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Friday, August 19, 2011

The Inside Scoop on John Shea's JUNKIE, Opening Next Week!

With BPT Alum, John Shea's new play, Junkie, opening next week, I was excited to ask him a few questions about his new piece and what it's been like gearing up for the production.

Anna Pattison: Can you tell us a little bit about your creation and development process of Junkie? How has the rehearsal process shaped the play?

John Shea: I started writing Junkie, as a long monologue, maybe three or four pages, just to prove I could. My style usually consists of clipped, short sentences creating a staccato rhythm…Reading the works of other playwrights, I always admired the speeches and soliloquies…so I decided to write a monologue, possibly with the idea of it being in some shorts festival somewhere…anyway, the Stanford Calderwood Fund for New American Plays commissioned a work while I was with the Huntington and I decided to elaborate on Junkie, a piece I felt would easily lend itself to a longer work. Once I started, the character took over and I wrote a first draft in about 4 weeks…the quickest I’ve ever finished a piece, and with some expert cutting by director Brett Marks, it really hasn’t changed much since that first draft. What Brett has done is to focus more on the intimate moments, allowing actor Sean Cote to get at the emotion. I was surprised, as I’ve watched it progress, how moving it is…Brett and Sean have found a way to make the alien world (alien to most of us I think,) of addiction and rehab, human and accessible. And thank you Deirdre Benson for keeping us all on track…

AP: How does Junkie relate to other projects you have worked on?

JS: Junkie is definitely an off-shoot of my Somerville or neighborhood plays. The character, Cal would easily fit into the story lines of the neighborhoods I write about. In fact, Cal, like many of the characters from various plays, is mentioned in the play, Welcome to Somerville, Permit Parking Only. These plays, Erin Go Bragh-less, Claire, Silva, Comp, Junkie, and even, The Hill, to a certain extent (since it is the prequel to Erin…) could almost be mixed and matched…I like to think of them as the Garanimals of playwriting…anyone remember the Garanimals clothing line? These characters talk about each other, grew up together, are related to each other, in fact, they know each other so well, that familiarity becomes dangerous. Imagine a whole weekend of these plays done in rep…alcoholism, domestic and sexual abuse, addiction, racism, violence…bring the kids and pass the prozac.

AP: What do you hope your audience walks away with after seeing your play?

JS: I hope the audience sees hope at the end of this play. Cal is a junkie, but he is human and his struggle is not a choice…there is nature, nurture, circumstance, mental stability…so many things that go into a person’s make up. And yes, responsibility on the part of the addict, but in the end I think people will want Cal to make it, to clean up and get his life back. They will be forced to look past the addiction and see the wounded man at its center.

AP: Any new projects in the works?

JS: Always, always….I am collaborating with a friend of mine, Maureen
Cornell, on a play, Lifers, about a group of workers in a small, local, family owned restaurant…and hope to have the first draft completed by the end of September…I am trying to write a ten minute play or two to submit to the marathon and I am adapting (very, VERY loosely) The Velveteen Rabbit, for a drama club I run in my children’s elementary school…and speaking of school, I am back at BU finally finishing up the Master’s I started oh so long ago...

BPT Alum, John Shea's new play, JUNKIE, opens right here at Boston Playwrights' Theatre next Thursday, August 25th and runs through September 4th. Junkie is produced by Argos Productions, an exciting new theatre company in Boston devoted to producing new works.
Is it possible to turn your life around in thirty days? A close look at one man’s search for redemption and understanding, JUNKIE follows Cal, a Somerville heroin addict, as he undergoes thirty days in a state rehabilitation center. Over this brief span of sobriety, Cal confronts not only the choices which brought him to rehab, but also the world that made him who he is. Funny and unapologetic, JUNKIE shows us the path to recovery is not always a clear trail.

John Shea is a Huntington Playwrighting Fellow, whose plays include, Erin Go Bragh-less, (National Playwright’s Conference, Eugene O’Neill Theatre Center.) The Painter, (JaViviCo Productions.) WELCOME TO SOMERVILLE, Permit Parking Only, (JaViviCo Productions.) The Hill, (Boston University’s New Play Initiative.) Comp, (Tristan Bates Theatre Company in London, as well as the Boston Playwright’s Theatre.) Claire Silva, (Williamstown Theatre Festival’s Fridays @ 3 series, as well as Huntington Theatre Company’s Breaking Ground Festival.)Junkie, commissioned by the Stanford Calderwood Fund for New American Plays, and many short works have been included in festivals around the country, most notably here at home in the Boston Theatre Marathon, which John has run five times.

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