BWW Interview: Playwright Brent Beerman Discusses A DULL PAIN TURNED SHARP To Open at Group rep April 21
Playwright Brent Beerman is A UCLA MFA graduate;his Gabriel's Rapture won the Corner Stage National Theater Contest; Millionaires opened Off-Broadway; Dancing in The Shadows won the Pacificus Foundation of Los Angeles Literary Award; his libretto for Jesus' Daughter and Womin, touring Europe and the United States, were featured on CNN. In Los Angeles, Another Washington Affair was recently directed by Kay Cole. A Dull Pain, Turned Sharp was a prizewinner at the MOXIE Films New Play Competition and a reading featured at the HOWL festival in New York City. He is the director of theater at Crescenta Valley High School which annually produces over 14 plays with five guest directors.
Written by Steve Peterson
When did you first get interested in theater either as a performer and/or playwright?
My father is a music professor, and my mother is a modern dancer, and as a result I quite literally grew up on the stage. I was their little mascot "roady." I have also have been writing plays and staging them with my friends for as long as I can remember. I loved to write scripts, and then record the scene on a little reel to reel tape machine and then play it for my friends as if it were a radio show. I remember when our sixth grade class had the use of a new video camera (which was the size of a house), and I wrote a short screenplay and the class recorded it. I would give anything to see that tape again!
What was the genesis of the play, "A Dull Pain Turned Sharp"? What drew you to the subject matter and women's issues about motherhood?
The actual genesis of the play...? My wife and I were driving on the freeway listening to talk radio, and a woman called in asking for advice. "Her daughter's dead boyfriend's mother wants her daughter to carry her dead boyfriend's baby." From there, I explored the reality of my life, the relationships and family structures of my wife's family, and blended the hopes and dreams of the real and melded it with fiction. I remember how important it was for me to have my own children, and create my own family.
Most of my work focuses on the creation and definition of family. It's not intentional, but I tend to gravitate to that theme. My mother was 15 when she gave birth to me, and I am an only child and was often left alone to take care of myself. On one hand, this is the center of my creativity as I learned to create games and stories whilst by myself; but it also was a source of fear and fragmentation. I have always looked for a place to belong; searching for some connection. My first wife came from a very large family and I think in retrospect I was incredibly attracted to her family because I wanted her family to be mine.
How did you go about developing the story into a play? (Or was ADP to be a play from the start?)
Theater has always been my preferred mode, and I immediately started writing short scenes that slowly developed into the larger story.
What has been the greatest challenge in getting the play on its feet and produced?
First - the first person narrative usually turns artistic directors off. It's some sort of personal issue with "showing" vs "telling".
Further, my writing tends to be very visual, and it requires a great deal of imagination to see the possibilities for the stage. A quick superficial read of my work often results in rejection because the theatricality is not immediately apparent.
Tell us a bit about the play.
A Dull Pain Turned Sharp focuses on characters who grapple with the definition of family; it explores the needs and definition of motherhood while acknowledging the hope of nontraditional relationships.
What do you want the audience to take away or perhaps feel, having seen the play?
I want an audience to understand that their definition of family and relationships may not be the only definition, and one cannot and should not judge the direction others take. A woman does not have to be a mother. A woman does not have to be a grandparent. A child is born not because of some sort of traditional requirements. Rather, a child is born because there is a new person to unconditionally love; the desire to share your life and you help the child discover themselves.
Is there anything else you'd like to say about the play or the production? Is there anything you wish we had asked?
I am incredibly fortunate and honored to be working with Kay Cole on this project because of her love and dedication to the written word. Her goal as a director of new work is to explore and discover the needs of the script. She is not writing the play, but rather she helps the writer discover the core and soul of the story.
I would also like to give a shout out to the Group Rep Theatre Company for helping to develop new work. They have created such an incredibly loving environment, a writer feels free to take risks. A dramatic script is only a piece of paper until someone decides to give the writer a chance and turn the words into a living reality.
What's up next for you?
Kay and I have written a script about a ghost that haunts the Rialto Theater, an old vaudevillian house that has long shut down. When alive, the ghost was a Shakespearean actor who died on the stage during the final speech by King Lear. He is now forced to play the role of Lear in perpetuity until the Rialto is sold, refurbished, and a new theater company is in town.
Kay and I have also been working on projects focusing on the topic or subject of bullying. We have written a screenplay, and we continue to develop programs which we can take into schools.
A Dull Pain Turned Sharp runs April 21 - June 4. Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 PM; Sundays at 2:00 PM. Tickets: $25. Seniors/Students w/ID: $20. Groups 10+: $15. Buy tickets: www.thegrouprep.com or email@example.com The Lonny Chapman Theatre is located at 10900 Burbank Boulevard North Hollywood.