lot of inspiration reading performing arts memoirs and biographies. This might surprise you, but two people whose work has been quite helpful to me are, oddly enough, producers. When I wrote for The Producers Guild Journal, I started reading everything I could find about script-savvy, story-savvy producers. Two who stood out were Irving Thalberg and Desi Arnaz. Thalberg was sometimes referred to as “The Great Physician” of script doctors and Arnaz had such an intuitive grasp of storytelling, he made it seem almost effortless. A writer can learn a lot by reading about these two guys.

What type of message do you hope to convey through your writing?
You know, if there’s an overall message that should be conveyed, it would probably be that play going is a worthwhile activity. Worth the time, worth the effort, and worth the money. And this is an uphill battle in a beaten-down economy. When I go to any event, a concert, a show, a movie, anything - I make it a point to listen to the audience during intermission and after the show. Really listen, especially to the things they say almost under their breath. Now, this is hardly a scientific study, it’s anecdotal and based on “constructive eavesdropping.” But what I’m coming away with is the understanding that theatre going is truly a “tough sell” compared to movie going, concert going, and eating out. People think, “40, 50, 60 dollars for two tickets to go see a show? Maybe we’d have a better time spending that money on a nice restaurant or a concert or a movie and bite afterwards.” We have to be honest; theatre going is a pricey proposition for more and more people and we need to get creative in dealing with that fact.

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