A Chat With Playwright Andy Bragen
Playwright Andy Bragen (photo by Dmitry Gudkov)
WITH WORKSHOPS, PRODUCTIONS, and commissions for new work in a plethora of theaters across the country, native New York playwright Andy Bragen is gearing up for his hometown premiere of This Is My Office, a one-man show focusing on a semi-autobiographical account of his experience in a nine-month author-residency in an abandoned office space near Wall Street. “When I found out I was chosen, I was over the moon,” he candidly writes. Though soon after being ensconced there, he succumbs to and is nearly completely paralyzed by the wide-open expanse of the blank page. He discovers an old photo which ignites a series of epiphanies about art, family and love.
In 2010, the play received workshop productions at Brown/Trinity Playwrights Rep, and at Studio Roanoke in 2011. Now with noted director, Davis McCallum (Water by the Spoonful) at the helm and actor David Barlow as ‘Andy,’ The Play Company’s production of This Is My Office is set to play a limited run at Chashama, beginning November 5th.
MICHAEL RAVER: Who are your influences as a writer?
ANDY BRAGEN: I love Wallace Shawn, John Guare, Tina Howe and Sarah Ruhl. Harold Pinter’s Betrayal, Guare’s Landscape of the Body, Suzan-Lori Parks’ Fucking A…I loved Thomas Bradshaw’s Burning last year, with The New Group. I also recently saw a dress rehearsal of Wallace Shawn’s Grasses of a Thousand Colors at the Public and was pretty blown away.
MR: Do you write every day?
AB: Most days. I belong to The Writers Room on Astor Place, and so I usually go there to work.
MR: Is there a ritual of any kind that goes with your sitting down to write?
AB: I don’t have any rituals per se, though maybe I should. It might help! I do better with deadlines, but I still manage to be reasonably productive. I used to write to music, but haven’t for a while. I find I do my best work in silence.
MR: How has it been working with (director) Davis McCallum?
AB: I love working with Davis. We’re old friends. He’s directed a bunch of readings and workshops of mine over the years. I’ve seen a lot of his productions and he’s read most of my plays. So we’ve been in conversation for a long time. He’s smart, focused, creative, and unafraid of taking risks. I couldn’t ask for a better collaborator.
MR: Your protagonist, ‘Andy,’ is battling writer’s block. Has writing This Is My Office changed your own perspective on that?
AB: It was a very different kind of play than anything I’d written before, both as a play for one actor, and as a play with a character who has my name and is based upon me. I don’t know that it’s changed my perspective on writer’s block, but I do think that writing it has enabled me to follow some new paths as a writer and artist.
MR: What are you hoping that audiences take away from the play?
AB: I don’t have a particular hope for a take-away. I hope they’ll engage with the piece and that they’ll go on the journey we build for them.
The Play Company’s production of This Is My Office plays a limited engagement at Chashama in New York, from November 5 through December 8. For tickets, go to www.playco.org. For more information about Andy Bragen and his work, go to www.andybragen.com.
Michael Raver is an actor and playwright. He’s performed classical theatrical roles at Lincoln Center, The Pearl Theatre Company and Tony Randall’s National Actor’s Theatre, as well as regional theaters across the country. His adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray was produced by Sonnet Repertory Theatre last year and his new play, Fire on Babylon recently recieved a public reading in New York on September 25th at Manhattan Theatre Club. He currently lives in New York City. (www.michaelraver.blogspot.com )