Meet the Playwright: Gabriel Vega Weissman and Brian Reno

by Martin Denton · November 30, 2015

What inspired you to create LOOSE CANON? Lots of people parody classic plays, but I can’t think of anyone who has done so in service of a timely social theme (e.g., your theme of consumerism in America). How did you come up with that twist?

GVW: We were encouraged to enter a short play contest - just for fun, really. The contest required that the play be written in some sort of classical style. We very quickly and inexplicably gravitated towards Moliere in Ikea. So we went to Ikea every night for about a week and wrote this short play. It was rejected, as was our short play that put Sophocles in a child’s birthday party the next year and our Shakespeare at an warehouse the year after that. By that point we were halfway to an evening of shorts that seemed to connect thematically so we just kept going. 

BR: I love walking around grocery stores and through big box retailers, awing at the huge array of stuff. My opinions on these places vacillate between “what an amazing world we live in where there is such a cornucopia of different things for different people” and “who needs all this crap?” Since no one is interested in what peons like us think of the matter, we thought about what “brand name” writers would have opined and how they would structure their stories in these worlds. 

How did you pick the six playwrights who are represented in LOOSE CANON? Were there other playwrights you considered and then rejected (and if so, why did they get rejected)?

BR: I can’t think of any playwrights we’ve outright rejected. We really just gravitated towards those we both knew, and whose styles could be most easily recognized. Brecht, Sondheim, and Lorca were some of the few we feel could be represented the next time around.

GVW: I think we felt that if we were going to walk through theatre history we needed to make sure we spaced them out appropriately and that we covered certain periods. Greeks and Shakespeare were essential to us. As was a living playwright, which was how we landed on Mamet. The other three sort of made sense to us as we thought of different corporations we wanted to play with, like Taco Bell. 

How did you two meet, and what made you decide to work together? 

BR: We met in college and bonded over our love of classic films and aversion to socializing. Nothing’s changed in that regard.

GVW: Yeah - writing together was free and antisocial. We began a screenplay a few years ago, but didn’t get too far. The ten-minute play seemed like a manageable second try. 

I am very curious about how two people collaborate to make a play together. Do you outline the piece first together, and then go off and write separately? Do you work together in a room and riff off each other? Something else? What’s the collaborative process like? Who makes the final decisions about what to keep and what to delete? 

BR: The work is pretty evenly split. We discuss the ideas together, one might start the draft, the other might take over, the other makes edits, and by the end we have forgotten who wrote what. It works. We rarely have disagreements in our final vision, which I think makes the collaborative process easier to handle. We’re like the Coen brothers, except we’re not brothers, and John Goodman won’t return our calls.

GVW: There have been no real disputes over content so far. Sometimes we’ll be skeptical about a particular instinct the other has - but we usually give it a shot and let the audience teach us about it. If anything feels like it doesn’t come from both of us - it usually gets let go. 

Who are the playwrights that you think have most influenced your life and work thus far? And name three playwrights working today whose work you really enjoy. 

GVW: Athol Fugard is certainly a major inspiration to me both as a writer and a director. He’s working today - so are Rajiv Joseph, Dominique Morisseau, Martin McDonagh and Tarell Alvin McCraney. That's more than 3! Sorry! 

BR: Probably Chekhov - boring as that answer may be - though I don’t know what he’d think of our Taco Bell piece.  I really enjoy both Annie Baker and The Debate Society. Seeing their work reminds of what controlled, intuitive stagecraft looks like, which is hugely daunting and inspiring. I also enjoy Gabriel Vega Weissman - I see him going places. 

What’s up next for each of you in terms of your careers, and particularly LOOSE CANON? 

GVW: I’m currently the assistant director of David Mamet’s new play, China Doll, which opens on Broadway next month and then I go right into rehearsals as AD on Dominique Morisseau’s new play, Skeleton Crew, at the Atlantic Theatre. Oh, and Brian and I are writing a new play! 

BR: Yeah, we just have to write until someone starts parodying us...





More about the playwrights in this article:
Meet the Playwright: James McLindon
James McLindon now has a collection of three plays published on Indie Theater Now, complex and interesting scripts.
Meet the Playwright: Nick Rafello
Nick Rafello is an articulate and exciting new addition to Indie Theater Now. You should become familiar with him and his work
Meet the Playwright: Michael Reyes
Michael Reyes, new to ITN, has two plays online. From his interview he seems to be a fine addition to the site.