Hometown: Denver, Colorado
This week marks the mid-point in our weekly interview series with the 2011 Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition winners. This week’s interview is with Josh Brown.
Hi, Josh! I did an interview two weeks ago with Paige Roth, another one of our 2011 national winners. I understand you know each other?
Oh yeah, yeah. I am friends with Paige!
She told me that you have both done work with the Curious Theatre Company in Colorado, and I hadn’t even made that connection because you have different home towns. I guess it really is a small world in the world of playwriting.
But you are in New York right now, is that right? Are you majoring in theater at NYU?
Right now I am majoring in acting although I am applying to dramatic writing. I am in between majors at the moment.
How are you finding the city?
Overwhelming, at first. But really enjoyable. I didn’t know the city really well before.
I wanted to talk a little bit about your winning play, Something Slavic. When people ask you about your play, what do you tell them?
Well, you know, I usually – I hate that question, “what is your play about”…
I tried not to phrase it that way on purpose—
I know what you mean, because I have encountered this: “what is your play about,” and I usually skip ahead and say it’s about a guy living in this apartment and his super steals his kidney.
One of the things that I really responded to in the play is the dialect that you write for the super.
Do you know anyone who speaks like that in real life? What was your inspiration for that character?
I wouldn’t say it is based on anyone in particular, growing up we did have a foreign exchange student from Uzbekistan, but I hope I am not you know parodying the way that she spoke and more using it as part of who Kostya is. I would say it isn’t based on anyone in particular, but I am a little bit familiar.
I’ve been in the room when you play was discussed by committees and that was definitely something that people talked about. As well as the wonderfully crafted humor that you have given us in the play.
Do you usually write comedy?
You know that’s something I am trying to branch out with. Especially because comedy is more well-suited to me. It’s just what I write.
Where did you come up with this plot and the twists and the premise of this kidney theft?
It’s interesting because I think it was just a mix of a lot of things going on. At Curious [Theatre Company] we were talking about really finding a good motivator for your character. I was also reading a lot of Martin McDonagh at the time so I was also interested in trying something a little more gruesome. So trying to find a darker motivator, I thought well, what if part of your body—what would motivate you more than literally losing part of you?
You mentioned Martin McDonagh. Is he a playwright whose writing has influenced your own?
Absolutely, he really is my favorite playwright. He does a lot of things really well. He is funny in a way that almost seems exaggerated but his characters are very well rooted in reality. There are a lot of things like families arguing, brothers and sisters, people that are talking about really—petty things, but they get so fed up they get violent in cases. And then it’s also very sentimental. So there’s a lot to latch on to—the more violent elements of his writing really leap out of the page when I am reading him.
When did you start writing plays?
Junior year of high school we had a project based on the Chicago Neo-futurists’ show Too Much Light [Makes the Baby Go Blind] . We wrote 30 plays in 60 minutes and it was just an acting class, but a really meaty transition to writing. That was when I first got interested in writing, when I was proposing things to my class and really enjoying it.
That sounds like a great project that I kind of want to do myself now.
It’s great for any group of actors working together. You have to think about, that’s the community working on it.
Do you have a favorite play, I mean, besides your own?
I would definitely say The Pillowman. It’s really clever… and it’s all just really honest. You can tell [Martin McDonagh] just goes off on these funny little exchanges that are so true to life and just happen to be happening in extreme circumstances so it’s funny. It’s also about a short story writer who is like the Brothers Grimm, he writes these dark fairy tales that are really fascinating and keep coming up. The subject matter is just really captivating and the story itself is really dark—it’s about brotherhood, growing up, these guys being questioned in an unknown totalitarian state, so it’s a high stakes play; he does a lot of things really, really well.
Have you seen it in production?
I have read it a few times but I have never gotten to see it in production. Tragically.
Are you working on anything now?
It’s kind of funny because of what Something Slavic is, but I am looking more these days at writing children’s plays. I’ve been doing some freewriting, and I keep on coming back to these [stories that] live in a fairy tale world but have adolescent themes like being lonely, growing up, and things like that. I really like Roald Dahl and it is just something that has come out in my writing these past few months.
Stay tuned for next week’s interview with Annika Bennett. The Young Playwrights Conference is now just a month away, as is the deadline for the 2012 competition. Who knows who I will be interviewing next year!
Josh Brown will be joining seven other playwrights at the 2012 Young Playwrights Conference in New York City, January 4-12. This year we will be inviting members of the Young Playwrights Family (like you!) to the readings of these talented young writers. If you are interested in attending the readings contact us at reservations[at]youngplaywrights.org.
The deadline for writers in the United States 18 and under to submit a play to our 2012 competition is January 2nd.
Until next week!
Elizabeth Bojsza, Literary Manager