Core Writer Philip Dawkins is at the Playwrights’ Center this week, workshopping The Gentleman Caller with director Cody Estle and actors Adam Qualls* and Randy Reyes* (*Member of Actors' Equity). Dawkins says this new play is based on the true meeting, friendship, and “failed” sexual tryst between playwrights Tennessee Williams and William Inge. A mini-interview with Philip:
What themes do you find yourself returning to in your work?
I find myself really interested in generational intersections. I almost always have a full spectrum of ages onstage, and those relationships interest me a lot. How do we continue to find commonality in our differences, merging the excitement of the future and possibility for change with the wisdom of experience that comes from just sticking around on this planet for a minute, you know?
What advice do you have on writing about real people, such as Charm’s inspiration Gloria Allen or the women from your own family who populate The Happiest Place on Earth?
Be totally up front and honest with the people whose voices you’re writing. Involve them. Share your drafts with them. No matter how difficult it may be to share your early versions of your take on their “characters,” it’s a lot easier to hear “You got it wrong” when it’s still a draft and you can fix it than on opening night when you can’t.
You teach kung fu to kids. What do kung fu and playwriting have in common?
Bruce Lee famously said, “Be water, my friend,” by which he meant many things but mostly, don’t get too stuck in one form, tradition or style. Go with the flow, be ready at all times to adapt and change to meet the needs of your partner or the situation. I think that applies to basically every step in the process for writing for the stage.
What is the most unusual place you found inspiration for a play?
I once wrote a play inspired by an image printed on some wrapping paper.