It's been three years since I was introduced to playwright John Doble. I had gone to see his hilarious show A Serious Person in Manhattan Repertory Theatre's Winter One-Act Play Competition Series 2 in 2013 and was so impressed by his writing. Since seeing A Serious Person, I have missed a few of John's recent shows as our schedules did not align, but I am beyond thrilled to that we have connected in time to talk about his newest show To Protect The Poets, a play about how a poet and her principles collide with a policeman's sense of justice. To Proect The Poets will be taking part in the 20th Annual FringeNYC from August 14-25, playing at Teatro SEA at the Clemente (107 Suffolk Street, between Rivington and Delancey on NYC's Lower East Side). Click here for tickets!
For more on John be sure to visit http://www.johndoble.com!
1. This August, your latest play, To Protect The Poets, will be part of the 20th Annual New York City International Fringe Festival. What excites you about this new play? So many things, I’ll be brief. First, the play deals with two issues that could not be more timely: violence against women and police brutality. Second, our director, Alberto Bonilla, is just brilliant. Third, we have a stellar cast led by Elizabeth Murray, a stunning, Laura-Linney type, and the charismatic John Isgro. Fourth, we have a great team headed by Michael Palmer. Fifth, well, I could go on and on…
2. To Protect The Poets is about a poet and her principles colliding with a policeman’s sense of justice. This play seems very timely considering everything that has been happening in our society. How do you think people will react to this show now as opposed to when it premiered in 2011? That showcase production was very well received by the audience, but it was not reviewed and no producers or theatrical professionals attended, and so the play disappeared without leaving an impact. Since then I wrote a number of other plays and I’m hard at work on a screenplay and a novel. But I always loved this piece. The issues it raises are quintessentially American. And so I recently went back to it, streamlined and strengthened it, and now the play is what I originally envisioned but needed time and experience and a lot of back-brain rumination to bring to fruition.
3. In this show, "Mac," whose life is books and ideas, falls in love with "Jab," a detective enraged at a killer’s cold indifference to his vicious murder of a young woman. When "Mac" learns that "Jab," in his outrage, delivered what he calls street justice, she must decide whether to hold onto her love or the ideals she’s lived by. When was there a time in your life when you had to decide between what your heart desired but your ideals kept getting in the way? "Mac," who’s teaching Romeo and Juliet to high school dropouts, and "Jab," an experienced homicide detective, come from different worlds. And so in a way their story echoes Romeo and Juliet’s. While deeply in love, they have conflicting ideas about what constitutes justice after an especially gruesome crime.
I’ve never faced what my characters confront. But in a larger sense, there have been countless times when my desires conflicted with what my ideals or conscience demanded. But isn’t that the price of civilization? Don’t all of us have to deny our impulses all the time? Well, perhaps not if your name is Trump but…
4. What do you relate to most about "Mac" and "Jab"? Like all my creations, both "Mac" and "Jab" are near and dear to me. Like "Mac," I had some teaching experience in inner-city schools. She believes in her students, believes in their potential, sees qualities in them that the larger world does not. "Jab" is heroic, a man with a strong sense of honor and duty. Without hesitation, he would risk his life to save others in harm’s way. While I’m not especially heroic, I, like most of us, admire that quality in others.
5. In this show "Mac" gets "street justice." Was there ever time you felt like you got "street justice" against someone? No. And no one ever visited "street justice" on me. But far too often these days, what’s said to be "street justice" is questionable at best, if not way over the line of what’s acceptable and legal.
6. What was the hardest part about writing this show? What was the easiest part? I woke up one night about two a.m. and I had the whole play. The whole arc, all the characters and all the scenes, the beginning, middle and end. I got up and furiously took notes, made an outline, and wrote until dawn. Now, to be clear – I didn’t write the play that night. I had the concept of the play. I then had to sit and write the darn thing, and that took a lot of work. But the conceptualization was easy.
The hardest parts were two monologues: one by "Jab" and one by "Mac." I always knew what I wanted to say, but each took a long time to put on paper. When I finally was able to get them down, my first drafts were remarkably close to the final versions. They came out nearly whole. But it took time for me to "give birth" to those first drafts. A long time.
7. You have had several of your plays in various festivals around the city. What made you want to submit this show to the New York City International Fringe Festival? There are several outstanding festivals in the city but FringeNYC is the premier festival for new plays, not only in New York but in the country, and the Fringe people are great to work with. Best of all though, the Fringe audiences are thoughtful, sophisticated theatergoers on the lookout for new plays. Many see show after show. Those who come to Poets will find a tender, humorous, thought-provoking play that I’m confident they’ll like.
8. What's your favorite part about being a playwright? So many things but here are three: first, the act of creating. Having a concept and then putting it on paper, fleshing it out, turning it into a full-fledged creation. Second, watching the actors and a fine director bring to life what I envisioned, seeing the actors “become” the people I had in my mind’s eye, watching them bring in their own creativity and talent, and enrich and enhance what I wrote. Third and most of all, the audience: people laughing or being moved when I’d hoped they would be; but most of all, watching them take something away, something to ponder, something that gives them food for thought and doesn’t pass through them like gruel so that an hour later, they can’t remember what they saw.
9. What have you seen that you went, "Damn, I wish I wrote that"? Adam, I can’t begin to answer that. Some all-time favorites are Glass Menagerie, Raisin in the Sun, Joe Egg, Glen Garry, Stuff Happens, and Curious Incident. As for "I wish I wrote that," oh boy, playwrights I esteem include August Wilson, Neil LaBute, John Patrick Shanley, Wendy Wasserstein, Martin McDonagh, Connor McPherson, Theresa Rebeck, David Mamet, Edward Albee, Harold Pinter, Tom Stoppard, Arthur Miller, Tony Kushner, Tracy Letts, Horton Foote – I could go on and on.
10. On "Call Me Adam" I have a section called One Percent Better, where through my own fitness commitment, I try to encourage people to improve their own life by one percent every day. What is something in your life that you want to improve by one percent better every day? You ask some challenging questions and this one gave me real pause. For me, one percent a day is a hellava lot. I’d say that as a writer, if I could get little better each week, that’d be an accomplishment. And by "better" I mean more empathic, more imaginative, deeper, more skilled, more fruitful, and more disciplined. Though I try to write every day, I’d like to be much more disciplined.
As for becoming a better human being, wow, that's a lifelong challenge.
Plays: Coffee House, Greenwich Village (LaBute New Theater Festival, 59E59, NYC; St. Louis Actors Studio; Arundel, UK); A Serious Person(Best Play and Belper Prize, UK, Westcliff-on-Sea, UK; Eclectic Company Theatre, LA); Tatyana and the Cable Man (Best Play, Midtown Short Play Festival, NYC; Binghamton, NY); Ten Commandments (New York New Works); Reunion Run (FringeNYC; Finalist, Best New Play, New Works of Merit); The Mayor Who Would Be Sondheim (FringeNYC and Sonora, CA); and Blind Date (Samuel French OOB Festival). His short stories were published in numerous literary magazines and a collection of his short fiction, Lefty and Other Stories, was published by Clemson University and nominated for the Southern Book Award.