Q: Stephen Adly Guirgis is one of America’s most prolific writers. His style and characters have an urban voice, a muscular poeticism, and a keen wit. He also happens to be your favorite playwright. Can you share a bit about your perspective and relationship with Guirgis’ work and also specifically your passion for the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winning Between Riverside and Crazy?
A: I first encountered Guirgis’ work in high school when my drama teacher suggested I look at Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train for potential monologues. I stayed up all night reading that script. After years of doing Neil Simon and Shakespeare and children’s plays in middle school and high school, here was something that felt real and grounded in a reality that I immediately recognized. As an actor, his words have always felt more natural to me than my own words.
Afterwards, I performed in a number of his plays in college. I’ve flown to New York City and Chicago just to see productions of his plays. To be completely honest, I’ve never directed a Guirgis play because I’ve always seen myself in them. I’d rather act in his plays than direct them. But I’ll never be able to play the central role in Riverside, so I jumped at the opportunity to be involved through other means.
In many ways this is Guirgis’ most traditional play. It’s a family drama in the vein of Long Day’s Journey Into Night or A Raisin In the Sun, but as only Guirgis can write it. The play is also responding directly to current events which is not generally a trait of his work. But he tackles these issues as only he can: with messiness and without providing easy answers.
That’s my kind of theater.