BWW Interviews: Playwright MATTHEW LACHIUSA
MATTHEW LACHIUSA took some time out of his very busy schedule to discuss playwrighting, Buffalo theater and his current project "SHINE"
MCL: When did you first write your first play?
ML: Back in my early 20's, that would be 10 years ago...lol.
MCL: What was it about?
ML: Two homeless guys were talking about life and purpose, then fought over a dime.
MCL: Looking back on it ... any good?
ML: My big thing when I first began writing was music lyrics and prose ala Beat Poet, so writing something that had a structure dialog was a challenge. Was it good? Sure, I was 20-something and trying to change the world in 10 pages. Compared to my writing now? The writing was that of a 20-something trying to change the world in 10 pages.
MCL: What made you choose playwright over other types of writing?
ML: Inevitability. I have two brothers in the Dramatic Arts; all my life I have been surrounded by this field, so instead of being drawn to field, I simply had to exercise within placement. Fortunately, I have also created a theatrical forum which allows the opportunity for development of works which has considerably aided in the continuation of play-writing.
MCL: Any moment you remember where you knew you had to write a play?
ML: During an 8th Grade class hearing Tennessee Williams' Glass Menagerie read aloud. Again, I grew up in a theatrical household but hearing words come to life told me that writing can be an effective means of empowering the common person. Unfortunately, there were no classes or teachers at that time in high school to encourage or inspire a student to write plays. I basically learned on my own through trial and error.
MCL: What are the themes that drive you to write?
ML: History and Humanity and how the two intersect.
MCL: Particular genre you enjoy more than others?
ML: American playwrights seemed to interest me the most because I can connect to the American story than a piece of work written in the 1500's using a dead language. With that said, any playwrighting genre that has a compelling story that intersects history and humanity does it for me.
MCL: What Playwrights inspire you?
ML: The mid-Century American playwrights like Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller, contemporary American playwrights Tracy Letts and Sam Shepard, works by Susan Lori Parks and Daniel Valdez, but what I like to read and creatively inspires me are historical or folklore books such Gumbo Ya Ya, works of Zora Neale Hurston, etc.. The inspiration behind my piece SHINE was a combination of Thorton Wilder's OUR TOWN, compelling Americana ghost-stories and the rich history of moonshine & the makers.
MCL: What's the art of Playwright like in the Buffalo, New York area?
ML: A "2 1/2 star rating", lol. There are too many cliques and circles that prevent exchanges or the sharing of positive critique. Because of this the playwright scene in Buffalo is fragmented, particular and underrated in some circles and grossly overrated in other circles. We are far from any concept of an Algonquin Round Table.
MCL: How important is new Playwrights to Buffalo Theater?
ML: Incredibly important to the overall health of Buffalo theater; for example, incorporating a new work into a season can infuse vitality to even the stodgiest company. Moreover, there is a community of playwrights here that could work together an share the common goal of getting works produced and finding other opportunities outside the region. What a cohesive way to build Buffalo's reputation of being a great place for a playwright. Is this common goal shared among all playwrights, no, and ultimately this effects whether or not a "new" playwright wants to even bother hanging around Buffalo.
MCL: You are the Artistic Director of American Repertory Theaterof Western New York.
ML: Yes, seven years now.
MCL: Do you seek out new Playwrights on purpose or do they seekyou out knowing how open you are to new material?
ML: Combination. Certain local playwrights workshop boast about supporting new playwrights but over the past two years several members of this workshop have approached ART/WNY about producing their originals. Incredibly ironic but ART/WNY does take a strong look at their works with every intention of producing the work if the piece proves to fall within our creative mission. I also have a great relationship (and enjoy his work) with local award winning writer, Mark Humphrey. We also had a successful run with a Young Playwrights Festival at Buffalo Canalside (one playwright, Emily Cutler is now published through Samuel French) with a call for work that yielded some great productions from out-of-state writers. Our One-Act showcase featuring WNY writers yielded several outstanding pieces from Buffalo based writers including you (Mark C Lloyd), John F Kennedy, Justin Karcher Donna Marie Vaughan and Humphrey.
MCL: Where do you see yourself as a writer five years from now?
ML: My first goal is get American Repertory Theater of WNY to the 10 year mark. Smaller, less-established theater companies require a ton of effort and work to keep them going because of 21st century economic factors and pressures working against success. If all is successful after 10 years, then am going to take some time off and dedicate efforts to getting works published. In the meantime, I won't stop writing; that'll always be in me and nothing, nobody will take that away.
SHINE can be seen at ART in Box, American Repertory Theater of WNY's newly rennovated performance space.
Written by Matthew LaChiusa
Church of the Ascension
American Repertory Theater of WNY
16 Linwood Avenue (corner of North St.)
Buffalo, NY 14209
9:00 AM to 4:30 PM Mon-Fri
Noon to 4:30 PM Sat
716 -697- 0837
(Text Messages Only)
April 24th, 25th, 26th
May 1st, 2nd, 3rd
May 8th, 9th, 10th
May 15th, 16th, 17th
Showtimes 7:30 pm
$20 General Admission