Isaac is one of our new members, and we had a chance earlier this week to hear his full length play THE GNOME out loud, kicking off our new round of long-form readings. So we’re really overexcited to hear all about him.
#selfies are an ongoing interview series where Lather, Rinse, Repeat playwrights interview one another. They have free reign over the questions. The interviewee must then post an actual selfie, for the sake of being meta.
JEN B.: Yesterday, you kicked off lather, rinse, repeat’s second round of full length presentations. I was the first to go in the first round so you and I are part of a special club. How did your first night in the “tub” go? Does the process feel different than other groups or classes you may have worked with or been a part of?
ISAAC R.: The First in the Tub Club. We should make certificates. The whole evening was fantastic. I loved that the method of giving feedback is very focused and allows for the playwright to be involved. It does feel different, as I was able to have a full-length read (as opposed to an excerpt) as well as bring in actors to read. I can already tell there are a lot of motivated people in the group, which is great and the support structure is already in place.
JEN B.: When I found out I would have the honor of interviewing you I did a little snooping and found your website and noticed a whole section devoted to historical plays? Can you talk about your attraction to historical source material and how your approach might change when writing something based in historical fact vs something conjured entirely from your imagination?
ISAAC R.: The last five years of my writing have been devoted almost exclusively to historical plays (I have 4 more full-lengths since my last update!). Last night’s piece, THE GNOME, is one of the only works that I’ve written recently that is completely fictional. The biggest change in approach is that with a historical piece the story is more or less already there. It’s just a matter of focusing on how to tell it as opposed to an original piece where so much time and energy is placed on what to tell. The investigation element of historical research is a lot of fun. I love reading accounts, quotes, anecdotes about a historical figure that can assist in bringing a character to life. And a lot of times it takes me to cool locations (NY Public Library, Baseball Hall of Fame, NY State Archives) and talk with historians that help me look for “clues.” It’s like gathering evidence and coming up with motive, psychological make-up, etc of a person. It makes me feel like I’m one of those cool people on CSI…..or Matlock.
JEN B.: I’ve always been interested in the creation of solo performance and I’m very intrigued by your play Captain Ferguson’s School for Balloon Warfare. Can you speak about the creation of this particular piece? How much of this was a collaborative process? Was it more of a playwright driven experience or director driven?
ISAAC R.: I came up with the idea while I was at the Great Plains Theater Conference at Fort Omaha, NE. I read a plaque about how the fort was used as a balloon school during World War One. There was a picture of one of these balloons, with all these men holding onto it by ropes, like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade Balloon. And knowing the horrors of WW1 combat, I found the image very funny yet very tragic. That was the creative spark. The creation of this piece was perhaps the most collaborative process I have ever been a part of. It was very playwright-director-actor driven. Philip Emeott (our director) and David Nelson (our actor, who also read last night) helped create this piece from the ground up. Through working on it with space grants, creative retreats and workshops in the city, we were constantly working together to create the show from the script to the performance on stage to the technical elements. It was very open and collaborative, yet each of us also respected each other’s roles. And each one of us stayed committed to the play and to the process, from our workshops to 59E59 to the Edinburgh Fringe.
JEN B.: How did you find your way to playwrighting? Were you always out to be a writer?
ISAAC R. I was always interested and active in theater, whether as an actor, technician, designer, etc. However, I was always interested in creating and telling stories. In college, I was a film major and thought that was the medium I would pursue. But I just couldn’t leave theater behind. So right after college, on a whim, I adapted a short screenplay I had written into a stage play and submitted to a 10-minute play festival at the Brooklyn Lyceum, where it was produced. And everything just came into focus.
JEN B.: I’ve also come to find out that you are the father of two young boys and husband to a lovely wife who I believe also works in theater. How do you balance your family life with your work as a playwright? Do you and your wife ever collaborate on projects or is collaborating in life enough?
ISAAC R.: To answer the first part, let me answer the second. 10 years ago (when we were just two kids ready to get hitched) Jennifer and I founded a non-profit company called Oracle Theater Inc. Since then, we’ve collaborated as playwright/director, designer/technician, co-producers, co-directors, director-choreographer, you name it! However, since our first son was born three years ago, we have not been as much a creative team as we used to be, and focus more on collaborating on the business end. On a positive note, we’ve had to pass on a lot more of those creative roles to some other amazing people. We’re hoping that when the boys get a little older, we can get back to being more of a creative team again. There really is no such thing as balance in our lives. Aside from parenting, we both work, maintain running the company and I have my work as a playwright. So at times rather trying to balance, it’s more like keeping our heads above water. But no matter the craziness, stress, sleepless nights, and endless diapers, I still love writing and working on plays. So I will make the time. I write on a legal pad on the subway. I’m on my computer the instant the boys go down for a nap. I make sure to coordinate our mothers coming to visit with rehearsal times. I edit scripts during the one-hour of Sesame Street. I will arrange my work schedule so that I can be a part of Lather, Rinse, Repeat. It’s extremely challanging not having a routine, but I’ve learned that as long as you are passionate about the work routine really doesn’t matter as much as well all think it does.