Theater Around The Bay: Lisa and Nick Gentile Discuss Writing as a Couple

We recently got a great submission from Nick and Lisa Gentile, a husband/wife writing team from the East Bay who have been participants and supporters of Theater Pub for years. Here in all its glory, is their funny and insightful look into life as an artistic duo. Enjoy!

People often ask us what it’s like writing as a couple. We usually give a glib answer, because we haven’t really thought about it. We thought we could try to answer the question by interviewing each other.

Nick: So, Lisa, when did we first start writing?

Lisa: 2004. Your birthday. I took you to see 8 Tens at 8 in Santa Cruz. Remember that?

Nick: I remember we both thought that some were good and some were . . . not inimitable. I never thought that I could write a full-length play, but after that we both thought that we could do ten minutes. I didn’t realize before then that there was an entry-level length. I thought you had to write this big honking thing like Long Days Journey into Night right off the bat. Do you remember where the idea for our first play, Ten Minutes to Burn, came from? Or anything about its origins? Because, to tell you the truth, I don’t remember any of it.

Lisa: We were at that little surf film fest at the Roxy and we ran to Arinell Pizza during intermission. We had only a few minutes and I complained that I knew the dude behind the counter was going to say, “this is all I have for ten minutes.” And he did! And that other guy came in and went on and on about death metal versus black metal. Funny how people never ask us whether that play is autobiographical.

Nick: Probably because the characters are all dead. Now our second play, Russian Roulette for Lovers – I know where that came from. Our only real argument as a couple, about the philosophical meaning of The Godfather. I was going on and on about it, and you thought I was ignoring your opinion due to a sexist belief that women cannot truly understand the movie due to its hyper-masculine subject matter. I’m glad you realized that wasn’t true. I was just in some strange oblivious testosterone-fueled movie-analyzing reverie.

Lisa: Yeah, once I gave up interrupting you to defend the position that I actually had a position I just watched, stunned, as you lectured the imaginary crowd.

Nick: You yelled, “Who are you having this conversation with?” which became a line in the play.

Lisa: Then I saw potential, both for our relationship to continue and for the new play. How would you describe our writing process?

Nick: Well, what I think goes on is we both throw out half-baked ideas, and we both try not to say anything critical until it becomes too painful to bite back our sarcasm. Then we try to come up with some plot that threads together the ideas or bits of dialog we really like, even if that plot doesn’t contain the other person’s ideas. And finally we both try to come up with something that melds both sets of ideas into something semi-coherent. So what does it look like from your perspective?

Lisa: So I’m not far off when I tell people that we take turns assuming the fetal position under the desk. One of us is usually willing to carry on the work if the other has fallen into the pit of despair. I know I whine a lot over story arcs. But I think it’s your way with dialogue, your inner Mamet or Stoppard, that really gets us through.

Nick: Stop. I should rend my garments. Nobody gets compared to Tom Stoppard. Now, the Mamet comparison I can live with, because I share one thing in particular with him, which is observing the way people express ideas in the vernacular. I mean the way that people express complex ideas and emotions with ungrammatically correct phrases and metaphors. And by swearing. Who influences you?

Lisa: Chekhov. And it’s not just about the gun, seriously. I think his work shows the tension and suspense that are inherent in relationship. I love how the service of tea can be wrought with anguish.

Nick: Is that grammatically correct? What do you mean “relationship”?

Lisa: It’s a poet thing. To explain it would kill it. What’s your favorite idea that we developed?

Nick: When our friend Kate Owen said to us, “You should write a play about mumble-mumble”, and we both though she said “maggots.” I don’t remember what she really said, but I remember talking about it on our drive home, trying to figure out what kind of play you could write about maggots. We decided that they should be philosophers, because they have mouths but no limbs.

Lisa: Metamorphosize, mon Amour sent us back to the college textbooks night after night. Remember that big chart that we made to outline coherent arguments for the three characters?

Nick: I think that chart shows how you take the lead role in providing the structure for our works, while I concern myself with coming up with amusing lines. Our different strengths merge synergistically. Or something. I’m getting points for saying this stuff, right? Pookie, would you say that playwriting together has been an extension of our love? I sure hope so, because this Fringe Festival show is going to be stressful. We’ll need all our love to make it through.

Lisa:
That’s sweet. But I have to confess something. I needed that chart because around that time I started spiking my mochas with rum. Speaking of booze (hint, hint), what’s your favorite production so far?

Nick: Why, God, Satan Beer, of course, at San Francisco Theater Pub’s Pint-Sized Plays in August 2011. It’s obligatory that we mention that this was a great opportunity to get involved with a bunch of talented people through that production. And it’s also true, because we are working with some those people at the SF Fringe.

Lisa: I wouldn’t change a thing about Pint-Sized. Warden Lawlor, Dan Kurtz, and Ashley Cowan made the crowd laugh. That’s what it’s all about.

Nick and Lisa Gentile’s show “Weird Romance” will be performed at the SF Fringe Festival on September 8, 9, 11, and 14. http://www.sffringe.org/wordpress/

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