Hometown: Auburn, AL
This interview is my last in the series introducing you to our 2012 Young Playwrights Inc. National Competition winners. The Young Playwrights Conference is a few days away: on January 9th, the winning playwrights will join us in Manhattan and spend the week in rehearsals, workshops, and at the theater. If you haven’t already done so, please make your free reservations to attend the readings by following the link at the bottom of this article. This week I caught up with Conor LaRocque, whose play Boots kicks off when a young woman on a search for Mr. Right brings home her latest candidate to meet the family: a sweet boy who wears a bowtie and has a penchant for glasses of milk.
Where am I reaching you today?
I am in Auburn, Alabama, for Christmas break.
Are you from Auburn? Isn’t there a football team there—I mean, a school?
I am, and yes, Auburn University…we take football pretty seriously here so it is sort of hard not to take an interest… They had a tough season this year, but—I’m hoping they can turn things around next year.
I want to ask you a couple of questions about your play, starting with the title of your play: Who is Boots?
Well, Boots is one of the central characters of the play. He is a ten-year-old boyfriend who is brought to his so-called girlfriend’s house for dinner and is essentially the impetus for the conflict that takes place during the play. Originally when I started writing the play the character of Boots was supposed to be this idiotic older boyfriend to the…mother [instead of the daughter], so things were very different. But I guess Boots’ character evolved during the writing of the play, but the name stuck. It’s a bizarre name and I felt it fit with the bizarre framework of the play.
How did this play come to be?
I wrote the play because I heard about this regional playwriting competition, [The Alabama Shakespeare Festival’s Young Southern Writers’ Project One Act Play Competition],through my theater class my senior year of high school and it seemed like a thing I’d be interested in doing. As for particular inspiration, it is difficult for me to point to—I think it was a process. I will say that in terms of plot it is similar to the concept of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but believe it or not I wasn’t really thinking about that film when I was writing it…basically, I had started writing the play without much of a plan—I was just eager to get started, and I wasn’t thrilled with what I had before, so, I just tried to think of ways that I could make it more interesting for myself while writing it so that I would be more committed to actually finishing this play that I was writing.
And how did your play do in that competition?
It was one of ten finalists.
That is wonderful, congratulations!
So that was… an encouraging thing, so I spruced it up a little bit later on before submitting it to [the Young Playwrights Inc. National] Competition.
Have you written any other plays besides Boots?
Not really, this was my first foray into playwriting… I have started another playwriting project but it is sort of on hold for the time being… but I would certainly like to write more plays in the future.
What appeals to you about playwriting?
I’ve grown up around the theater: my parents taught in the theater department at Auburn University, and I saw all of the plays that they directed as well as many others. I’ve always had that exposure to theater, that’s always stuck with me. And then I developed an interest in writing by my freshman year in high school… So, when I heard about the competition it just seemed like it would be a good way to spend my time because I had appreciation for the theater as well as writing.
So you grew up seeing a lot of theater. Do you remember the first play you ever saw?
I remember when I was younger I had a hard time staying awake through all of the shows…I think one that I was awake through was a production of Grease that my father directed, and he also had a small part in it as well. That’s one of the earlier plays that I remember that I was actually awake for the entirety of… It was interesting, but also a little surprising because my father usually had this mustache, and he had to shave it off for this role, and it was sort of traumatic for me that he shaved it off because it was something that I was so used to.
Do you have any writers or plays that you are particularly fond of?
I am particularly fond of Neil Simon. A few years ago I saw Auburn’s production of Brighton Beach Memoirs, and I remember really enjoying that story. And I’ve read a couple of Neil Simon’s other plays and I really appreciate his sense of humor and the way he creates characters that are very interesting…
What are you studying at school now?
English…I go to Rhodes College in Memphis. I really like it. I wanted to go somewhere smaller, which Rhodes is. I like the small class sizes and it seemed like it had a strong English department, and from the few English professors I have come across so far, I really liked them a lot, so I’m pretty excited about the years to come. It is a good fit for me… There is a concentration in creative writing that I am looking to explore. I took a fiction writing course this most recent semester and I enjoyed that a lot. I am also involved in acting as an extracurricular activity. That is just another way that my upbringing around the theater influenced me. It’s something that I do that I think is a good way of developing new insights about playwriting.
Do you have a favorite role that you have played in the past? Or a role that really helped you discover something about playwriting or theater in general?
The most recent role I played is Jack in [Stephen Sondheim’s] Into the Woods, and that was certainly a good experience I had sort of stretching my comfort zone. It’s something I enjoy participating in and something I plan on continuing to do.
As you look at your future in theater, do you see yourself pursuing both acting and playwriting?
Well, as much as I enjoy acting I don’t think I will end up doing that because I have been around actors who have made acting their profession—and they are great people—but sometimes it seems like they have had to sacrifice a more stable living situation; maybe they haven’t gotten around to having a family or something because of all of the traveling that they have had to do or what not. So I really enjoy it as an extracurricular, but not as a career. And as for playwriting, I’d certainly like to do more of that in later years, but I would have to explore that while holding down a different kind of job…
Yes, you do sound like you grew up around theater because you know how that is!
But both playwriting and acting are both activities that I enjoy and for the near future will continue to participate in those activities.
Well, it has been great talking with you and I am looking forward to meeting you in person in the new year!
Conor Hague LaRocque will be joining seven other playwrights at the 2013 Young Playwrights Conference in New York City, January 9-17. This year we will be inviting members of the Young Playwrights family (like you!) to the readings of these talented young writers.
The deadline for writers in the United States aged 18 and under to submit a play to our 2013 competition is January 2nd.
Elizabeth Bojsza, Literary Manager