Visit the Boston Playwrights' Theatre Web site for information about our programs, tickets, and more!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Q&A: Zayd Dohrn on 'Want' and 'Outside People'

Zayd Dohrn’s Want opens tonight at Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s First Look Repertory of New Work, and in January his Outside People opens Off-Broadway in a co-production by The Vineyard Theatre and Naked Angels. Of course, we had questions for him…

KAM: Wow – you have a one play (Want) at Steppenwolf, and another (Outside People) opening Off-Broadway in January. I guess we could say this is shaping up to be a really busy fall and winter for you. How are you managing your time?
ZD: It’s been busy, but the timing worked out well. Right now I’m in the middle of rehearsals for Want. We open October 27 and run through November 20. Then Outside People rehearsals start two days later, so they’re close, but not completely simultaneous. Luckily, I don’t have to be in two places at the same time.

KAM: And you have a family too. How are the people at home coping?

ZD: Pretty well, thanks. It’s a family of writers, so everybody understands.

KAM: Tell us a little bit about these plays and where you are in their development at the moment.

Zayd Dohrn
ZD: I wrote Outside People at Juilliard, workshopped it there, and then developed it further during a series of readings at Naked Angels. So I’ve had some time to work on it. Want is brand new, pretty much a first draft. We’re a week away from opening, and I’m still working on it.

KAM: So these pieces are at two very different points in their individual lifecycles. Does that mean they balance each other somehow – in terms of what each must demand from you – or does it just feel crazy for you right now?

ZD: They balance. I think early rewrites and final polishes take very different energy and come from different parts of the brain. And I’m working on a bunch of new things too, so that feels very different as well.

KAM: One thing that strikes me – as I look at your body of work – is the range of subject matter you seem to cover. What themes do you find yourself visiting time and again?

ZD: They’re all plays about people trying to build a new world – a support group, an ultra-hygenic home, a revolutionary movement, a life in China, whatever – that’s somehow opposed to, or separate from, the larger world. And they’re also about whether that separateness is ultimately attainable, or even advisable.

KAM: How do those themes reveal themselves in Want and Outside People?

ZD: Want is about a bunch of former addicts who have dropped out of AA and NA and decide to form their own group – a kind of tough love therapy commune. But the group becomes a cult, and the play is about how the characters try to extricate themselves from this new society they’ve build.

Outside People is about an American guy who goes to China because he’s never felt at home in the U.S. He gets to Beijing, and he thinks the strangeness of the place is what he’s been looking for, but then he slowly realizes he’s exoticized the difference – that his reflex liberal humanism isn’t really adequate for understanding people across languages and borders.

So both plays are about trying to find a home in a place that feels inhospitable. And also about the dangers of trying to escape entirely – they’re about the need to find a way to live in the world, even as you see it’s problems and dangers with clear eyes.

KAM: What's next for you?

ZD: I wish I knew. I'm writing a couple movies and working on a series for HBO. And trying to write a new play. 

No comments:

Post a Comment