Our next show, A Wake, is already in rehearsals and we’re excited to bring another world premiere play to you this season! You can find out more about the show here, but in the meantime, we thought we’d let our playwright, Rory Strahan-Mauk tell you all about it in this very honest interview he gave us over the weekend.
Who are you, in 100 words or less.
Rory: Some kid from the Bay Area and Minneapolis, if that makes sense. Does that make sense? As in I was born here but spent a good amount of time in both places through my childhood. I like cheeseburgers and fruity drinks. Looking up at the moon. Watching airplanes take off and land. Progressive rock. Speeding. I also hate. I hate so, so much.
What is A Wake, and why did you want to bring this to Theater Pub?
Rory: A Wake is, for me, an experiment in audience mechanics. All my personal projects revolve around that study- researching how the audience fits into theater beyond observing. I see the theater scene reaching into this danger zone and not knowing what to do with it. Maybe by bringing it to Theater Pub, the right folks will learn from whatever the hell happens here, and use that knowledge in the future.
The cast is part of the creative process here- how so?
Rory: With a new work, I see the actors as having invaluable input into their characters, so much so that past a certain point they will understand their roles far better than I will. Because of this, the script develops with them- dialogue, cadence, certain actions. And with certain aspects of the show, there are scenes where what happens is determined entirely by the actor’s choices, far past my own suggestions or control.
Would you label this as devised work? Why or why not?
Rory: No, God no. This piece is a written play that provides room for the actors to have agency (or rather, more agency than a standard play). Devised work is when a bunch of folks create something from scratch together, leading to all sorts of problems, such as lifelong regret and poor art. It’s one of those things that works well as an exercise at say a college, but shouldn’t be performed as a final product. Like movement pieces, or Shakespeare.
What is the potential appeal of working in a bar? And what is the challenge?
Rory: It’s a real location. The stage either exists or doesn’t, depending on whatever theory you subscribe to. It allows a certain immersion that does not remove the self from the situation. The story is happening, and so are you, still watching, still aware of yourself. I don’t know if the bar provides any challenge other than dealing with logistics. Any obstacle I might imagine seems miniscule.
Do you see yourself creating something that can live beyond Theater Pub?
Rory: Not the story, but the structure. This style I can easily see utilizing and evolving over time. The play itself can either linger or not, I don’t care. The story’s important now, maybe. It’s made for now; if someone wants to reuse it in the future, whatever, but there’s no drive for that. Not with the story. The structure, the style, that’s the long game.
Commissions are hard to come by, even with smaller companies like this one. What advice do you have for other playwrights out there?
Rory: Don’t pitch what you think they want to hear, pitch what you want to do. Write about what fascinates you. Alternatively, schmooze the fuck out of everyone- that’s probably more important. Sure, work hard, don’t be a cunt about it, realize you can always be better and listen to people when they criticize you. But, shit, there’s no real specific advice here. The world doesn’t offer certainty, to try for it would be futile. Figure out what works for you and do it. Also, quitting is a completely viable option.
What else is going on in the local theater scene that interests or excites you?
Rory: Not much. There’s some cool site specific work going on, but the stories tend to be aristocratic in nature, thus inaccessible. There are interesting stories and new plays, yet they’re stuck in an awkward performative style meant for those already in love with it. For what would interest me, all the parts exist, they’re just scattered across a desolate scene that’s striving to remain relevant while refusing to acknowledge its fundamental issues. The parts will never come together as long as old ways of thinking control the future. There is some hope, perhaps, but not here. Not for me.
What’s next for you?