As named by the Chicago Reader, as "One To Watch," Randall Colburn is a playwright on the rise! Residing in Chicago, Randall is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists. His plays have been produced or developed at such theaters as Writers' Theatre, Victory Gardens, InFusion Theatre, Stage Left, and The Right Brain Project, who dedicated their 2010 season to his work. Randall's play "Lamp & Moth" was a finalist for the O'Neill National Playwrights Conference, the Allliance's Kendeda Graduate Playwright Competition, and the New York Summer Play Fest. He has also commissioned by the Writers' Theatre and InFusion Theatre.
Randall's current play, "Verse Chorus Verse" is currently playing it's New York premiere at the Cherry Lane Theatre Studio in NYC (38 Commerce Street) through November 12! "Verse Chorus Verse" is set 20 years after the death of Nirvana front man Kurt Cobain -- the rock musician who wrote the song of the same name. The show follows Polly, the haunted subject of the Nirvana song, as she seeks out the young rock star who wants to prove Cobain's death was a murder. Click here for tickets! Randall's next play, "Hesperia," will premiere at Chicago's Writers' Theatre this winter (January 24- March 18, 2012). For more on Randall be sure to visit http://www.randallcolburn.com!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? When I was 11, I saw Jurassic Park in the movie theaters and promptly read the novel. I then decided to write my own 125-page novel called "Death in the Making," which was about a family visiting a park on a tropical island that was filled with monsters, including a raptor and the alien from the Alien movies. This piqued my interest in writing. I didn't get heavily into playwriting until college, when I read David Mamet's play, "Edmond," which blew my 18-year old mind. Further influences included James Joyce, Sarah Kane, and Stephen Adly-Guirgis. They all made me want to be a playwright. That, and all the chicks.
2. Who is the one person you haven't worked with that you would like to? Goodness, I'm not sure. David Cromer. Dude's a genius.
3. What made you want to write "Verse Chorus Verse" and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? VCV began as a means to prattle on about the conspiracy that Kurt may have been murdered. Throughout the course of writing it (about five years), I began to lose interest in the conspiracy and eventually decided that it's none of my business. In some ways, I had the same experience with Christianity, in that it was about accepting the fact that I don't know and I never will. The play changed accordingly, becoming more about the fictions we create for comfort, and what happens when those fictions collapse. Where do we find salvation? How have we manipulated our identities? Where do we go from here? I hope audiences see that, and I hope they dust off their old copies of "Nevermind."
4. How did Kurt Cobain influence you and your writing? What excites you about having this play with this cast? Kurt did for me what he did for my generation, which was show us it was okay to be an outcast. And also to provide an outlet to scream our fucking heads off. I pored over his lyrics as a child in the same manner I pored over Joyce in college. His words influenced me tremendously, encouraging me to start expressing myself through words. So yeah, Kurt and "Jurassic Park." My muses.
I haven't seen the show yet (am checking it out this weekend), so I haven't seen the cast in action yet. But not only did they show a real enthusiasm and charisma when I spoke to them, but they also bring entirely new interpretations to the characters. The show was performed in Chicago last April with a cast that was there for much of its development, so its interesting to hear people's questions who were approaching the play fresh.
5. What made you want to reside in Chicago? As a playwright, what do you see the Chicago Theatre scene has that the NY Theatre scene does not? Chicago is where my friends are. And where my heart is, in a lot of ways. I'm a Midwesterner through and through, and I draw a lot of inspiration from it. Many of my plays take place in the small towns that pepper this landscape.
I honestly don't know a ton of the NY scene as of yet, but what Chicago has is a booming fringe scene filled with ballsy artists with unique visions. I'm thinking of theatres like the Mammals, Dream Theatre, Signal Ensemble, and the Right Brain Project, who are all challenging notions of popular theatre from basement venues and black boxes. There's a real sense of danger on a lot of Chicago stages, of stripping one's self bare. I came up on the fringe scene here, and I couldn't have asked for better colleagues.
6. What are you looking forward to about your upcoming play "Hesperia"? I've been working on that play for the last six years. This will be its third production, and each time it's evolved considerably. It went from super fringe, where it was a presentational one-act with floating cherubim and flaming swords, to the Right Brain Project, where it was a sobering, naturalistic drama. Now, at Writers', it's been given resources it never had before, and the script has undergone more major revisions. It's a bigger, richer play now, drawing on deeply personal experiences from my religious past, as well as the struggles I've undergone in the sexual arena. It's, by far, the most personal thing I've ever written. It's cathartic. I'm looking forward to seeing how audiences respond.
7. What have you learned about yourself form being a playwright? How sensitive I am. My male characters cry all the time. Honestly, I've learned to trust my voice. I've learned how to articulate my thoughts on God, on love, on sex. I mean, not completely, because we'll never TRULY articulate those things. But I'm much more eloquent through drama than I am in real life. I suppose I've learned how to communicate.
8. What did it mean to you to be named "One To Watch" by the Chicago Reader? It meant a lot, and it never would've happened without all the brilliant artists who took a chance on my words in the early going, most notably Nathan Robbel at the Right Brain Project and Michael Halberstam at Writers' Theatre. Both of them have stood by me and believed in me and I couldn't be more grateful. I moved to Chicago in late 2008 with an MFA and nothing else to my name, really. I wrote constantly, sent out my plays constantly. I said yes to everything. I scraped by financially and barely slept. Being named that just two years after I moved here was validation for all that hard work.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? A few.
"Embrace your voice."
"Don't write for someone else."
"Crap is good."
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? Crispin Glover. Clearly.
11. Favorite way to stay shape? Favorite way to spend your day off? I stay in shape by bench-pressing my laptop. My day job is as a staff writer at Groupon. My days off are comprised of writing plays and skirting deadlines. If not doing either of those things, I'm either trying to become a foodie or at Schubas seeing live music. I'm going there tonight to see some sissy-ass Swedish pop. Cobain would roll over in his grave. Or maybe not. He loved pop music.
12. Boxers or Briefs? Boxers. Always.
13. Favorite website? AVCLUB.COM. I'M OBSESSED. NATHAN RABIN IS A GENIUS.
14. Superman or Wonder Woman? Wonder Woman. Men are boring as shit.