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BWW Interview: William Razavi of the Overtime Theatre

WILLIAM RAZAVI is the artistic director of the Overtime Theatre, the only theatre in San Antonio (and possibly in the whole of Texas) dedicated purely to original works, mostly by local writers. In this question-and-answer interview he discusses the future of the Overtime and its artistic direction.

Q: What are your plans for the new year?

WR: The Overtime will be trying out a few experiments this year while also trying to move things generally in a new direction without losing touch with the foundation that has been built so far. Our OT Serial Box is one of these experiments where we hope to give writers and directors a chance to try out serial projects in a pilot form and give the audience a wider variety of entertainment options.

Q: How many shows this year are by local writers?

WR: Six of the twelve main stage shows this season are by local writers. In addition we have 2 short run shows and 3 serial projects that are by local writers.

Q: How many do you expect to direct yourself?

WR: I am currently slated to direct two productions this year. "Center of the Universe" is a collection of three plays that take a darkly humorous view of fame and current events and "Locolobo" is a punk rock musical about werewolves, vampires and other monsters...who sing.

Q: You recently sifted through more than 900 play submissions. Did you make the first cut yourself or did you have help?

WR: I gave many of those plays to other trusted people to give a look at before I made my first cut but I wanted to make sure to be the one who took the first look at all of them. There were many that I didn't read all the way through, but I started all of them. (And there are some that didn't make the cut that I plan on giving another read to when things slow down a bit.) I've never cared for the notion that the first cut on literary submissions should be left to conscripts and interns. One of the benefits of submitting to a small theater should be that at least you know that the Artistic Director was the one looking at your script and not that someone else never let it get that far.

Q: How do you manage to fit this all in with your day job at Trinity?

WR: I work 20 hours a week in the office of the Department of Classical Studies at Trinity University and I teach at St. Mary's University as an adjunct professor, most recently for the English Dept. and the Drama Dept. Last semester I was teaching two courses (American Literature and Playwriting). Thus, being Artistic Director of the Overtime really is an overtime (if not a double-overtime) job for me. I'm happy to say that all of my jobs give me a lot of satisfaction and that each of them is enjoyable in a way. Not many people have a day job where they occasionally find themselves poring through 15 different translations of the Iliad one day and then have to track down information on the difference in bone size of beef cattle from archaic times to the present.

Just last semester I had the opportunity to do guest lectures on ancient Greek and Roman coinage.

Q: Last year there seemed to be more emphasis on farce and absurdist comedy at the Overtime, rather than plays dealing with more weighty topical issues. Is this an accurate observation?

WR: Well, to be fair we had 16 plays last year and they did span a pretty wide spectrum of styles and topics. For instance, John O'Neill's Lucky Woman was a fairly serious look at gun culture and school shootings through the lens of the assassination of Franz Ferdinand and his wife. Sophie Bolles' A Life Asleep was a surreal exploration of dreams and nightmares and even my own 27 Short Plays About Being Murdered in a Hotel by ABBA (pictured here) had a veneer of absurd comedy covering a play that was actually about the dangers of paranoia and the dead end of reactionary extremism in the face of apocalyptic and nihilistic extremists such as ISIS. I'm a firm believer in the idea that weighty topical issues don't have to be divorced from entertainment. That's not to say that we didn't do plays last year that were purely meant for entertainment. This year, I think we may have a more even mix, but I believe that even the weightiest topical plays have to be compelling to the audience as entertainment.

Q: Will there be any change of emphasis this year or next?

WR: I think the 2015 season was a smorgasbord of mostly locally sourced writing, whereas 2016 is a well-rounded planned meal that includes serious plays, dark material, as well as lighter fare and more evenly distributed throughout the year. 2015 had a lot of serious material frontloaded and then devolved into lighter fare throughout the year. I'd like to concentrate more and more on developing writers (especially local writers) instead of developing individual works. This is a long haul project but I would like to use my time at the Overtime to try to champion local writers and raise the status and quality of local writing (especially innovative and challenging writing) instead of merely using writers as a resource for material.

Q:. Have any of the Overtime productions gone on to wider recognition? Have you launched any major careers?

WR: Joe Green's "Clowntime Is Over" is a good example of a piece that's gone on to wider productions after premiering at the Overtime. (We're doing his play, "The Vapours", this season.) One thing I'm working on this year is developing relationships with other theaters (formally and informally) with the goal of connecting us as a sort of development pipeline where we can send along the most promising of our plays to larger theaters for consideration.


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