With a somewhat heavy heart, we bring you some thoughts from the writers of the upcoming Morrissey Plays.
Who the heck are you, Morrissey Play writer?
I’m Libby Emmons. My plays include I Am Not an Allegory (iamnotanallegoryplay.com, upcoming Under Saint Marks, March 2016, NYC), How to Sell Your Gang Rape Baby for Parts (Festival of the Offensive, NYC 2014, winner “Most Offensive”), “Soft Little Song Like Doves,” (upcoming Best Short Plays, 2015, Smith & Krause), & many more. Co-founder of the Sticky short play series (stickyseries.live, upcoming Lovecraft Bar, April 2016, NYC), and blogs the story of her life at li88yinc.com. So many thank you’s to Stuart Bousel for including me in the show, & to Morrissey, for seeing me through my teenage years relatively unharmed.
I’m David Robson. I have a degree in theatre from the University of Virginia. I was a director, adapter, and actor, in The Twilight Zone series at the Dark Room Theatre (RIP), which also produced my plays The Night and Zola-X. This is actually my Theater Pub debut!
I’m Susan Petrone, author of the novels Throw Like a Woman (2015), A Body at Rest (2009), and the forthcoming The Super Ladies (2016 or 2017 depending on when I get the manuscript to the publisher). My short fiction has been published by Glimmer Train and Featherproof Books, among others. I also blog about my beloved Cleveland Indians at the ESPN-affiliated blog ItsPronouncedLajaway.com.
Pete Bratach: I’m a guy who has been around long enough to have experienced the Smiths as an angst-ridden, morose teen, long before that whole Emo schtick sucked in the latest generation of outcasts and the disaffected. But “Girlfriend in a Coma” was the beginning of the end of my relationship with the Smiths; I know, I know, it was serious. Oh, I live in SF and write for a living.
Allie Costa: I’m an actress, writer, director, and singer. When I’m not in a theatre, I’m on a film or TV set. I’ve been writing stories and songs for as long as I can remember. My earliest audiences were my mom, my sister, and my cat. That audience has now expanded; it’s mind-blowing to realize my work as both an performer and as a writer has been seen in places I’ve never been, like Scotland and London. My play Femme Noir is currently running in New Jersey, while The Intervention Will Be Televised is having its world premiere production in Los Angeles.
Anthony Miller: I was born and raised in San Jose. I performed in the Rocky Horror Picture Show for several years, and then I ran a poetry slam, now I write weird cult plays. I am a man mired in sub-sub cultures. I currently live in Berkeley with my girlfriend and two cats that cant seem to stop eating.
I’m Alan Olejniczak, a San Francisco playwright, Theater Bay Area ISC Board Member, and a company member of We Players. Last spring, I started the fledgling At Last Theatre, with Rik Lopes, and premiered Present Tense at The ACT Costume Shop. Last autumn, City Lights Theater Company presented my short play if-then(-else) and San Francisco Olympians Festival VI premiered my ten-minute play Hylas. This spring, I’m producing my play Dominion and participating in the next San Francisco Olympian’s Festival VII with Lethe.
I’m Barry Eitel, an Oakland playwright and a recipient of the 2016 TITAN Award for playwrights from TBA. I was the Head Writer for Boxcar Theatre’s The Speakeasy, leading a team of nine to create a breathing novel set in a Prohibition-era speakeasy. I was the Fall 2014 Artist-in-Residence at the Bay Area Discovery Museum, where I created an interactive play for young audiences. My short plays have been produced across the country and have been published by Smith & Kraus. My play The Ice Cream Sandwich Incident will be produced by FaultLine Theatre at PianoFight in August, 2016. My website is www.BarryEitel.com.
Kylie Murphy: I am a creative writing and filmmaking student from New Jersey. My first short play, World Peace, premiered in New York last summer. I apparently cannot write any play without the phrase “world peace” in the title, and am working closely with a professional to figure out why that is.
How/when did you first discover Morrissey?
Pete: I first discovered Morrissey through the Smiths back in high school when Hatful of Hollow was released.
Libby: In 9th grade no one understood me except the college radio station from the University of Rhode Island which only came in after much fidgeting with the location of the boom box in my room and one day after school they played “Reel Around the Fountain”, and they played “November Spawned a Monster”, and my heart was filled with the most joyous melancholy and I knew I was home.
