FEED concludes its interview series with members of the Writer/Director Lab with the playwright Peter Gil-Sheridan.
1) Briefly tell us about your play COCKFIGHT.
Not to be confused with [Mike Bartlett’s play] COCK at the Duke, COCKFIGHT is a story of a young Cuban teenager, Juanie, with very alcoholic parents, Big Juan and Boozy Floozy. At the start of the play, Juanie is looking after this giant man-sized egg. Eventually that egg hatches…and the boy and his Dad fight over the contents while Boozy gets drunker and drunker. I’ve only written one play before that explores the Cuban side of my life. And while this play isn’t autobiographical, it was illuminating to me in a very personal way.
2) Who are your greatest influences in your writing?
I love Caryl Churchill, but don’t most writers? And I don’t think I write like her at all, but I love what she does because she creates such powerful pieces so succinctly. Lately, I’ve been drawn to writers who write without apologizing, people like Young Jean Lee and Jennifer Haley and Tom Bradshaw. They free me some, and I appreciate that. I’m also very much into English television: shows like Gavin and Stacey and Shameless. There’s a warmth beneath the grit that really moves me, and they feel like big messy soap operas, which I grew up watching. I’ve been influenced by the soaps and telenovelas of my childhood a great deal.
3) What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?
In the middle of the year, we did what I think of as a midterm. Our directors staged an excerpt of my work and in my case, Anna Brenner, staged the first 30 pages. This was incredibly helpful to me in terms of better understanding the tone of my play. It was also so inspiring to see it come to life before it was even done, to rehearse it, to know that I should go on with it. Likewise, it was really fun to watch Trish, Jackie, and Josh’s plays go through a similar experience. I find being in everyone else’s reading every other Sunday night to be HIGHLY entertaining because really I just want to be a glamorous actress but I lack the courage…and the sequins.
4) How do you think the Lab will influence your future work?
I think being a part of the Soho Rep community has been a really good thing for me. So often I feel isolated as a writer and it motivates me to work when I feel included. I won’t ever forget how high I felt after reading Trish Harnetiaux’s stage directions at her final reading. I just loved being in the room with her and Jeremy Bloom and that whole cast. It made me realize the importance of the social aspect of the work we do, how it’s the very thing that made me fall in love with the theatre in the first place.