Can you describe a theater moment that particularly inspired you?
While I was in school at Arkansas State University we produced Sarah Ruhl’s The Vibrator Play or In the Next Room. There’s a scene at the end where a husband and wife step out into their garden and it starts to snow and they have an intimate moment together. Watching that moment play out and seeing the lighting, costumes, sound, and acting come together was a moment of pure magic that I could never fully describe. Those kinds of moments can only happen in live theatre. Those moments of magic where you forget about the walls around you and the chair you’re sitting in and you’re transported somewhere else.
– What do you hope audiences come away with from experiencing one of your plays?
I want audiences to leave one of my plays feeling uplifted. I consider myself a comedic playwright and I want audiences to enjoy themselves and leave in good spirits. But I also try to use that comedy as a vehicle for serious ideas that I struggle with. If I can make an audience laugh but also make them seriously question what they believe and why they believe it I will have done my job.
What do you look for in a collaborator/ director?
I look for collaborators with big ideas who have no idea how to reach them. I like to aim big and scale back later as opposed to aiming for something “realistic”. I like collaborators who don’t always play safe and aren’t afraid to fail.
What are some of your artistic goals? Long or short term?
Short term I’d like to experience as many varieties of theatre as I can. Also I’m working towards making theatre my full time job. Long term I’d like to be the artistic director for a theatre company.
Who are your primary artistic influences at this moment?
I would say Chris Gethard has been one of my main artistic influences recently. He’s this insane comedian from New Jersey who recently had an Off-Broadway one man show. He’s a big proponent of making your own opportunities, discovering your own voice, and finding a supportive community. Joe Iconis is also a huge influence for me. I love how he’s built a family of collaborators that create weird and unique shows together. Both of these artists have a unique voice that speaks to underdogs and outcasts that I would like to emulate in my work. Also Lin Manuel Miranda.
What inspired you to write the play for NYPR?
The play I wrote for NYPR was inspired by a lot of different things, but probably the clearest piece of inspiration is Waffle House. It’s a restaurant that’s known to have a lot of character and personality, so that was sort of a jumping off point for me. I tried to infuse every element of the play with that same sort of strong personality.
What first drew you to the theater?
I was a shy kid with few friends. I was awkward and antisocial. The first time I got on stage was in 9th grade. My choir director asked me to audition for the school musical and she cast me. I would always feel embarrassed when she’d call on me and ask me to do more or commit to the character, so one night I went all out. I gave much as I could give, hoping to avoid her attention. When my scene ended, everyone started laughing and then they started clapping. I felt like I belonged to a group, I felt like people liked having me around. I felt accepted. And I dove head first into theatre from there.
What is one particularly inspiring thing you’ve learned/experienced in theater/writing? Either in a show/class/workshop/rehearsal/from another person?
I once wrote a ten-minute play for a Play in a Day festival during college. It ended up becoming pretty political and had jokes about several different U.S. catastrophes and might have mentioned a few celebrities and current (potentially soon to be ex) presidents. When it was performed there was audible booing and groaning from the audience, and it was one of my favorite experiences. It taught me that not everyone would always like my art and that was okay. It also taught me subtlety can be an effective tool that I had not considered using. But more importantly, I knew I had written the play I wanted to write, and even though it was not well received I still had no regrets for writing it.