June 15, 1968 |
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
|Occupation||Playwright, novelist, director, screenwriter|
|Education||St. John’s Military Academy, Clarke College, The Juilliard School|
|Notable awards||2012 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theater Award, 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Honor Book Award for “Punkzilla”, 2007 Benjamin H. Danks Award from the Academy of Arts and Letters, 2006 Pulitzer Prize Finalist for Drama for “Red Light Winter”, 2006 Princess Grace Statue Award|
When you're making under-million-dollar films, it becomes so much about actors' availability. When you're using big actors for small films, you're in second or third position to the big monoliths.
One of the tricks to writing great plays is to get people in a room together and not let them leave. You want the tension to escalate. Keeping them there is the hardest part, so you have to take away any excuse for them to leave.
I love plays that have musical moments. I'm not a big fan of musicals per se, but I love straight plays that have musical edges to them. I don't know if I will ever be able to structure a musical, but 'Finer Noble Gases' is as close as I've gotten.
I was a jock in college and high school, but I didn't hang out with the jocks. I was sort of a nerd who didn't look like a nerd. I never really fit into any social set.
I saw 'Six Degrees of Separation' because my brother was in it. It was a watershed experience. It was theatrical and scary, and New York functioned like a character. John Guare became a hero for me.
Film directing has perfected my theater directing. I think when I first started directing, a lot of my stuff was very lateral; I was afraid to have the actors' backs turned away, afraid to put them too far upstage, and I think once I did more things with film, I got more interested in composition.
Some of the greatest works of theater, from Chekov's work to modern playwrights', consist of just a few people in a room with no one leaving.
I have to be entertained by what I'm writing, so a lot of my stuff has a goofiness or scatological quality. If these characters can entertain me, then I feel like I can deal with the darker or more serious stuff.
I don't see a lot of movies that portray the East Village as well as I think they can.
When I work in the theater, you know you'll get this almost devotional, religious experience where you're breaking bread with everyone every day.
I would hope that the staffs at juvenile detention centers and reform schools are carefully chosen so that there is a community of support and hope.
I hate the idea of sheltering kids from challenging books. It's just another form of conservative fear that promotes ignorance more than anything else.
When I'm directing, I'm pretty much not writing, but when I'm not directing I am writing a lot. It's strange: people have asked me what my schedule is and what is my process like, and I can't even answer it. I don't keep regular hours.
The biggest audience for Off Broadway is mostly coming in on a train – either Upper East Siders or Metro-North. I go to the theater, and everyone around me is over 50. How interested will they be in my kind of work?
I think there is a complicated side effect to overcoming evil in that we are forever changed by it. I think after we ingest some of the cruelty of the world, it takes years off of our lives, but it also gives us wisdom and a little grace, hopefully a sense of compassion.
When I came to New York, I was really awkward. I went to military academy for high school, so I didn't have the socialization that most kids do. When I got here, I was five years behind everybody. Talking to women was weird for me.
I was born in Chicago, then I spent most of my youth in Joliet, Illinois which is about thirty minutes south, and I went to a military academy for high school in Wisconsin. Then I went to college, on a basketball scholarship to a small school in Iowa, so I'm like Mr. Midwest.
There was a kind of physical anarchy that dominated most of my younger life. I was always too skinny, not hairy enough, my voice jumped around. It was a thing that drove me away from towel lines in gym class.
I just love working with actors, and I love working with writers, working with designers. I feel that I am just a storyteller, and whether I am wearing the director hat or the playwright hat, it doesn't matter. And the rooms I tend to be in are pretty democratic, and the best idea wins.
I suffer from and enjoy an incredibly vivid dream life. A lot of times there is a sort of narrative, and other times they are just funhouses of non-linear imagery and other scary stuff.
My work is always more emotional than I am. My characters say things to each other that I get accused of not being able to say to my girlfriend.
I'm pretty obsessive-compulsive, and I'm very fast. I tend to not write for a long period of time until I can't not write, and then I write first drafts in gallops. I won't eat right. I forget to do my laundry.
I like to write about teenagers because it's such an uncertain and dramatic time.
I had a sort of bad experiences as a playwright early on, when directors were putting in huge concepts that I didn't intend, or they were stylizing something that was compromising the play, so I started to think like, 'Well if I'm going to fight against this, I should learn how to direct.'