Review Fix chats with Erik Champney, Author of DEAD BRAINS, who discusses his role with the production and what’s like to be a part of the 10th anniversary season of Planet Connections Theatre Festivity at the Theaters at the Clemente.
Thursday 7/12 @9:30pm-11:00pm
Saturday 7/14 @9:15pm-10:45pm
Sunday 7/15 @1:45pm-3:15pm
Tuesday 7/17 @5:45pm-7:15pm
Thursday 7/19 @9:45pm-11:15pm
Sunday 7/22 7:30pm-9:00pm
About Dead Brains:
DEAD BRAINS concerns the relationship of Henry and Philly, who have gotten a little caught up in their fantasy. No truth. No regret. No boundaries. Artist and muse, they are idols in their own minds. Enter Corey – vulnerable and real. Now a decision must be made about his role in their game. It’s time to change the rules. Again, and again and again. In Erik Champney’s dark and often hilarious thriller, art is dangerous, and nothing is sacred.
Review Fix: What was the inspiration for this project?
Erik Champney: DEAD BRAINS is a ruthless examination of what it takes to make truly effective art. The story is shameless in its unveiling of the secret world of an artist’s mind and, at the end of the day, what truly matters most: human life or the work. Sam Shepard’s Mae and Eddie in FOOL FOR LOVE – their struggle to successfully complete each other – were the original inspirations for Henry and Philly, the reckless vagabonds within DEAD BRAINS. That kind of irresistible connection between people has always fascinated me. The inability to be without each other. The inability to escape. And all the while, privately loving every masochistic moment of the relationship – what their togetherness ultimately inspires.
Review Fix: What’s your creative process like?
Champney: Each play is a different animal, but they all begin with their characters, whose voices demand to be heard. For the first draft, I let them speak and I take dictation. Everything is written by hand at this point. It’s a rich and furious process, getting lost in their worlds and allowing them control. I often discover truths and learn secrets at the same time they do. What I believe this strange unity of the material world and imagination accomplishes is a genuine start to a long process. From there, I take the wheel, if you will. But the characters are always in the car with me. Their opinions and desires are always acknowledged. Writing a play is a spiritual, almost ghostly experience for me.
Review Fix: What makes this different or special?
Champney: As I stated, each play is a different animal. They all read as though they were written by a different author. I believe this kind of diversity is possible due to my openness to the characters and a careful understanding that I didn’t choose them – they chose me.
Review Fix: What did you learn about yourself through this process?
Champney: Creating and recreating DEAD BRAINS has taught me how malleable a play can become over time. What I originally thought was the most effective way to tell the story has evolved into something clearer, sharper, and a lot more terrifying. DEAD BRAINS is a dark play about the powerful forces of art, the very definition of art, and the victims it leaves in its wake. It is a play that welcomed me into a place of psychopathy, allowing me to find the laughter inside its wickedness.
Review Fix: What are your ultimate goals for this production and for the future?
Champney: Ideally, DEAD BRAINS moving forward into a more commercial atmosphere would potentially earn it an opportunity to be published. Then it would be available for many more little devils to analyze and produce. I would like for this play to have a long, controversial life. I think it has the potential to stir the pot in tremendously unexpected ways.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Champney: DEAD BRAINS is being presented in collaboration with two-time Tony Award-winning producer Jim Kierstead, one of the wisest and most supportive friends I could hope to ask for. His belief and involvement with the play has made this production a reality. Together, we are also working on another project that I am very excited to watch progress.