I recently did an interview with Actress-turned-Journalist Lisa Kicielinski:
A DIALOGUE WITH GREG DePAUL writer of Joe & Becca, a short play premiering in The Collective:10 Play Festival ---------------------------------------------------------- Greg DePaul sat down with Collective ensemble member Lisa Kicielinski to dissect the shot glass of Punch and Judy that is drama. LISA: Where’d the idea for your Collective:10 play Joe & Becca come from?
GREG: My gut. I keep everything in there. Might as well have stories too.
LISA: What led you to explore the underbelly of marriage?
GREG: I usually have a conversation going in my head, that I exaggerate, obviously, to make more dramatic. David Mamet said that everybody talks to themselves; playwrights just write it down. I just try to referee those conversations. I think: What is the tensest situation I can imagine, and how do I give voice to that? To me, all drama is a Punch and Judy show.
LISA: What draws you to the short play format?
GREG: I wrote Joe & Becca for Collective:10 submission. I always write better from dares and challenges: that’s why I don’t work well on my own, and why I always have to be around actors. If you tell me something can’t be more than ten minutes long, I think: How can I pack as much drama as possible into ten minutes?
I love the short form: the rewarding part is when the short drama is like a shot glass of tension served fast, leaving the audience shell-shocked, gasping.
LISA: Both Joe & Becca and another of your plays, Lucas and Molly, do indeed strike me as intense and muscularly effective – they take a look behind the curtains, provide that unexpected punch in the gut, and then we’re out. They’re also great set-ups for longer stories, because I’m left with questions…
GREG: Figuring out how to plant the seed for what’s to come later is interesting to me. I recently read some of David Rabe’s thick, emotional plays. He's got all these people screaming at each other all the time. Everybody has these deep I-want-to-be-loved or I-want-to-be-rid-of-you needs … and in the end, you have no idea what’s going to happen. The playwright stops you there: these people drive off a cliff together and you don’t get anymore. The characters are on shaky ground, and they just take one step, not six steps.
LISA: Joe & Becca opens on a family gathered for a travel event, and seems to end with a sense of “How did we get here?”
GREG: The end is ambiguous, but I also want my plays to move quickly… You’ll be talking to someone you care about – your parents, your boyfriend, your sister – and because you jump to a conclusion and move ahead quickly because you need something so much, you get to some unexpected, unintended conclusion – that scares the bejeezes out of you, like What?/You?/This!/That!/So then I think we should break up/What?/Wait what did you say? Then there’s this thud of: Oh my God, we’re gonna break up?!
And people argue more when they’re traveling.
You can ruin this play by doing it too slowly. If we’re instead caught up in the moment, there’s a certain element of falling through it. There are three or four peaks in the story, and it slips by, because you’re hopefully as emotional as the characters are, and suddenly you say: Wait, what just happened?!
LISA: Becca is sharp tongued, and no bullshit.
GREG: Joe is barely the protagonist, because Becca has the big secret. She actually has two. To me, it’s kind of a game to see how many things you can keep track or follow. If I start referencing too many things, if she comes up with one more secret, you might not believe anything.
LISA: I actually see, and believe, she has a third secret…
GREG: Ingénues can be pretty boring. If you have a play with six characters in it, you can have a Masha character who sits around and sulks for comic relief, but if you play with two characters, they both have to be pretty aggressive. In the family I grew up in, we ALL wanted to talk, and no one wanted to listen to each other.
LISA: Where are you from?
GREG: I grew up in Hyattsville, Maryland. I now live in Springfield, NJ – I wrote screenplays for various studios in LA for about 11 years before moving to the New York area.
I am not really at heart a bohemian; I’m remarkably suburban – I love summer and the smell of cut grass, I coach sports. Even in grad school I was a little bit of an outsider, because I had no interest in writing a polemic. I really want to entertain and compel people, maybe provide a little insight into the human condition …
LISA: What work next excites you?
GREG: I’m working on a full-length play that will hopefully make you laugh and suck you into someone's dark past.
I saw Other Desert Cities by Jon Robin Baitz and it affected me. Also, they let you bring a drink into the theater. I like that. I'll let you bring a drink into the theater.
Greg DePaul is the author and writer of the film Bride Wars as well as a distinguished playwright. You can see Joe & Becca as part of Collective:10, Oct. 9-13, where you can indeed bring a drink into the theater.