Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Playwright to Playwright: Mishelle Apalategui (2 of 3)

The characters in your plays seem to be driven by an overwhelming need to confess! They confess their love. Their disgust. Their rage against the unfairness of the world. They seem to hold nothing back. These confessions seem to fall on deaf ears. One confesses while the other rejects. Can you talk about your characters need for full discloser and confession?

I grew up in a really big family. The eldest of 6, plus mom, dad, g-ma and all the neighborhood kids were vying for not only all the bathrooms at once, but for all the attention as well.  The part of me that begin to grow from living in that situation was one that was absolutely terrified of being completely exposed. I developed a habit of secrecy at a young age. I spent lots of time creating, dissecting and then hiding my thoughts. But, I wasn’t reclusive, the exact opposite! I’ve always been very affable and social and rarely shy…because I figured out what to keep inside of me in order to feel absolutely comfortable in every situation. I did a lot of confessing to adults as a child and felt like my big emotions, my big thoughts were dismissed because they figured there was no way someone so small could have feelings so big. That’s a through line in my life and thus, in my writing-that the way my emotional brain works is too big for my physical britches. So, in a way, maybe my characters having an unquenchable thirst for confession is a funnel through which I feed my desire to confess myself, which really all comes down to a simple readjustment of what they call a Napoleon Complex. Once my friends, then my little brothers, then my friend’s little brothers got bigger and taller than me-I realized I could no longer be noticed eye to eye, so I had to use something else to get everyone’s attention. I chose my words. Anyone can be rambunctious and loud and tap dance on top of the big oak coffee table to the theme from Get Smart but there’s a real respect for someone who can affect you with words and little else.

God, I’m such a rambler, basically, I find it incredibly hard to confess. And (as you can see) to get to the point. I wish I could. So, they do it for me. Plus, it’s dramatic! Who wants to hear 45 minutes of subtext out of 60 on stage? I don’t. I want to set up relationships then break them down and from my experience, relationships between people only move forward if the parties involved confess their inner thoughts and desires to one another. Or else, all there is is stagnancy. There’s no drama in keeping things back except for the person who’s keeping the information. The drama, the catharsis, the explosion, comes from reaction. Relatable action is in the reaction. Think about the silent movie players, Chaplin wasn’t funny because he made stupid decisions in stressful situations, he was funny because the people around him saw him make those mistakes and perceived him a tramp. What would he do if there was no audience? What do I do when I think no one is watching? Interesting stuff, for sure, but how would anyone be able to decipher it?

Where are you in your work?

I use a lot of people I know in my plays. Not verbatim. I’ve realized that what I do at this juncture is take people who affect me, pull out one or two of their biggest emotional/social characteristics-name them something that I feel represents these attributes and build out the character from there. Usually everything I stuff them with is from me. So I guess I’m always there in every scene, just never fully intact. Oh! I also like to write to try and predict the future. It’s actually been successful more than once. More than three times to be vaguely exact.

Are your confessing to us in your plays?

Constantly. But I’ll never make it obvious, sometimes its a big confession, and out of something like guilt or fear, other’s it’s just out of my personal confusion and the need to solve something I can’t let go of. There are little confessions all over the place in my plays but it’s not for you to find, it’s for me to release and revel in. I do believe though, that they will affect anyone who absorbs them consciously or sub-so. I do hope as well, that I will stimulate people to confess themselves, right there in their seats. Even if it's just to themselves, there's always something that needs to be let go of in the dark.

- to be continued

 Giau Truong directs Natalie Breitmeyer & Emily Tate in Mishelle Apalategui's "Downward Facing"

No comments:

Post a Comment