Alan: I dated a guy briefly in college who introduced me to Meat is Murder. Tragically, my love was unrequited and my life became a glorious Smith’s single. I played the album over and over until my roommate, so worried about my spiraling depression, finally broke the cassette tape. Strangely, one of my fondest memories of Morrissey is seeing the Queen is Dead tour. I worked at the venue and after the sound check, the band casually sat on the edge of the stage. I bravely walked up to Morrissey, but could form no words. I stood there stupidly with my mouth open, until they all started laughing. I walked away, humiliated but delighted I got so close to my idol.
Kylie: I discovered Morrissey while reading the coming-of-age novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower when I was fourteen. After the narrator famously placed “Asleep” by The Smiths twice on a mix tape, I listened to it endlessly and it was perfect. (What is my final cliché count?)
Anthony: I first saw the video for “Tomorrow” on 120 Minutes on MTV, followed by “Panic”, but it wasn’t until “The More You Ignore Me The Closer I get” that I was truly hooked. I promptly shoplifted a copy of “ Vauxhall and I” from my local tower records, thus began the love affair.
Susan: I lived at home during undergrad. My cousin Nora was studying at the Cleveland Institute of Art and lived with us. She (or one of her ultra-cool art school friends) had a homemade tape of Louder Than Bombs, which I “borrowed” and never returned.
Barry: I went through a time in high school obsessing over ’80s college rock, and there he was alongside Echo & The Bunnymen and Husker Du.
What do you love about Morrissey?
Alan: I love the man because he’s quirky, passionate, unafraid, and misunderstood. He’s unapologetic about his music and his views of the music industry, world politics, and religion.
Barry: His plainspoken poetry that would get destroyed at a writers’ workshop but works so terrifically set to music.
Libby: Back pocket daffodils, and the voice, and the emotion that is cold and emotionful at the same time, and the humour, how everthing is a joke on the world, but also on me, and how satisfying it is to be in the fray and be an observant bystander at the same time.
Kylie: I don’t know how to separate what I love from what I hate. Much like separating Morrissey the musician from Morrissey the man from Morrissey the demigod, it’s impossible. I love to hate him and hate to love him. He can be so wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, and yet I would like to rip that tongue out every once in a while.
Susan: He embodies the human paradox. We’re all of us wracked with self-doubt about our looks and abilities. At the same time, we’re all secretly convinced we’re smarter and better-looking than anyone we know. Morrissey lays that dichotomy right out in the open. Plus his lyrics are always clever and often hilarious.
Anthony: The overwhelming combo of melody and melancholy, it’s sad, introspective, and insecure but with a great beat you can dance. I find his music comforting under any circumstance. His music embraces aspects of our personalities that we are led to believe are bad or self-indulgent, but he shows us that these feelings are completely necessary.
Pete: He and Johnny Marr made a powerful songwriting team. That hair! That croon! That vow of celibacy!
What do you hate about Morrissey?
Barry: That posers sing Smiths songs at karaoke to get laid.
Alan: There is nothing I hate about the man.
Pete: His solo work pales in comparison to the Smiths. Sometimes his tremulous voice grates on me.
Kylie: When answering what I hate about Morrisey, I felt a little lost, so I turned to the internet. The top Google searches for “Morrisey is” are “a genius”, “vegan”, “dead”, “not vegan”, and “rude”. I think that says it better than anyone can. In the end, I believe that the only person who could be Morrissey is Morrissey, because he can afford it.
Susan: We all know that we shouldn’t invest too much emotional energy in what other people think of us. Morrissey is evidence of the dangers of completely not giving a shit what the rest of the world thinks.
Anthony: He is kind of a pompous old man now, he doesn’t wear self-confidence well.
Libby: I would say that I hated that time I saw him play and he bailed on the last few songs because he was having a drama freak out, or didn’t feel well, or whatever, but he also sang “Angel Angel Down We Go Together”, and I reached my arms out as far as they could go and felt loved for real, so I don’t even hate him for that, or for moving to LA.
Why do you think Morrissey is important?
Kylie: I’m not sure if I think Morrissey is important, because nothing is important. That’s an answer Morrissey would give. Just kidding, Morrissey would say Morrissey is important.
Alan: The Smiths were one of the most influential rock bands of the 80’s. They resisted being pigeonholed in this ever-evolving music scene. Punk rock turned hardcore, disco evolved into new wave, and rock detoured into heavy metal. Morrissey and Johnny Marr resisted all of these music trends with there own unique sound. The Smiths were never mainstream or found commercial success. They’ve always been underground. The Smiths were remarkable for never having a bad album or a bad song. Since the breakup, Morrissey continues to perform with a loyal following, despite uneven solo albums and infrequent tours. While an unremarkable vocalist, Morrissey has an amazing stage presence – both sexy and commanding. Morrissey’s greatest strength and continued legacy is his brilliant lyrics that range from droll and pithy to self-consciously maudlin. Morrissey is important because he is a rock legend, an icon, with a career that spans four decades.
