John Doble is a rising playwright whose work includes Coffee House, Greenwich Village (Best Play nominee Midwinter Madness Short Play Festival); To Protect The Poets (Roy Arias Theatre, NYC, 2011; semi-finalist, National Arts Club new plays contest and Reverie Productions Playwrights Contest); The Mayor Who Would Be Sondheim (New York International Fringe Festival, 2005; HRC Showcase Theatre, Hudson, NY, 2006. Finalist, Stage 3 Theatre Company Festival of New Plays, Sonora, CA, and Playwright Center’s New Play Competition, Minneapolis, MN, 2005); Blind Date (Samuel French Short-Play Festival, NYC, 2004; selected for The Last Frontier Theater Conference, Valdez, AK, 2005); The Mortgage (Pulse Ensemble Theatre’s Festival of One-Act Comedies, NYC, 2004); Lefty and Other Stories, a collection of short fiction, Clemson University, 2004 (nominated for the Pushcart Prize).
Now John is back with a new one-act play, A Serious Person, which will be featured in Manhattan Repertory Theatre's Winter One-Act Play Competition Series 2 from January 9-12 at 9pm. Starring Alex Engquist and Loralee Tyson, A Serious Person tells the tale of two 20-somethings, an insurance salesman and a beautiful airline ticketing agent, who strike up a comically-charged conversation and an unlikely flirtation as she confronts him with her outlandish opinions about everything under the sun, including Bush vs. Kerry, the church, Picasso and evolution.
Performed at Manhattan Repertory Theatre (303 West 42nd Street, 6th floor), all tickets are $20. To reserve seats email firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more on "A Serious Person" be sure to visit http://www.aseriouspersontheplay.com.
1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? The audience. I started writing, as so many writers do, with short stories. A number of mine were published in literary magazines, and then a collection was published by Clemson University. But seeing a story in print is a bit like tossing a stone into a lake – one doesn’t know if people see or hear (or read) it, let alone if they’re affected by it in the way a writer hopes. I also found that dialogue is easier for me than exposition. If I live a dozen lifetimes, I’d never be Thomas Wolfe. And so I decided to try a play. When I’d finished my first one, I enrolled in a workshop where playwrights read each other’s work aloud. When I heard others react, when they laughed or I saw they were moved, I was hooked.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? I admire a great many playwrights: Shanley, Fugard, Theresa Rebeck, Mamet, Tracy Letts, the late August Wilson and the late Wendy Wasserstein to name just a few. I’d love to work, or have worked, with any of them.
3. What made you want to write A Serious Person? This one came rather easily. Last year I wrote a one-act, Coffee House, Greenwich Village, about a man and woman who meet on a blind date. The woman, a femme fatale, seductively leads the man to commit a murder. I thought I might write a comedy that would serve as a companion piece. Who knows? I might write a third one too.
4. What do you hope audiences come away with after seeing A Serious Person? I enjoy plays that both entertain and give me something that sticks to my ribs, something that leads me to think. That’s my goal here: that people will chuckle but also walk away thinking. And perhaps, if I’m lucky, think the next day and the day after.
5. What excites you about being part of Manhattan Repertory Theatre's Winter One Act Play Competition? Manhattan Rep is a first rate venue for emerging playwrights like myself. Ken Wolf and his colleagues are real professionals and a pleasure to work with. Also, because of the format, we get a sizeable, sophisticated, interested audience for each performance.
6. A Serious Person is a one-act play, of which you have written a few. What do you like about writing in the short form as opposed to a full-length play? A full-length play is like a meal whereas the short form is like a snack. And sometimes a snack is just what I’m in the mood for. Also, the short form is shorter, which means it’s easier, at least for me. (See below).
7. What is your favorite part of the creative process in writing a show? Having written. None of it comes easily to me. But when I’ve finished something I’m satisfied with, it’s gratifying beyond words.
7a. Where is your favorite place to write? I write at home.
8. How do you select the elements for a play that propel the action in a short period of time? My plays just seem to come to me, almost as a whole. But then of course I have to write them, and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite. But the idea – the framework including the characters, beginning, middle and end – seems to emerge holistically. Writing for me is an endlessly mysterious process.
9. What's the interest in bringing together two strangers over two people who have been acquainted for some time? A blind date is, by definition, an unpredictable situation where anything can happen, where all bets are off. It gives me free rein to go anywhere. I think that for the audience, a blind date is also an engaging set up where they can expect the unexpected. But I’m also finishing a full-length where cousins get together after a long separation, which I also hope proves to be engaging and surprising.
10. What made you want to write A Serious Person with a male and female character instead of two members of the same sex? This play could easily be performed with two men or two women. But having been on a blind date or two myself and being who I am, I’m more familiar with the world I’ve created. In general, I think writers should stick to what they know best.
11. What have you learned about yourself from being a playwright? I sometimes feel as if I’m just getting started, that if I could just tap into all that’s inside me, I’d crank out play after play. And sometimes I feel as if I’ll never write another word. When an idea does occur to me and I write a new play, it’s always a surprise. I think to myself: "Now where did that come from?" And then, after I’ve written it, it’s as if it was always there, just waiting to emerge.
12. What's the best advice you've ever received? That when writers read or see a play or film, they try to dissect it, understand how it was put together. I’ll often read a novel or short story or watch a play or movie I admire several times. I may be one of the few non-teachers who’s read War and Peace three or four times. I also recently went to Glengarry Glen Ross, a play I’ve seen on stage and film upwards of a half-dozen times.