Review Fix chats with playwright Anthony J. Piccione, who discusses his upcoming production, “What I Left Behind.”
About the Production:
WHAT I LEFT BEHIND
January 25th @ 9:00 pm; January 26th @ 6:15 pm; January 28th @ 8:30 pm.
Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 West 26th Street, New York City
Tickets cost $23 and can be purchased up to one month prior to opening night by visiting www.newyorktheaterfestival.com/winterfest-festivals.
Prolific playwright, Anthony J. Piccione adds another thought-provoking drama to his eclectic canon of works. WHAT I LEFT BEHIND explores teen suicide, its impact, and repercussions it has on those left behind. THE PLOT: The play focuses on a young high school student, in severe depression brought on by bullying at the hands of classmates, who shocks everyone by taking his own life. In a unique retelling of the events leading up to the decision, we see what – and who – brought him to make this life-ending move … and how they are forced to deal with it.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Anthony J. Piccione: Bullying and suicide have been issues that I’ve felt very strongly about, and have been personally relevant to me, since I was in high school. While I’m certainly in a much better state of mind today, I haven’t forgotten the memories I have of my life nearly a decade ago, nor am I blind to the fact that many people – not just young people, but people of all ages – are still dealing with much of what I once dealt with, when I was younger. Given my current role as a playwright, where I can actually draw some attention to the issues I care about through my art, I wanted to create something that captures the essence of what nearly happened to me, and what continues to actually happen to many others today.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Piccione: I’ve spoken before about my overall creative process and how it can vary, depending on what play I’m writing, in past interviews. For this particular play, I actually started writing it out as if I was writing a poem, rather than a play or monologue, which was largely inspired by own thought-process when I was in high school, back when I was dealing with suicidal thoughts, and written as if I myself had killed myself. Only then, did I go back and strip out any detailed specifics concerning my own past, while also adding extra scenes that make up the rest of the play’s plot. Then, through development as part of a playwriting class and independent study at my alma mater, Eastern Connecticut State University, I made several revisions that ultimately led it to being the play that’s being produced now. I don’t want to go into too much more detail than that, but if you see the play yourself, you’ll see what I’m talking about!
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Piccione: Well, aside from the basic premise of the play, people might notice that it’s a relatively abstract piece. If you were to read the original script, you’ll see that none of the characters have any specific names, most of them are gender-neutral, and even some of the plot specifics are relatively vague. That’s all completely on purpose. I did all that precisely because I wanted to make it as relatable to others, as possible. Even if you yourself aren’t dealing with bullying, mental illness, or suicidal thoughts, there’s still a very good chance that you know someone who has, or currently is. It’s a universal story, and I wanted to depict it by writing a short play that cuts to the core of what people are dealing with, while also preserving its universality.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Piccione: The only thing I can think of, if I’m being honest, is that I’ve realized just how common my own teenage experience really is. That wasn’t always clear to me, when I was younger. As I said, much of me writing this play involved reflecting on my own past experiences, and thinking about what could have been, had I decided to go and take a different path. As I was editing it, I realized how this is something that literally anyone else out there could potentially be going through, and perhaps may even be quietly struggling with it, without anyone else even knowing. I’d like to think I’m giving some voice to those types of people who aren’t in the same position that I’m in, by putting up this work.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Piccione: I hope people will leave the theater after seeing my play, thinking about not just mental illness or teen suicide, but also the role that either they or people they know might be playing – knowingly or not – in fueling the decision-making that leads to such tragedies, and also how they can potentially help those who are dealing with mental illness, and thus prevent further suicides from occurring. As far as the future of this play is concerned, it’d be nice to see it published, at some point or another. My short comedy Ebol-A-Rama got published with Heuer Publishing last year, after getting produced by my alma mater in 2016, and I’d like to see more of my short or one-act plays get published in the future, including some more dramatic works, such as this one.
Review Fix: What do you think your audiences will enjoy the most?
Piccione: Well, this isn’t exactly a feel-good type of play, so I don’t know if “enjoy” is the right word or not. Having said that, as I indicated, I hope people will appreciate how this play directly tackles a real-world experience that so many people are going through. Only in recent years have we seen theatre, film and TV catch on to the very real issue of how teen suicide – and suicide, in general – has been on the rise since the beginning of this century, and I hope this play will help contribute to that conversation.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Piccione: I’ve been making preliminary plans for the future premiere of my full-length drama, A Therapy Session with Myself, which had a staged reading back in October at the Dramatists Guild Foundation. I’m hopeful that that’ll happen toward the end of this year or the early half of 2019. When it does happen, it’ll be my first full-length play to ever be produced, as all my other plays that have been fully produced thus far have been shorts or one-acts, so it’ll be exciting for me. I expect there to be at least one or two more shorter plays that I’ll get to present before then, though. I promise when those projects all come up, you’ll be hearing a lot more from me. In the meantime, feel free to go and visit www.anthonyjpiccione.com to stay up to date on all the projects that I’m working on!