BWW Interview: Art Shulman Opens Newest Work Upstairs at Group Rep
Art Shulman has produced many full-length plays including The Rabbi's Mission; The Rabbi & The Shiksa; The Yentas Wear Red Hats; I Got Troubles; Doubting Thomas; I'm Not Just A Comic Genius; Rebecca's Gamble; Not One More Foot Of Land!; Bagels; Boxcar & Eugenia; Sex Is Good For You!; Old Broads Can't Dunk; God, Bring Me A Miracle; The $4 Million Giveaway; Misconceptions; Joe Carbone's Job; September 10; Career Day; and the Xmas musical, Trolls Stole The North Pole. Additionally, he's written many one-act plays, too numerous to list here.
Interview with WHOOPSIE-DOOPSIE! Playwright/Director Art Shulman
Written by Steve Peterson
When and where did you first become interested in writing for the stage?
1994. I had written some monologues and an actor friend of mine in an acting group suggested mounting it as a play.
What was the first play you wrote and what was it about? Was it produced, and if so when and where? What did you take away or learn from that experience?
JOE CARBONE'S JOB. It is about the owner of a chicken slaughterhouse who feels guilty about killing chickens, so he goes to work at a coffeehouse to meet people and find information about what other occupations people have, and what they like about it. It was produced in 1994. I learned from that that I was a pretty good playwright.
Which of your plays do you consider your best or a favorite, and why?
This is like asking a parent which is his favorite child. So I can't give you one. I write in a lot of different styles. Some different plays include my best box office hit - THE RABBI & THE SHIKSA. My courtroom drama, REBECCA'S GAMBLE is very unusual. My historical drama, NOT ONE MORE FOOT OF LAND! Has been called by one reviewer as 'very important.' My Xmas musical, TROLLS STOLE THE NORTH POLE (I wrote the book and lyrics, not the music). And of course, my current WHOOPSIE-DOOPSIE is way different from almost all other plays.
Tell us a bit about Whoopsie-Doopsie!
This play is based on a novel I wrote about a young man, Billy, whose girlfriend got pregnant. The story alternates between elements of how he and she deal with the pregnancy, and events that happen to Billy each year from age two to the current seventeen. The novel was originally called THE BILLY CHRONICLES. It had a couple of staged readings, but lay dormant for many years when I decided to pick it up again when Zombie Joe, the operator of his own theater, asked me if I had anything he could produce at his theater. It is a wacky, quirky, fast-paced, outrageous play with eight actors, six of whom play multiple roles. The staging is very unusual, with the set basically consisting only of a number of cubes and a few screens.
WHOOPSIE-DOOPSIE! was recently performed at ZJU in NoHo. Is this the same play or have you re-written or revised it in some way?
It is basically the same play, with the changes having to do with some additional dialogue and two new scenes. The staging is different since we have a lot more stage space in this production than in the one performed at ZJU.
What do you want the audience take away having seen the plays? What might they remember?
That it is a funny, comic piece while presenting both sides of the pro-choice vs. pro-life issue.
What's up next for you - - directing/producing/acting?
Over the past few years I've acted in a few of my plays. In my last four productions, including this one, I've directed only. And a director, in a way, gets to play all the roles. During this period I've continued writing and have come up with a number of new one-act plays, and am developing my next production, THE MAVERICK PROFESSOR, which I hope to produce later this year. I usually executive produce my own plays. An exception was the earlier production WHOOPSIE-DOOPSIE! at ZJU.
WHOOPSIE-DOOPSIE! February 2 - March 3. Saturdays 2:00 pm, Sundays 7:00 pm. Talk-backs after Saturday matinees February 9 and February 23. Tickets: $20. Students/Seniors with ID: $17. Tickets & information: www.thegrouprep.com or (818) 763-5990. AC/Heat. The Upstairs is not wheelchair accessible. Upstairs at the Group Rep, second floor of the Lonny Chapman Theatre, 10900 Burbank Boulevard, North Hollywood 91601.