Anthony: Hs songs create unity through alienation. As fans, we are able to be alone, together.
Susan: His lyrical and vocal style have influenced a wide range of bands and songwriters from Colin Meloy to Noel Gallagher to Sam Smith (who even ripped off the quiff). The meek shall inherit the earth. The misfits and weirdos get Morrissey.
Pete: He gave a voice to the legions of depressed and disaffected youth of the world.
Barry: He made sadness a fine thing to sing about–not “cool” sad, not “look at me I’m sad” sad, not “this world is so crazy” sad, but “I’m afraid I’m totally lame and no one actually likes me” sad.
Libby: I think he’s important as a discovery; for a person who needs to hear what he’s crooning, who feels all those things and has need to have those feelings in surround sound, simply to prevent exploding, Morrissey is essential.
Kylie: I think he is important so that each of us can identify with him at some point in our loneliness, and then find out he is just a guy who has said some bad things and move on with our lives.
David: I can really only talk about Morrissey with a timeline so…
1980s. Morrissey and The Smiths could be seen at school on t-shirts worn by all of the very, very serious kids who’d aligned themselves with alternative culture. I recognized that “How Soon is Now?” was held together by some terrific riffs, but there was something off-putting about the frontman’s…affectedness? Gloominess? The music from nearby Washington, DC’s punk scene seemed a more practical response to the problems faced by my generation, and the industrial/darkwave music out of Chicago was more fun to dance and fuck to. No Smiths or Morrissey for me, then.
1990s. The college’s weekly lively arts publication highlights the spectacularly insane contents of a press release announcing the coming of KILL UNCLE, Morrissey’s second solo album. Among the highlights: “Morrissey is clearly out to shock you with his new album. Just look at the title: KILL UNCLE. See? You’re shocked!” A few years later Morrissey’s VAUXHALL & I marks a pleasing new plateau for Morrissey, and meets with great critical and commercial success. The single “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get” turns into some kind of self-fulfilling prophecy as it’s played at least once an hour on every goddamn radio station I listen to.
2000s. A noticeably-older Morrissey holds a tommy gun so gracefully on the cover of YOU ARE THE QUARRY that he seems to have pirouetted off the set of a John Woo film. I don’t buy the album (though a friend assures me that “First of the Gang To Die” is one for the ages) but the cover sends me. There’s something tremendously reassuring about Morrissey brandishing a machine gun, especially halfway through the second Bush administration. I’m pleased he’s still around, though damned if I understand why.
2010s. SF Theatre Pub puts a call out for submissions to The Morrissey Plays. I get cranky that they’ve picked an artist with whom I have so little affinity, but simply shrug and say ah well. A week later ask myself where I would start, and call up a YouTube recording of “Everyday Is Like Sunday.” And all the doors between Moz and me just disappear. I can see that crappy seaside town, I exult in the greyness overhead, I feel like I’ve lived there, and yet I can see it so clearly thru the eyes of Morrissey’s narrator; his ennui sounds overblown thanks to a downright Wall-of-Sound production, but the sensuality that informs it is the real deal, and THAT is where Moz and I finally connect. And over a couple of short sessions I find a play set against that grey landscape, populated with Morrissey’s characters and mine, pursuing what I find in the song to what feels to me like a natural conclusion. I can’t pretend that I know Morrissey better than anyone, or even particularly well, but I’m glad, after all of these years, to have finally had such a thrilling introduction.
Allie: I was inspired to write How Soon is Now? after hearing a friend gush about Morrissey the day after she attended his concert with two of her friends, dear friends she’s known since high school. As she told me about her experience at the concert, she positively lit up, smiling so broadly, and I could easily see her as a teenager, moved by the music and bonding with these girls who would become her lifelong friends. I wrote the piece that evening and I shared it with her the next day. When this piece was selected for The Morrissey Plays, she was the first person I told.
Okay. Five MUST HAVE SONGS on the Ultimate Morrissey Mix.
1. “Asleep” Obviously.
2. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” I used this song in a school project where I created a musical companion to Crime and Punishment— you’d be surprised just how well Morrissey and Raskolnikov fit together.
3. “How Soon Is Now?” For the longest time, I thought that he was singing “I am human and I need to belong”. But who was I kidding, Morrissey doesn’t need to belong anywhere.
