It's always exciting when somebody contacts me on social media about an interview. That's how I found out about playwright Paul Hufker. He came on my radar after Tweeting at me. I took a look at his show, liked what I read, and thought it could make for a good interview. I hope you all will agree.
Paul's latest play, Snowed In: An Imaging is a fictional take on what it would be like if former CIA employee/government contractor Edward Snowden were to be trapped in a Russian airport. Snowed In will have a reading at Dixon Place (161A Chrystie Street) in NYC on Monday, December 21 at 7:30pm! Click here for tickets!
1. When did you realize you wanted to be a playwright, actor, and director? What order did your evolution take place? I realized I wanted to be an actor around age 7. No one could stop me from stealing the spotlight, so I suppose it was innate all along. In terms of writing, I saw a production of The Homecoming by Pinter in 2008 on Broadway of all places and was so moved that I went home and stayed up all night writing the first draft of what would become my first play. Someone had to direct, so I did that, too.
2. You have been a playwright for the past decade. What playwrights inspire you today? What actors do you hope to get to write for in your career? There are loads of talented people writing today. Many of them are in Brooklyn, either getting their MFA at Brooklyn College, or writing for the various arts spaces popping up all over. To name a few: Mike Mikos (who’s in my reading), Eliza Bent, Sibyl Kempson, Alexander Borinsky, Clare Barron, Morgan Gould, and so many others. Of course Erin Courtney and Mac Wellman – both masters and wonderful teachers. Sheila Callaghan.
3. Your latest play, Snowed In: An Imagining, is a fictional take on what it would be like if former CIA employee/government contractor Edward Snowden were to be trapped in a Russian airport. What was it about Edward Snowden's story that made you want to write this show? The play came together in a weird fashion. I was (and am) fascinated by the holographic principle in science. It’s a relatively new theory that asserts that the universe is essentially a 2-dimensional projection. This fascinated me deeply. To add to that was this notion of privacy and what we trade to have it. But I started wondering what privacy mattered if the makeup of our universe is in fact drastically different than we at first imagined. If those rules have changed, then where does that leave privacy? Anything at all? For some reason, when the Snowden world merged with the science world, something magical began to form on the page.
4. This incarnation of the show is a one night reading at Dixon Place. After you write a show, what's it like to have a reading and present it in front of a live audience? How do react to what the audience laughs at and what they don't react to? How do you decide which reactions make you go back and make changes and which ones you just feel you need to leave as is even if it didn't go over well? A one-night reading is essentially a sales pitch. I try and pull every string I have to get anyone that I have an industry relationship with to attend, in the hopes that they might want to work on it or buy it.
In terms of an audience reaction, there will no doubt be a tremendous amount of things I see and hear in the script on the night of the reading that I need to go back and look at. Those moments will hit my ear (via my brilliant cast) and will stick in my memory. I’ll go back and make the necessary changes later. I probably won’t change more than what my own ear tells me, except if the audience gets exceptionally antsy all at once in any certain place – then perhaps I’ll look at it.
5. What do you think Edward's reaction would be to Snowed In: An Imagining? I honestly think he’d like it if for no other reason than a good deal of the story focuses on Snowden as a person, not a "figure" and what it must’ve been like to sit and wait those agonizing days and weeks in that airport while the whole world hunted for him.
6. In the description of your show, it notes that as Edward Snowden is trapped in this Russian airport making-up a world of his own, there is a black cloud or black hole beginning to swallow the world outside. If there were a black cloud or black hole swallowing the world, how would you spend your last remaining moments? I gave up alcohol one year ago. I’d probably get drunk. Hard.
7. Since the show is set around being snowed in at the airport, what's your favorite part of having a snow day where you can't leave your apartment? Not drinking anymore, unfortunately. I suppose the unfettered ability to know there’s nothing more I can do in a day. The ability to rest.
8. When you see the first snowfall of the season, what feelings or memories come up for you? Oh, gosh. It snows a lot where I’m from (Missouri) so I’m sure something childhood-y comes up. I don’t know what, though.
9. If you could have a snowball fight with any celebrity, who would you want to go up against? Bob Dylan because I’ve always wanted to meet him and he’s 72 so I’d surely win.
10. If you could meet your playwrighting idol, what advice you would ask from them and what advice would you give them? I’ve been lucky enough to meet a good deal of my living idols (I don’t have many). I offered them no advice, but instead like a sponge, soaked up every ounce of their wisdom I could retain. My advice to Pinter would probably be "stop smoking" because that’s what killed him. Other than that, I don’t have the right to tell these giants a thing.
Paul has been a playwright, AEA actor, and director in New York City for nine years. He was a 2014 Jerome Fellowship Finalist, 2014 Princess Grace Award Semi-Finalist, 2011 Eugene O'Neill Prize Semi-Finalist, and was awarded participation to the 2011 Sewanee Writers' Conference.
He is currently an MFA candidate in playwrighting at Brooklyn College under Mac Wellman and Erin Courtney. His plays have been produced at/by The National Comedy Theatre (NYC), Manhattan Repertory Theatre, Variations Theatre Group (NYC) -- where his play The Horses in Central Park won Best Ensemble, Audience Favorite, and Best Actress (Mallory Hawks) -- Emerging Artists Theatre (NYC), The Drilling Company (NYC), The Dramatic Question Theatre Company (NYC) -- where he is a Fresh Faces 2012 recipient.
He is a proud graduate of Webster University where he received a BFA in theatrical performance.