Where are you from?
I’m from Houston Texas. From a small town outside of it- called Cyprus.
What project are you working on at SPACE right now?
Oh, I can’t tell you that yet!
Is it a secret?
I just have to finish the first draft. Yeah, I can’t talk about what I’m doing until I’m done with the first draft. If I get either positive or negative feedback about the idea, it will tamper with the first go-round in a way that makes me crazy.
Where have you been spending most of your time here at SPACE?
Well, the first day I was on the porch just outside here.
That’s my favorite spot too.
Yeah, but then the table disappeared so I had to come in here to the haunted mansion room.
Oh yeah, this definitely feels like where all the haunting stuff happens.
Ha! Well yes, but this is also where all the playing cards are. So…
What’s coming up next for you and your project?
I don’t know, we’ll see. Let me finish it, and we will see how good it is. I’m working on more than one thing too so.
If you were reincarnated as a farm animal what animal would you be and why?
I would be probably be one of the polo ponies.
The polo ponies! What did you think I said?
I don’t know. I immediately pictured something pink and small.
Ha! I could be pink and small! I would be one of the polo ponies that has been sort of put out to pasture.
Uh huh. Sure. Lone ranger.
I was more thinking past my prime.
I have looked up interviews with you the last few days so I wouldn’t ask you questions about Hand to God that you have to answer all the time. I’m going to go on a whim here. Best and worst thing about the success that you have had so far?
The best thing is that it represents what’s possible in a way that renews faith. People working on things that they love can ultimately be celebrated at the highest levels if the right choices are made and the stars align in a certain way. The smile I see on people’s faces. Its very easy to be cynical in this business. The darkness is all around us. So when the light happens it’s important to get in it. The worst thing about it? I mean, there is no downside. I made something I loved with my friends. It reaffirms an alignment of taste. Its for critics to decide whats a hit, and to try and sculpt for them and write to them is both asinine and impossible. With all the praise that Hand to God has gotten lately, people forget how mixed the reviews were in the beginning. You have to leap off the cliff in the beginning. But really, there is no downside. You know? I mean its just a party. Its just a celebration of a thing that happened.
When did you know you wanted to be a playwright and not an actor?
I couldn’t get on stage in undergrad because I was erratic and I didn’t like to memorize lines. I was not a good scene partner and it took me a while to figure out why. You know? Like the thing that excites me is the moment of creation. And the thing that excites me is secondary control: building the house that people have to live in. Putting the ideas on the wall like little wallpaper. A good friend, Allison (a wildly brilliant woman), told me freshman year that I wasn’t an actor. And I was really offended. But she could see what I couldn’t, and it just took me time to realize that in the end of the day, I love the theater, but I don’t want to be in your play; I want you to be in my play. Some of that is ego and some of it is just thrill at different parts of the craft.
I don’t think that’s ego. I think that’s just where your soul sang, you know? Because I feel the exact opposite: I want to be in the play, I don’t want to make the play. If it’s really where your heart is I don’t think it can be ego.
I don’t know. Those absolute statements. I don’t know. All I know is that I wouldn’t learn lines. All I know is that I wouldn’t get cast. But I wrote a ten minute play at Baylor. It was very aggressive, very sexual and it had religious themes. And it caused trouble, not big trouble, but the thing that I enjoy, in addition to making the play, is causing problems. Starting little fires. I don’t think I want the whole thing to burn… And I thought “Okay. This is very loud. When I yell here, everyone can hear me”. They wouldn’t listen to me when I was yelling but somehow, if I’m separated one degree from the process, the amphitheater becomes a megaphone that can make the noise almost seismic. You know? Because the hyper masculine bullshit in Texas, no one would call it on it’s horse shit. It was absurd and it was never on stage. It’s deeply funny how little we can look at the world; it’s deeply funny how our self deception creates our pathologies, which create the fraying social fabric that we are experiencing right now in this country. We are lying to ourselves and are not able to face the future. But to say that to a single member of your family, it’s going to cause a fight at dinner. But if you say it on stage, it drops a bomb that the whole culture can hear.
Interviewed by Emma C. Geer