Happy Labor Day everyone! We’re excited to share this interview with Dan Hirsch, a new addition to the local playwriting scene, whose new play shooter is our contribution to this year’s Olympians Festival. Enjoy!
Tell the world who you are in 100 words or less.
Originally from Massachusetts, but a Bay Area resident for eight years, and a recent Silicon Valley escapee, I’m now living as a freelance writer in San Francisco. What this means exactly changes every day. Some days, I’m reporting news for a hyperlocal journalism site in the Mission where I live. Other days, it’s cute web copy. The tedious days, it’s pretending to find more freelance work but actually reading Buzzfeed. And on the nicest days, when I’m not trying to make any money at all, I write plays.
This is you first time working with Theater Pub, yes? And BOA? What’s it like to be the new kid on the block?
I feel really excited. It seems like a pretty tight knit community that I’m eager to be a part of. A couple of times I’ve had the distinct feeling of people eyeing me and wondering: “Who is this guy? Where did he come from?” My answer: “I’m Dan Hirsch and it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
So what made you write “Shooter”?
I wrote “Shooter” in the summer of 2012, the summer that James Holmes opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, the summer that Wade Michael Page killed six people in a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin, and numerous other acts of gun violence seemed to consume the national imagination. But also, it was the summer a 19-year-old was shot and killed on my block, almost directly across from my house. In response to the national conversation about gun violence and the very local tragedy, I felt overwhelmed with a sense of confusion and helplessness, something I’m sure many of us felt. I couldn’t stop wondering: who are these people that commit this terrible violence? James Holmes left no record, he didn’t write any manifesto. Despite his proximity, the killer on my block was part of a completely different community and world that I knew nothing about. As a way just to tease out and think about this question, I wrote “Shooter.” While I read a lot about gun violence in America—I spent a lot of time looking at Guide to Mass Shootings in America by Mother Jones, for one—I feel like this research is totally inadequate. “Shooter” is ultimately just an act imagination, an attempt at empathy for people who challenge our ability to empathize most.
Would you consider this work typical of your writing? How is it a “Dan Hirsch piece”… or is it?
Are you asking if all my plays describe brutal acts of real world violence from the perpetrator’s perspective? Definitely, not. They’re not all this dark either. I actually sometimes write totally silly sketch comedy. I hope what unifies my work, maybe even the goofy stuff, is their relationship to the world around us. As I mentioned, I’m also a journalist and feel very invested in thinking about and responding to the way we live now, and I think a strain of non-fiction storytelling permeates my plays. In my journalism and playwriting, I like weaving many distinct voices together to tell a compelling story or engage with a complex issue.
It’s your first time working with Rik Lopes, the director. What’s it been like for you, developing a piece with him?
Rik is a baller. It’s been a pleasure working with him so far. He’s got great ideas and is totally interested in hearing my ideas and what went into the writing of this piece. Throughout auditions, the various readings, and meetings, I felt very much like we are the exact same wavelength about nearly everything—even in terms of facial hair. It’s been a total delight.
What’s turning out to be the biggest challenge in creating a piece like this, and in a festival setting?
To echo what Rik said in his TP interview, also to prove my point about the same wavelength thing, the challenge is about where “Shooter” fits in with the rest of the festival. While I hope it will make people think and respond in a variety of ways, the play is kind of intense. I love the diversity of the one acts in our program, and think “Shooter” definitely belongs somewhere in there, but it’s never fun to be that serious guy at the party talking about gun violence in America.
What’s the greatest asset of being part of a short works festival?
There’s 13 different theater companies, writers, and directors in this thing. As relatively new member of the theater scene, this has been such a great opportunity to get familiar with the work of a bunch of different artists all at once. There’s so many small, independent theater companies in the Bay Area, it can be hard to keep track of them all. BOA is like a lunch buffet of talent. All those people should also make it easier for us to fundraise.
What else at the festival are you most excited to see?
As the new guy, I need to be careful not to make anyone angry and I do really admire the incredible range of talent and ideas. I also missed the table read for Program One, so I can’t even comment on those. Of all the plays in our program, “Break of Day” by Jeff Carter is the one that I wish I had written, it’s so simple and sad and funny and everything you want in a one act. I was also totally entertained by Megan Cohen’s “My Year” and look forward to Lauren Gunderson’s “Two Pigeons Talk Politics” because it’s going to have puppets in it!
What’s next for you as a writer?
On November 6, I’ll have two short works in the SF Olympians Festival, which I’m really looking forward to. A full length play of mine called Subtenant just had a developmental reading at the Playwrights’ Center of San Francisco which was hugely useful. I’m in the process of editing it now, and hope that it will have a life in production sometime in the near future. I’m a frequent contributor to the news site Mission Local, you can see some of my recent journalistic efforts there.
“Shooter” will play, along with an assortment of other excellent one-acts in this year’s festival, September 15, 19, 21, 25, 27, 29 and October 3 and 5 at the Tides Theater in San Francisco. To find out more about this show, and all the great shows that will be a part of this cornerstone event for the San Francisco Bay Area Theater scene, check outhttp://bayoneacts.org/.