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BBW Interviews: Playwright Jon Elston

MCL: What is your position (title) at Road Less Traveled?

JE: Currently I am the Literary Director for Road Less Traveled Productions.

MCL: When did you first feel the urge to be in theater?

JE: I did a lot of acting and some directing in high school and college, but my Bachelor's degree was in Film Production. In WNY twelve years ago, that qualified me to either make bad low budget movies or run a movie theater (both of which I was doing). I looked at Buffalo's flourishing theatre community and thought maybe I should switch mediums.

MCL: You are a local award winning playwright. When did playwriting become a part of your theater life?

JE: I wrote a few rather embarrassing works for the stage in the 90s... switched to screenplays for a while ... then returned to writing plays in 2002 with ProJect.

MCL: What was your first play about? Ever produced?

JE: ProJect depicted an hour-long meeting between four ruthless businessmen. Lots of profanity, lots of

recrimination, everyone leaves compromised and reduced. Just a little journalism inspired by my work in

the film business. I was very lucky to have Phil Knoerzer, Tim Newell, Brian Riggs, and Todd Benzin play

the four guys in the world premiere, directed by Scott Behrend. It was well-received, nominated for

some Arties, and we all had fun, so we remounted it at the 2004 Fringe Festival in NYC. Then we came

back to Buffalo and did it one more time at the Irish Classical in 2006, with Bob Grabowski stepping in

for Todd. It was a fun experience, and if not for those guys and ProJect, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't be

working in theatre in WNY today.

MCL: What is there about writing plays that you enjoy?

JE: I love telling stories. I love playing with narrative structure, I love continuity, I love to surprise and upset expectations. Drama is just the form that I seem to understand best and the form that my mind is calibrated for. Also, it's very gratifying to work with smart and inspired collaborators when you're developing a play. As a screenwriter, I was trained to almost ferociously protect my vision, my intentions, and never concede on any point of a working draft... because in the film business, it's such a slippery slope for writers; it's so easy to lose control of your script altogether. In the theatre, it's rare for

a producer or director or an ensemble to want to "steal" your play. Generally, theatre artists understand

that everyone showed up to work with the same goal: to produce the best piece of live theatre possible.

So working on a new play is very often a really nurturing & positive experience. That's not to say it's not

hard work, but if you surround yourself with smart collaborators who share your values, they tend to

contribute a lot of priceless insight to the evolution of your text.

MCL: Now tell us the downside of being a playwright

JE: Definitely these fat stacks of hundred dollar bills and mountains of gold doubloons cluttering up every square inch of my palatial mansion. What shall I do with them all? Of course I jest. You know you've obtained some small measure of success as a playwright if you are able to keep writing plays and still pay your bills, somehow. Your reward is not wealth, not retirement; it's just the freedom to continue doing your job. I often think of Connie Booth in Fawlty Towers, when a guest asks "Do you sell many paintings?" and she replies "Enough to keep me in waitressing."

MCL: Any playwrights you've been highly influenced by?

JE: Ten years ago I lifted a lot from Mamet and Shakespeare, as well as Chekhov, Kushner, Shepard... the

usual suspects. The more you read, the more you grow capable of learning from everything you read,

even if what you've learned is "I must never ever do that when writing a play." No single playwright

seems to have had a bigger impact on the craft in this young century than Sarah Ruhl. She revised the

rulebook for what a playwright could put on the page and expect to see translated to the stage, and

hundreds of emerging playwrights have picked up her ball and run with it. Lately I'm learning a lot about

language and how to parse language from Lucas Hnath. That dude is a certified Dialogue Wizard.

MCL: Do you write prose as well? Working on a book?

JE: I did write a Masters thesis in 2014... 50 pages on New Play Development strategies. At some point I

may continue that and try to publish, but darn it, there are just so many plays to be written.

MCL: What are three pointers you can give to any new playwright?

JE: #1: Opinions are free and it costs you nothing to listen to them. Listen to feedback. You don't have to decide to accept any of that feedback and adjust your play accordingly, but if you keep an open mind,

you may receive some really valuable insight. 2.) Learn to love coffee. It's your most trusted Lieutenant

in the war against deadlines. 3.) Don't spend so much time writing your next brilliant play that you

forget to promote the last three brilliant plays you've written. Budget some time every week to submit

your work, and network with producers and other playwrights. When in doubt, look at Donna Hoke.

Do that.

MCL: Time to promote yourself, Jon. Do you have any projects coming up?

JE: After America: Wasteland 2015 is post-apocalyptic sci-fi/horror/political satire/action/adventure metatheatre

with a great cast. David Koch fights zombies for the future of a socialist America. It opens in

March 2015. Please check your local listings.at is Donna Hoke doing? Do that.

For more information:

http://roadlesstraveledproductions.org/



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Road Less Traveled Productions Bridge Program Announces Mentees In Class Of 2023 Photo
Road Less Traveled Productions welcomes its inaugural group of mentees into its 2023 Bridge Program.

Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra Announces Centennial 2023-24 Season Initiatives Photo
The Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra (RPO) announced several initiatives that will come to fruition in its Centennial Season (September 2023 – June 2024) at a press conference this morning in Kodak Hall at Eastman Theatre.

American Repertory Theater of WNY to Present MERCY SEAT Beginning in February Photo
Post-Punk musician Nick Cave is celebrated through theater works based on his lyrical music in American Repertory Theater of WNY's showcase MERCY SEAT. Featuring 716 writers and creative designers, separate narratives are woven into one-acts and a choreographed work to create an overall arch while framed in the background of a old-time tent revival gathering. MERCY SEAT opens February 16th and runs until March 11th


From This Author - Mark C. Lloyd

Mark C. LLoyd is a published Poet and produced Playwright who resides in Lockport, New York.

As a Playwright, Director, board member and production consultant he has worked with many theater ... (read more about this author)


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