by Martin Denton · March 4, 2016
How did you first become interested in theater? Was there a play (or several plays) that you saw when you were young that set you on this path?
It was a speech class that sparked my interest in acting. I got up in front of class to make a speech and I was extremely nervous. I remember coming home and telling my mom I have to get over this shyness. I enrolled in an acting class at the local community college. I don't remember much about the class other than I ran up on stage and said a monologue really fast and got off stage as fast as I could. I started reading plays and seeing them. I took more acting classes and eventually I fell in love with it.
You’ve trained as an actor and a writer. Do you prefer one of these disciplines to the other, at this point in your career? What made you want to start writing plays?
At this point in my life I consider myself more of a writer. I've been acting for a long time with very little to show for it. One of the challenges of living in Los Angeles is you're constantly reminded you're not working. Either on TV, the movies, or someone will post on Facebook they just booked an acting job. So the challenge is to create a life through the disappointment of not being able to make a living off something you dedicated your life to. Writing gives me a way of expressing that disappointment. In a way, you can write your own role, as opposed to acting where its more up to other people whether you get an opportunity.
Is NOT TO BE NEGATIVE BUT… your first solo work as actor and writer? If not, what other solo pieces have you worked on? If so: why did you decide to try out the solo play form at this time?
It is my first solo play. I wrote it so I can act. It also gave me joy. The first time I read something in front of people it was thrilling. I wanted more of it. There's lots of challenges to writing a solo play. Just like any play, you have to ask the same questions. The trap of solo plays is sometimes they become therapy for the writer. Nobody cares if you're disappointed with your life. Everybody is disappointed. How do you take that disappointment and make a compelling hour of theater?
The basic premise of NOT TO BE NEGATIVE BUT… is, to my mind, quite brilliant. How did you come up with the idea of a play where a father-to-be talks about his hopes and aspirations to his sperm?
My wife and I struggled with having a baby. I did take my sperm to a fertility clinic. On the way, I wanted to stop at Starbucks and get coffee. Do I leave my sperm in the car? What if my car gets stolen? I'll always wonder what happened to it. So I brought it into Starbucks and put it in my pocket but then I thought it might suffocate. Weird thoughts. I was driving down the freeway and set it down on the passenger seat. At one point, I started talking to it. I told it if you don't make it out of there, at least you don't have to deal with traffic.
How do you write your plays? Do you outline them fully in advance, and then create drafts of the full work? Or do your works evolve scene by scene? Do you perform parts of them for others during the writing process?
With a one-person show it helps to say the words in front of people. I've written things that I thought were funny but nobody laughed and vice versa, things I wrote that I didn't think were funny will get a laugh and its a nice surprise. The audience helps you find the story. It's a lot of trial and error. Hopefully you have a lot of friends that are willing to sit through some bad stuff.
Who are your theatrical heroes? And who are your heroes beyond the world of theatre?
Chekhov is my favorite playwright. His understanding of humanity is mind boggling. As for actors. Pacino is my guy. I'll watch him do anything. The single mom who raises three kids is a hero. Teachers are hero's. I do think hero's are everywhere. So many people we encounter in life are going through so much. Life is tough. Anybody who can smile and not get cynical and bitter, that's a hero. Of course, people who serve in the military are superheroes.