Review Fix chats with playwright Andrew Rothkin who discusses his production at the Midtown International Theatre Festival, “Far From the Tree.” Breaking down the inspiration for the performance, as well as his goals for the future, Rothkin lets us know exactly why we should check out the production.
For more information on the production and the MITF, click here.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this production?
Andrew Rothkin: As FAR FROM THE TREE: 3 Tales of Parents, Kids and Insanity is a production of three of my short works created at different times in my life, the inspiration for the individual pieces came at different times. The uniting of the three individual one-acts into a unified event seemingly came to me at once — an instant gestalt of how these three pieces would support and contrast one another. The the more I thought about it, the more it made sense to produce them as one broader production.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Rothkin: My creative process differs from project to project, depending on who I am working with, how many hats I am wearing, how many projects I am juggling, etc., but primarily depending upon the needs of each project.
FAR FROM THE TREE: 3 Tales of Parents, Kids and Insanity consists of three separate one-acts — Voice, which I first penned over 13 years ago, Father’s Day, written last year, and The Magenta Yenta, a brand new piece that I have yet to hear aloud. They have all gone through development for this upcoming production. Significantly, it was the 13-year old piece (which had three prior productions) that went through the most recent rewrites.
Review Fix: What makes you different from other playwrights?
Rothkin: Unlike most every writer I know — I don’t like to write, but rather, I like to rewrite. Or better stated, I think of my plays somewhat like sculptures — and the first draft to me is merely figuring out what medium this one will be — clay, marble, wood, plaster, stone, etc. While the initial draft may be inspired from any number of stimuli/ideas/images, for me, the real craft is in tweaking word after word, line after line. When I do my job right, it sounds like I merely scribbled down voices as they came to me — when rather, most of the time, they were very methodically and meticulously orchestrated.
Also, while I certainly feel I have “a voice” as a playwright, wherein people who know my work well can sometimes hear the commonalities from piece to piece, I strive to make each play different, with each providing a peak into a slightly different world, though many of the same themes and ideas run through much of my work as a whole.
While I have never been one for “in your face” theatre, I do enjoy playing with the light and the dark, blending comedy and drama in sometimes unique and sometimes “uncomfortable” ways.
Review Fix: What makes this production special?
Rothkin: Far From the Tree is only the second time I have ever put up an evening of my own one-acts. I can’t say which of the three pieces I first decided to include first, but somehow, it just fit and made sense to me that these three very different plays with some common themes and ideas, would make a fun and possibly poignant evening of theatre. It seems to have hit me at once.
Each play deals with relationships of all sorts — and primarily of the parent-child relationship, though the parents are represented in different ways and present different functions from piece to piece.
Although I am confident each piece stands on its own and would blend and contrast enough to make good theatre, I did make some minor adjustments to bridge the worlds of the three plays together — much like hidden treasures that only some people will pick up on.
Review Fix: How is your cast unique?
Rothkin: I adore my cast and am very excited to have them all aboard — from actors I have worked with in the past, to someone I am on stage with this very evening in another project, to actors who simply blew me away at auditions. They range in age from just out of school through their golden years.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Rothkin: These three one-acts, initially under the umbrella name Mothers & Fathers, was scheduled to go up as part of John Chatterton’s Midwinter Madness Festival in February 2015.
Then life happened. And it his pretty hard. While I won’t go into the details here — (you will have to wait until my one man show comes out on the experience, though that will not happen any time too soon) — suffice it to say that my whole life changed in a matter of minutes. I owe my quick recovery to my father, my brother and some incredibly dear friends (not to mention some very kind strangers) — but also to my craft. Simply put, I continued to write and be creative through the most difficult weeks of my life because I had to; that is what I do.
John Chatterton and Deborah Grimberg were kind enough to let me pull out of the February show and enter the pieces into MITF.
I have learned a great deal in the past six months, working on this and other projects through some difficult times. Despite some struggles and disappointments of 2015 thus far, I am happy to be doing what I love doing most — making art in NYC. I am very grateful for the opportunity.
Review Fix: How does it feel to be a part of this festival?
Rothkin: I have participated in MITF (and several other NYC summer festivals) on numerous occasions, starting from the inaugural year (directing Shaft’s Older Brother), through 2012 (writing and producing Hamlet Bound & Unbound, directed by Joan Kane; Winner, Outstanding New Script for a Short Subject). I feel like I am home.
Review Fix: What are your goals for the production?
Rothkin: I hope to introduce more people to my writing work and give my awesome actors, directors and designers a chance to shine. I want people to empathize with the characters, to laugh out loud, and perhaps to look at their own relationships, primarily with their children and parents (whether they are in this world or the next) in a new light.
Review Fix: Who do you think will enjoy it the most?
Rothkin: Each of the three pieces has a slightly different target audience, but generally speaking, I believe that people who like moving, funny theatre will have a good time. (At the very least, I suspect most people will at least like one or two of the three!)
Review Fix: What’s next?
Rothkin: White Rabbit Productions, the production company I helm, is in preproduction for several projects — most notably Scream Queens and Crazed Fiends, our second annual Halloween Event, slated to go up October 27, 28 and 29. Last year surpassed all of my expectations in many ways, and this year’s production will be bigger, better and more fun for artists and audiences alike.
Patrick Hickey Jr.
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