BWW Interview: David Harms On His New Play WHAT WE WANTED That Delivers a Thought-Provoking Take on Polygamy
Playwright David Harms is soaking up the joy of returning to a passion he had in school, as his first produced play in NYC hits the stage this January. This talented lawyer by day, creator by night, has trained as an actor and has spent years discovering his voice as a writer. Inspired by shows he sees, as well as the great philosophers, Harms is using theater as a vehicle to generate conversation and challenge audiences to open their minds. His new play, WHAT WE WANTED, provides a thoughtful analysis and approach to polygamy and its impact on human relationships.
BroadwayWorld had the unique opportunity to speak with Harms about the writing process, his career journey, and his hopes for the new play.
Congratulations on your first produced play in NYC!
Thanks so much, it's been very exciting!
The plot line is super intriguing. Take me through your journey with the writing process.
When I first started thinking about what to write, I was thinking about what it would be like to have a relationship with two people at the same time -- which was mutual. First of all, could it possibly work and secondly, could you write it so it looked like it worked (laughs) and what would be the stresses and strains and the ultimate lessons? I began playing with that and ideas started to come. It was mainly generated by the characters themselves and how they interacted and I then came to the idea that they have an almost idyllic life here on one level, but with three people there are stresses and strains that are 150% greater than in the normal situation. Ultimately the idea that captured me most is does love have to be exclusive? Can that ever work? I started thinking about a mother with four kids. She loves them all differently, fully, they all know it and there's no jealousy and they accept it, but it's clear that they aren't the only one. That works, but why doesn't it work in a non-family setting and that's what is explored in the play.
What do you hope the takeaways will be?
I would love audience members to think about how they'd feel if they were in someone else's shoes. You don't have to go directly into this situation, but you can open up the way you think about the people you really care out. When I go to the theater, I like to be challenged and ponder different concepts and hope people who come to see the show feel the same way.
How has the experience been with your cast and witnessing your work come to life?
Writing tends to be such a solitary experience, so when you see your work finally being produced, it's exciting to see a director and a cast take the play in areas that I didn't foresee. It's not about others changing what you did, but realizing that you created something real enough and credible enough that trigger people's imaginations and they then run with their own ideas.
So, you are a lawyer by day, and writer by night. Where did your interest for the theater first stem from?
My mother was a classical singer and I was exposed to music and the arts through her and then got interested while I was in high school. I did some public speaking and some plays and then wrote a play for a senior project and really enjoyed that. I trained as an actor for three years at SUNY Purchase when they had just opened an acting school and liked it a lot, but was so used to an academic background and felt like I had to get an academic degree. I then pursued law school and now am going back and exploring what I loved 35-40 years ago and am excited to see where it will go!
That's wonderful that you were able to go back and explore a passion! Do you see yourself continuing this work?
I have a few first drafts of other plays that I wrote and would love to find a way to get them produced in the not- so- distant future. I'd love to keep going with this!
What advice do you have for those who can relate to wanting to pursue a dream while making a living at the same time?
The hardest part is that you have to ask yourself, do I really enjoy the process regardless of where it ever comes out, in the case of being published or produced? In my case, do I really enjoy writing late at night and seeing where it goes? If the answer is yes, then pursue the dream! You don't depend on the dream coming true to do the work. You must love the work, and that has to be the reward and anything else that comes out of it is extra. If you just shoot for the end result, it could be disappointing.
What themes are most prevalent?
There's some philosophical themes in the play -- there's a section that talks about St. Augustine and his views. The role of faith v. reason and what is sin plays out in some of the context. I'm a great believer in his book, I feel like it's very enlightening and is very much about the themes in this play. There's also a philosophical concept that Epicurus wrote about what do you think about when you die? I changed that to my own idea, that you have to be open and completely feeling great at the time you die and explore that a bit.
Is there a target audience for the show?
I think people my age may relate to the play in a certain way because they've lived long enough to see all these issues come up and how you deal with them. Also, I think younger people can look at it and think that there's different ways to go here in life and I have an opportunity to make sure that I know what the alternatives are and consider how I think about things. I think there will be generational perspectives, male and female perspectives, familial perspectives, and that the material will appeal in different ways.
WHAT WE WANTED runs from January 5th-15th, 2017 at The Clurman Theatre at Theatre Row. For tickets, visit: www.telecharge.com