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Saturday, April 30, 2011

On the Ground Floor with...Peter Floyd

Playwright Peter Floyd

On May 1-4, work by this year’s MFA class – Peter Floyd, John Greiner-Ferris, and Heather Houston -- will be featured in our annual Ground Floor New Play Series, along with Reginald Edmund’s Southbridge. Southbridge was the winner of the 2011 Southern Playwrights’ Competition, and is part of the Sister City Playwrights Exchange.


But first, we celebrate these exciting writers on the blog by offering an inside look at them and their plays.

Tell us a little about your thesis play.
Absence revolves around the character of Helen Bastion, an iron-willed, indomitable woman who finds herself suffering from memory loss. As she struggles to retain control over her own mind, she finds herself having to answer the question of selfhood: Is she still the same person she's always been if she can no longer remember her past?

What makes you passionate about this idea?
I have a personal stake in this play. My mother is suffering from Alzheimer's Disease. Writing this has been something of an attempt for me to explore what the world must be like for someone whose very sense of reality is in flux, a way to understand what my mother is experiencing. (I hasten to add that while they are suffering from the same affliction, the character of Helen is not in any way based on my mother; their personalities are markedly different.)

Does your thesis play align with your original vision for this work, or did it take shape as you went along?
The play has changed markedly over the previous year. As originally written, it was really more of a conceit than a play... an examination of memory loss through the eyes of the victim. There was an interesting theatrical device, but no real dramatic action. Ronan and Melinda both pushed me to make Helen a stronger, more active character, who actively fights to keep control over both her world and her mind. I've also made it more of a family drama, with Helen's relationship with her daughter becoming the focal point of her struggle.

How would you describe your writing to people who are unfamiliar with your work?
Most of my previous work has been on very short plays, and these have tended to be comedies with an absurdist edge (David Ives has been a strong influence). Absence would seem to be a departure from that trend, with its tragic subject, but there are elements in common, most notably the sense that our sense of reality does rest on as solid a foundation as we think.

What is the least likely thing you've gained inspiration from?
One scene in Absence involves Helen's grandchildren confusing not only their grandmother but their mother as well, as they talk to each other in arcane terms derived from anime and manga. This comes from my observations of my own nephew and niece, devotees of all things Japanese, who can often speak to each other in a jargon incomprehensible to the layman.

What’s next for you?
My newest play, Park Street Angel, is a decided departure from Absence; it's a very dark comedy about two people having a very bad day. After one scene was read in class, one of my fellow students said she'd never laughed so hard at a murder scene. I felt very proud.

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