BWW Interviews: DREAM OF THE BURNING BOY Scribe David West Read


Today, Broadway World is featuring David West Read, a young, yet already established playwright. His most recent play, The Dream of the Burning Boy, is currently part of the Roundabout Underground and is playing at the Black Box Theatre in New York City. Read is a Lila Acheson Wallace Playwriting Fellow at The Juilliard School, and a recent graduate of the MFA program in Dramatic Writing at New York University's Tisch School of the Arts. His work has been featured in the Pacific Playwrights Festival at South Coast Repertory, the Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Short Play Festival, NYU's Festival of New Works, the Toronto Fringe, and the SummerWorks Festival.

Broadway World reporter Nick Orlando spoke with Read about his current piece and upcoming projects.

I saw the play on Friday. It is certainly moving. You had audience members laughing and crying. How did you begin to develop this play?

I wrote this play in my first playwriting class at NYU. I graduated from NYU with an MFA in Dramatic Writing. I went into the school as a television writer, but we trained in all mediums. I ended up doing my thesis in playwriting, which is unusual for a television writer; I still studied television and film, but fell in love with playwriting. I had a reading for this production about a year and a half ago at Roundabout.

There are many messages in this play - relationships, coping, regret, taking responsibility. What were you trying to portray here?

I was taking a realistic portrait of grief. It's about high school students, teachers, parents, but different magnifications of grief as well. I didn't want to write a play, and have people crying for 90 minutes. The play is about missed opportunities - some big and some smaller, like high school drama blown out of proportion due to the other events that happened. Another message is the regret of not knowing how much time you will have with someone.

How did you hear Roundabout had an interest in your production?

My agent sent the script to Roundabout Underground. We had a reading and they pretty much told me right away that they wanted it. I developed it at the Eugene O'Neill Theater Center over the summer.

This is the fifth production of Roundabout Underground. What does this program mean to you?

Roundabout puts just as much attention into Underground as they do with the big Broadway productions. What they have done to the space is incredible; I cannot say enough about this team. I am very happy with the support I have received. We have a month of previews. This is what is great about Underground. They give us the time we need to develop the play. I see what works and what doesn't, and I learn from the many different audiences.

Reed Birney is perfect as Larry. What was the casting process like?

It was a bit of a unique situation. I did the initial reading at NYU, and they pay very little for casting and actors. Through my director, we got in touch with Reed. He liked the script, and I wanted him for the role. He is the right person for this role, and I am thrilled he is part of the production. The rest of the cast came from auditions this past fall.

Why should theatergoers come and support the production?

It is a unique play - yes, it is about high school students, but it is about larger themes of family and friendship. It is surprisingly funny despite the nature of the material. It is brilliantly acted, and it is cheap - seats are only $20! I would also like to give credit to my director, Evan Cabnet, who has helped guide my rewrites. He has been working with the actors, especially the new actors, and is bringing out the best in them.

Do you have anything else in the works?

I'm developing a screenplay inspired by my grandmother. Also, at The Juilliard School, I am working on another new play.

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