Arthur Bicknell is the co-founding literary manager and resident playwright for the Homecoming Players in Ithaca, New York. Plays he’s written include Masterpieces and My Great Dead Sister. His recently published memoir, Moose Murdered, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Broadway Bomb, reveals all the sordid details about the original production of his career-halting moosterpiece. He sincerely thanks his long lost son, Steven Carl McCasland, for not only bringing the Moose back to town, but for allowing the playwright to actually be in on the joke, this time.
Arthur's flop, Moose Murders is now being revived in honor of the shows 30th Anniversary by The Beautiful Soup Theater Collective. Moose Murdres: Shamelessly Revised will play at the Connelly Theatre in NYC (220 East 4th Street between Avenue A & B) through February 10. Click here for tickets!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright? I was given a copy of Eugene O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night when I was in high school. It felt like the first play I’d ever read, although I’m sure that couldn’t have been the case. I was devastated by it, in a very good way. I wanted to write about my family with such painful eloquence. Then came Arthur Kopit’s Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mama's Hung You in the Closet and I'm Feelin' So Sad: A Pseudoclassical Tragifarce in a Bastard French Tradition, Eugène Ionesco’s Rhinoceros, Lanford Wilson’s Lemon Sky, and just about every word written by Edward Albee. I tried to emulate all these writers, all at the same time. Voices, voices.
2. Who haven't you worked with that you would like to? This is an endless list. Does Fran Lebowitz ever work with others? If she does, she’s my top pick.
3. The Beautiful Soup Theater Collective is reviving your show Moose Murders, which is known as the biggest flop in Broadway history. What was it like to have your show open and close in the same night after all the work you put into it? When and how did you find peace with the fact that it was going to be known as the biggest flop in Broadway history? There is no way I can answer these questions with quick wit or even unadorned brevity. Everybody dreams of overnight success. NOBODY dreams about overnight abject failure. Fortunately for all the fans of unadulterated schadenfreude, my cautionary memoir Moose Murdered, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love my Broadway Bomb is availble now. You can read all about my unique public humiliation process there. End of plug.
4. How did you find the strength to move forward and continue writing? I didn’t. I became a literary agent instead. I let other people do the writing for several years.
5. How did it feel when you found out this revival of Moose Murders was going to take place? The very first I knew of it was by watching the amazing video trailer created by Steven Carl McCasland, the artistic director of The Beautiful Soup Theater Collective and the director of Moose Murders, Shamelessly Revised. I knew I was in good, solidly twisted hands.
6. What made you want to revisit the script and make some changes to it for this revival? If I keep telling this story I’m going to see even fewer royalties, I suppose, but when I looked at the published version of the script, I was mortified. Apparently I’d lost my will to live by the time I received the galleys, and, along with egregious spelling and grammar errors, huge portions of the stage directions and dialogue were either messed up beyond recognition or entirely missing. Steven was being brave enough to revive it anyway, and I thought the least I could do would be to provide a little more…coherence. And maybe, you know, throw in a little plot, while I was at it…
7. You’ll soon be releasing your theatrical memoir Moose Murdered: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love My Broadway Bomb. What made you want to write this story of your experience? What made now the right time to do it? Are you kidding? It’s Moose Murders, for God’s sake. Everybody wants to know what was up with that. It may be messy, but we’ve got to stop the car and take a look at this collision! It was either write the book or perform my own whiney version of the Hill Cumorah Pageant, and I didn’t have nearly enough energy for that.
8. You are the co-founding literary manager and resident playwright for the Homecoming Players in Ithaca, New York. What has been the best part of this venture? Returning to my beautiful hometown of Ithaca and pursuing my love of theatre all over again! I hooked up with an old classmate, Rachel Hockett, at our 40th high school reunion, and we literally decided right then and there to abandon our boring, predictable, and terribly practical lives (on opposite coasts) and to move back to our own version of misty and mythological Brigadoon. Some people thought we were nuts. You’ve got to be a little crazy, I think, to follow your dream so unconditionally, especially when you’re over sixty, as we both are. We’re trying to significantly contribute to the conversation in our arts-rich Ithaca community, and specifically to explore the intersection of social justice with theater. We’re committed to developing and employing local actors, directors, writers, and technicians, and to establishing a welcoming and safe environment in which to rehearse and produce an eclectic mix of classic and new plays. End of mission statement. You can read all about us at thehomecomingplayers.org.
9. What have you learned about yourself from being a playwright? I’ve learned that no matter how scared I might be, no matter how badly I bully myself, or how miserably insecure I’m feeling at any given time, I can always turn it all around by putting all the dialogue I’d rather be listening to in other people’s mouths.
10. What's the best advice you've ever received? Get off Facebook.