Kicking off our 17th Writer/Director Lab, Benjamin Kamine directs Milo Cramer’s new play CUTE ACTIVIST. This is the third in a series of interviews with the participants of this year’s Lab. Come and join us at the first reading at Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center, 107 Suffolk Street, April 22nd at 3PM!
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1. Briefly tell us about the play you are directing.
CUTE ACTIVIST by Milo Cramer follows six people in a town in the midst of upheaval. A new citizen has particularly destructive ambitions, while a young woman discovers activism at the moment a young man falls in love with her. And the only couple that is truly happy has their lives destroyed. At the end of the day, all anyone really wants to know is how to be middle class.
2. Who are your greatest influences?
It is, without a doubt, Jim Simpson. I have directed four shows at the Flea, and watched Jim work countless times. The biggest impact on the way I read plays came from talking about plays with him late into the night in his office. Much of how I work with actors came from the trust he imbues his process with. And the musicality with which he listens to the language of a play is an inspiration to me.
3. What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?
I love the collegial nature of how we discussed the plays. I get a lot from engaging with my fellow artists. But actually, I think some of my favorite conversations were the ones that happened on smoke/coffee breaks, or at South’s after the Lab on Sunday nights. At the end of the day, we’re best when we’re a community, and that community doesn’t start or end at the doors to the Soho Rep offices. I know that the ten of us (I’m including Ken and Jenny) will be shooting the shit about the work we do until we die. That’s instructive, entertaining, and deeply valuable.
4. How have your dramaturgical skills developed over the course of the past nine months?
Ken and Jenny ask the best f-ing questions after hearing a play. I have been thinking in a completely different way, just by osmosis, allowing my own impulses to percolate, while still being rigorous about what we actually need to understand about the text.
5. Seventeen years on the Lab has produced some pretty great plays. Looking over them, do any stand out to you?
Oh totally. I saw a reading of WELCOME TO JESUS by Janine Nabers last year. That play is killer. And my first introduction to the lab was seeing a reading of HOW TO GET INTO BUILDINGS by Trish Harnetiaux. I also just love SPRAWL by Josh Conkel. And I am super excited to see PEERLESS (originally UNTITLED HIGH SCHOOL MACBETH) by Jiehae Park at Yale Rep this year. Then there’s TAKARAZUKA!!! by Susan Soon He Stanton. I just realized I could keep going on this question for awhile. Basically, yeah, the lab yields a lot of great plays.