4. “Half A Person” Of course he says the YWCA and not the YMCA. Of course.
5. “Asleep” Twice, in honor of the book that brought Morrissey into my life.
1. “Hand In Glove” Because the sun shines out of our behinds!
2. “How Soon Is Now?” Despite its relative ubiquity, Johnny Marr’s guitar on this song is amazing, and the lyrics were so fitting for an angsty, misfit teenager.
3. “Bigmouth Strikes Again” Again, Johnny Marr’s guitarwork, plus lyrics so over the top they’re funny.
4. “Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” Another anthem for an angsty drunken teenager in college.
5. “What Difference Does It Make?” Songs that are questions are cool.
1. “How Soon is Now?” is my favorite song by The Smiths/Morrissey, probably because it was the first I heard, but also because of its surround-sound effect and fantastic groove.
2. “There Is A Light That Never Goes Out” Always reminds me of my friend Holly Cupala, whose novel used it as the working title. The book was later published under the title Tell Me a Secret.
3. “Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want” Always reminds me of Dream Academy’s instrumental cover as featured in the film Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
4. “Reel Around the Fountain” Check out the acoustic cover version by Duncan Sheik, too.
5. “Girlfriend in a Coma” The juxtaposition of a poppy music line + creepy lyrics.
1. “Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want” This song reminds me of the freewheeling melancholia of my youth – when the smallest problems loomed large and feeling sorry for your self was a badge worn with honor.
2. “Billy Budd” For me, this driving song is the painful remembrance of being young, closeted, and desperately in love.
3. “There is a Light That Never Goes Out” What twenty old doesn’t occasionally wallow in anguish and regret, yet desperately clinging to the hope of eternal love?
4. “Headmaster Ritual” In the golden age of Manchester schools, not unlike a good parochial education, helped students build strong character through fear, violence and humiliation.
5. “Sweet and Tender Hooligan” This song is hilarious – besides who has not loved the wrong kind of guy?
1. “Ask” I used to sing this to my daughter when I was giving her a bath because it’s just ridiculously catchy.
2. “All You Need Is Me” Because I love to sing along with the line “I was a small fat child in a welfare house, there was only one thing I ever dreamed about.”
3. “Throwing My Arms Around Paris” In the song “Lush Life” Billy Strayhorn wrote “A week in Paris would ease the bite of it,” and so it would.
4. “Sing Your Life” This is one of three songs I want played at my funeral (no joke).
5. “Now My Heart Is Full” Simply because it’s lovely.
1. “Panic” How come people don’t still say “Hang the DJ”?
2. “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” You aren’t too cool to appreciate the Pretty in Pink soundtrack.
3. “Shoplifters of the World Unite” A song from the viewpoint of the most pathetic security guard ever.
4. “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” There may have never been a truer thing ever said.
5. “This Charming Man” I wrote my play about this one so….
1. “These Things Take Time” Because it’s the song we sang that one summer when we watched old movies in my bedroom, shunned the glorious singing bird sunshine, drank red wine, and lay the whole day in bed.
2. “Sheila Take a Bow” Because I saw the video for this on my local cable access channel when I was growing up, and some kids did a video show, and they played this and Morrissey does that bend forward thing and I knew I wasn’t alone.
3. “Driving Your Girlfriend Home” Because I’ve been the girlfriend.
4. “Last Night on Maudlin Street” Because it makes me feel like I’m leaving my child hood home forever all over again, and how life hurts, but is beautiful, and how even hurting is beautiful, and love is real, and really possible, even if it’s not always realized, and being alive itself is enough reason to stay that way.
5. “How Soon is Now” Because it’s the classic, and DJ Bobby Startup used to play it at Revival when I was a kid in Philly, and then when I got to know him years later and he dj’d Bar Noir where we did our first Sticky show he would play it just for us, even though otherwise he’d do the dance tunes, and we’d get up on the tables and sing at the top of our lungs and feel like the world was ours.
1. “This Charming Man” So many good memories associated with this song.
2. “November Spawned a Monster” I can sing this at the top of my lungs and just feel better, even if I didn’t feel that bad beforehand.
3. “The More You Ignore Me The Closer I Get” This is the song that hooked me.
4. “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” Because it’s the story of my life. And that’s Ok.
5. “Still Ill (John Peel/Hatful of Hollow Version)” It’s very much a portrait of how I feel at this point in my life, I am not who I used to be and the world has changed, and it’s equal parts good and bad.
Don’t miss The Morrissey Plays, opening on Monday!