Playwright Interview: David Valdes Greenwood
Written by Ashleigh Gardner
May 16, 2017
Welcome back to Performer Stuff’s new series that celebrates our playwrights! We feature an interview with a playwright who features their work on PerformerStuff.com, asking them questions about their inspirations, their process, and the craft of playwrighting. Our series continues with playwright David Valdes-Greenwood. (Find his monologues here!)
1. What or who (or both) inspired you to become a playwright?
I grew up poor in rural Maine and was part of religious faith that didn’t let you go to the movies. But plays were allowed, and my aunt took me to see an amateur production of Fantasticks at the Waterville Opera House. When night fell in one scene, the mute raised the moon by reeling it in with a fishing pole; it had been lying inside a bucket, when it rose on the translucent wire, the spotlight made it glow. I remember being transfixed by the beauty—and it totally defined for me how theatre can make magic in the space.
2. What themes, images, or relationships appear most frequently in your work and why?
Far and away, the questions of self-definition have appeared most often in the past few years. In The Mermaid Hour, it’s two parents who are asking what kind of parents they want to be versus how they are reacting to their tween daughter’s life during a gender transition. In Raggedy And, Ondi is facing down opposing opinions of who she “must” be (a wife, a lesbian, a transgender woman, a poet, a political vindication). In Vow Keepers, two men look back on their many years of marriage and ask whether they should have been married at all, and what they lose or gain if they can travel back to do undo it. In all my plays, non-majority characters—LGBT and people of color especially—have primary roles, because theatre needs to look more the full world we live in.
3. Tell us about the play that you are proudest of having written.
Bully Dance is a non-naturalistic play that weaves together the experiences of a young man who went on a shooting spree of registered sex offenders, the women the victims left behind, the shooter’s mother, and the people who were near him when he killed himself as police closed in. It’s based on events in Maine and Boston that I was swept up in, and is structured on the order of a requiem, but with dialogue instead of music. It allows for everyone’s feelings to be true, while looking at how we live in the aftermath of violence and how we find humanity in the darkest plays. It’s a very theatrical play, with a lot of ritual, and the small Argos Theatre in Boston was brave enough to take it on and really make beauty. It’s by the far the work I’m most glad to have out into the world.
4. If you could have written one play in the history of theatre, which would it be?
Far Away by Caryl Churchill. She doesn’t care about our comfort at all; she simply wants to make theatre that is truly theatrical, with no waste. It’s a thrilling, confounding play.
Read more about the playwright below:
David Valdes Greenwood is a Company One PlayLab Fellow, and previously a Huntington Theatre Company Playwriting Fellow, Cimientos Fellow, and Brother Thomas Artist Fellow. His plays have been presented in public readings across the US and UK, most recently with Boulder Ensemble Theatre Company, Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, the National Showcase of New Plays, Pride Films and Plays, and IATI Theatre. In 2017-18 season, his play The Mermaid Hour will receive a Rolling World Premiere with productions at Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, Milagros Theatre, and Borderlands. He has worked with Fresh Ink, Argos Productions, Stage Left, Ensemble Studio Theatre, and The Theater Offensive, and his plays have appeared at the Humana Festival, New York International Fringe Festival, Portland Stage Little Festival of the Unexpected, and New York Theatre Workshop Thursday Studio. His plays have published and anthologized by Samuel French. His current play, the Last Catastrophist, will receives developmental readings in 2017 with Company One, the Bechdel Group, and the Huntington Theatre Company Summer Workshop.
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