We continue our 15th Writer/Director Lab with Max Posner’s new play JUDY, directed by Jesse Jou. This interview with Max continues a series of interviews with the participants of this year’s Lab. Come and join us the reading at Access Theater, April 15 at 7PM!
1. Briefly tell us about JUDY?
JUDY looks at three adult siblings in each of their basements in the year 2040. The play explores familial disconnections in a moment of extreme technological connectivity. Timothy has been abandoned by his wife, Judy. His daughter Eloise is rapidly entering adolescence. Tara has gotten into God, and Kris, the eldest, spends her nights alone, “volunteering” over the Internet. I’m toying with an emotional future, speculating about the various shapes our interactions and negotiations might take. I’m wondering about isolation, people who find themselves disconnected from the reality of their own habits, systems, words, and siblings. It’s a play where people want to feel the things they don’t, and don’t want to feel the things they do. Ideas aside, it really is about three basements and the things that six people feel like saying in them.
2. Who are your greatest influences in your writing?
I’ve been heavily influenced by the teachers I’ve worked with. Erik Ehn, Paula Vogel, Bonnie Metzgar Lisa D’Amour and Greg Moss. I’m always stealing tiny phrases from overheard and recollected conversations, from the subway, from things I remember authority figures saying when I was growing up. Pre-school teachers in Denver, my sisters, former neighbors. Recently, I’ve been reading short fiction by Lydia Davis and George Saunders and poetry by John Ashberry. Three playwrights whose work I think about a lot: Wallace Shawn, Caryl Churchill, Anton Chekhov.
3. What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?
The Lab has been a bi-weekly celebration of how singular every writer’s process is. I usually encounter my peers’ plays when they exist in one unified documented with a beginning and an end. How they arrive in single document form feels like some shameful, classified secret, something we all experience in isolation. The Lab embraces the belief there is no ‘reasonable’ way to write a play, that you gotta dig your own strange tunnel. It’s an honor to get invited down someone else’s tunnel-in-progress, to follow and be followed before we know where things are headed. The usual doubt and terror I experience in the private moments of making something were less audible against the raucous support and enthusiasm of eleven people. I kinda feel like we’re all scientists conducting regular check-ups on five children from five planets who are all going through puberty. What could be more thrilling? And vulnerable? And fun?
4. How do you think the Lab will influence your future work?
I didn’t start my play with a story or structural concept. I began with a feeling and lots of scattered language. The Lab pushed me to stare at my mess until I could recognize certain elements and see them repeating. Under different circumstances, I might have pushed everything aside to write a play that already made sense to me. Instead, I’ve tried to find something that might connect and contain the chaotic, scattered bits, words and people I’ve been concerned with. The Lab has pushed me to invest in what’s already simmering, and to build from there. Shaking it around every two weeks, sharing little bits, that steady commitment to moving things around guarantees that something will happen. I’ll be more likely to trust instincts that are not fully formed, to let them tumble forward week after week without trying to force them into some package before that’s necessary.
5. It’s the 15th anniversary of the Lab! Looking back over the history, which plays that have come out of the Lab are you inspired by and why?
The Lab’s history is loaded with plays that sharpened my desire to write in the first place. THE INTERNATIONALIST by Anne Washburn, ORANGE, HAT & GRACE by Greg Moss, SOMEWHERE FUN by Jenny Schwartz, MARIE ANTOINETTE by David Adjmi. I’m struck by how these writers are thinking about the hidden possibilities of language. Reading or hearing many of these plays, you feel like you’ve happened upon some special, private radio channel. One where these specific people in this specific universe are chatting and articulating in a meticulous, expressive, unfamiliar tone. It’s like hearing some new genre of music, one that surprises in its unorthodox route to the heart and guts of an audience. These playwrights got me excited about theatre as a place to be very particular and obsessive with words.
Max’s plays include THE THING ABOUT AIR TRAVEL, THE FAMISHED, GUN LOGISTICS and SNORE (and other sorts of breathing). His plays have been staged and developed at Actors Theatre of Louisville, Page 73, Williamstown Theatre Festival, Clubbed Thumb, The Hangar Theatre, Curious Theatre Company and Production Workshop. Max was the 2012 P73 Playwriting Fellow. He is a MacDowell Colony Fellow and received the Weston Award for playwriting and the Heideman Award from Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. Max is a member of the Soho Rep. Writer/Director Lab and Ars Nova’s Playgroup. He is working on a commission from South Coast Rep. A graduate of Brown University, he studied with Erik Ehn, Lisa D’Amour and Paula Vogel. Max was born and raised in Denver and lives in Brooklyn.
JUDY will be read at ACCESS THEATER, 380 Broadway (at White Street). 7PM Start!