Core Writer John Olive is at the Playwrights' Center this week, workshopping Dream State with director Sun Mee Chomet; consultant Momoko Tanno; and actors Hope Nordquist, Katie Bradley*, and Dan Piering (*Member of Actors' Equity). A mini-interview with John:
Tell us about the Anna May Wong play you’re working on.
Anna May Wong. 1905-1961. Chinese name: Huang Liu Tsong. One of the first and, to this day, the most successful Asian-American actor in Hollywood. Anna did silents, talkies, plays, vaudeville, lectures, modeling, early TV. She was astoundingly beautiful, richly talented, soft and poised. And yet, many people do not know who she was. Thus, the play tries to tell her story and at the same time deal with the question: did her success give her responsibility? Who are we to assume it did?
You’re a theater critic as well as a playwright. How do both roles influence each other?
If you and I were to go out for post-play beverages, I might seriously badmouth the production we just saw. But when I sit down to write a review I often say to myself, “Okay. This is not my cup of tea, but I recognize that enormous talent and passion went into this play. Therefore, I will give it a good review.” I endeavor to treat the artists I review with the same respect I would wish for myself.
But I do have limits.
What is your relationship with rewriting? (Like, are you a 50-drafts writer or a first-draft-is-pretty-close writer?)
Rewriting. Some writers are taker-outers. Others are putter-inners. I’m a taker-outer. My rewriting process is always to cut, to make things shorter, to add focus, focus, focus.