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Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Ethan Warren: Why Are You Nowhere? was inspired by a love of theatre of the absurd, and an interest in realizing a dreamscape onstage. While you can so easily use effects and editing to create surreal feelings in a film, in absurdism, you have to manipulate the fabric of reality simply in people’s conversation and interactions. It’s a thrilling world to play in, and an energizing lens through which to view some of my less fanciful concerns, such as issues of family and responsibilities to our parents and children.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Warren: As a writer, my process tends to involve finding new combinations in my disparate interests, or finding a style I’m interested in trying and mixing it with an existing idea to see what new chemical reaction might be formed, as was the case with this piece. In my filmmaking, I like to allow the actors freedom to play with the language and find the voice of the piece. With this play, however, I’ll be asking them to stick to the script fairly closely, as much of the effect of absurdity comes from the precision of the language.
Review Fix:What makes this different or special?
Warren: It’s rare to see theatre of the absurd that also deals with very real emotions–there’s one central character in the play who’s totally grounded emotionally, and is the only one who seems to recognize the universe is spinning out of control. When the surreal madness really sets in, I want the audience to experience it on a visceral level, rather than an intellectual one.
Review Fix:What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Warren: I discovered a love of playwriting, as this is my first full-length play. Dialogue has always been my favorite part of writing, so much so that my fiction (I have my MFA from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington and wrote a novel as my thesis) and screenplays often feature long dialogue passages that ebb and flow in a theatrical way. Finally allowing those muscles to flex–or, really, relax into long-form dialogue–was a breath of fresh air, and it’s inspired me to consider putting other story ideas I have up onstage.
Review Fix:How does it feel to be a part of something like this?
Warren: It’s immensely exciting. I’ve participated in film festivals, through my film West of Her, but it’s very easy for filmmakers to ship a Blu Ray and then not show up. In a theater festival, there are armies of artists on the ground, and I can’t wait to plunge into that world.
Review Fix:What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Warren: Why Are You Nowhere? recently won the Inkslinger contest and will have a full production in February 2017 at Southeastern Louisiana University, and I’d love to use MITF and that production to launch a professional production soon, and perhaps publish the script for licensing. I also have a vision for how it could be done on film in a very unusual way that could be quite exciting to pursue in the future.
Review Fix:What do you think your audiences will enjoy the most?
Warren: While theatre of the absurd usually deals with a sort of existential terror, it’s also often quite funny, and I definitely wrote the piece with a sense of play in mind, so if audiences are on my own wavelength, they should find some pitch-dark comedy in the piece. It’s a very unusual play, so unusual that for a long time I didn’t dare dream it would ever be performed, and I hope audiences feel thrown for a loop!
Review Fix:What’s next?
Warren: My indie feature film, West of Her, is currently on the festival circuit and will hopefully be distributed soon. As I mentioned, Why Are You Nowhere? will have a full production in February, and I hope to see more stagings soon. My most recent play is Come And Take It, a modernization of Chekov’s The Seagull with every role gender-flipped, which throws one of my favorite plays into an entirely new light that I think audiences will be very interested by, and I’ve begun submitting that and hope it will have a chance at being performed soon! I also hope to see my MFA thesis novel published soon. Lots of irons in the fire, and many more in my head.