TENN Questions for Andrew Kramer
We are extremely happy to welcome back Ingram New Works Playwright Andrew Kramer. You may remember Andrew from the staged reading of his new play Crying for Lions during the 2011-2012 Ingram New Works Program. We’ve asked our Ingram New Works Playwright Dean Poynor to interview Andrew to give you a deeper insight into Andrew's life with only TENN (10) questions.
DEAN POYNOR: What was the moment when you decided to become a playwright?
ANDREW KRAMER: I’m sure it was before the moment I’ll share. But this is the origin story I have in my mind:
I was in undergrad, studying acting and I thought it was super hard and like, super frustrating in countless unproductive ways, mostly because I could tell that I wasn’t an awesome actor. I was actually, kind of bad at it. But while I was doing all of this intense script analysis and character work for class and rehearsal, I found myself thinking about the plays in intensely dramaturgical, narrative ways. So I went and talked to my endlessly amazing advisor (hey Ingram New Works Lab alum Jennifer Blackmer, shout out!) and told her I wanted to be a playwright. And she said “OK. Well, playwrights write plays” or something similarly simple and genius and explosive. And I showed her a play I wrote and she said: “Ok. You should keep doing this.” So I did. And I have. And I will. So I really credit (blame?) her for all of this.
What's a theatrical experience that changed your life?
I have so many. So so so many. Which is why I think I’m so passionate about creating theatrical experiences, because I want to change others in the ways I’ve been changed. BUT. I have to mention the impact the musical Rent had on me when I saw it on Broadway.
It was the first professional production of anything I had ever seen and I was young and dealing with like, my own personal shit, and it sort of changed my body and my mind and my heart in more ways than I was prepared for.
But, also, I will always remember the first time I read Euripides’ Medea. That was like, mega life changing, too.
You were part of the Ingram New Works Lab a few years ago. Where is that play now and what have you learned about it because of the Lab?
Yes! I developed my play, Crying for Lions in the 2012 Ingram New Works Lab and found the process super productive and amazing. I left Nashville with an insane, messy little play that needed so much work. And that was pretty clear to me after concluding my time in the lab. Since then, the play has gone on to have readings and development opportunities all over the country, mostly with the sharp, insightful and ultra-talented director Pirronne Yousefzadeh. Most recently, she directed a reading of the play with an awesome company in NYC called the claque, where a lot of progress was made. We’re actively looking for a brave theatre company to take a chance on the play. I think it’d be pretty rad in production.
As a playwright, how do you know when you're writing good dialogue?
I feel like I never ever know. And I mean that seriously. There’s like this weird thing where I’ll write something and be super unsure about it and then I’ll hear it out loud with actors and I’ll still be super unsure about it, but it gets laughs or a response and I’m still unsure about it, but it just like, sticks around because it’s working for the play.
Then, there are other times when I write something and people question it or it doesn’t sound great from an actor’s mouth, or there’s some uncertainty about it, but I feel like I really want it in the play and can articulate why. So it stays.
Then there’s stuff I write that I just know is terrible so it doesn’t stay in the play.
So I don’t know what that means. I don’t know nothin’.
Your plays often include powerful images and scenes about sex. What do you do to translate it effectively to the stage?
It’s true: as a writer, I’m very interested in bold, powerful, muscular sexual images and language, often intertwined with or highlighted by moments that are intimate, tender, subversively comedic and warm. I think this balance is key. And I’m still figuring that out. I’m finding that, as I work on a particularly transgressive sexual piece, writing “more” at the start is super useful for me. Because then I have material to scale back and massage into something that works as I intend.
If you were a pop singer, living or dead, who would you most like to be?
I’m going to impulsively say Whitney Houston. Because with her talent, she wasn’t like, a real human. She was a goddess. Also, because, I would be able to say with full confidence: “I am the most talented vocalist on the planet”. And also? I could like, reroute my life choices to avoid some seriously falls. Like, you know, an early death.
What's something that holds you back?
I compare myself to others too much. This mostly just results in me getting sad and crying to myself a bit.
What's a particular strength you think you have?
This question makes me nervous. It’s like a tattoo artist being asked what their specialty is, then when they attempt that “specialty” and for some reason eff it up, they look super stupid. So I don’t like answering this question. But I’ll keep it short and sweet: I think my strengths lie in creating vivid, unique, queer worlds.
What's the best piece of writing advice you use every day?
Strive to write a play you’d want to see.
If money were no object, what’s the most romantic date you can dream up? Details, please.
Rats. I wish I were more romantic. If my pockets were stuffed with cash and money wasn’t a consideration, I’d want to do like a killer, multi-state date. I’d start in NYC and my date and I would go to Central Park, somewhere semi-secluded, where there was be like a cool, intimate live band playing just for us. There’d also be like, a super sexy picnic set up. And my date wouldn’t be wearing a shirt. And he’d have like, a delicious body that I would stare at the entire time. But I would also watch his smile, because it’s as beautiful as his body. When we were finished there, we’d leave the park and head over to a private jet where we’d be the only passengers, spoiled in luxury, flying to the west coast for an evening on the beach, where again, another isolated sort of intimacy was set up, near or on the water. Then there’d be lovemaking, near or on the water.
We hope you’ll join us for Andrew’s new play Cut it Out, May 9 and 12. Check out the Ingram New Works Festival schedule and make your reservations early here.