You’ve read part one. You clamored for another round! What could be more fun that sitting in on a conversation between me and brilliant playwright Larry Kunofsky as we discuss the road that led to his upcoming production of Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary?
Last time Larry explained how everyone has an imaginary component (in a way) … and he explained how his main character, Marci, spends a Saturday evening running from party to party in New York City looking for the man she’s dating — only to discover she possibly didn’t know him as well as she thought she did. We also got into what lies at the heart of Larry’s writing. Good stuff!
Today we’re talking about how Larry and The Management came to partner up for Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary, Larry references Tolstoy AND Voltaire (in the same answer!) and gives us a little taste of what your dinner conversation will be like after you see his play. So, grab your drink, settle in, and enjoy … Larry Kunofsky, Part 2:
Let’s talk for a minute about finding the right company to produce your work. Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary is being produced by The Management. What are some of the great things about having another company produce your work as opposed to doing it through your own company, Purple Rep?
Well don’t get me wrong, I am committed to Purple Rep and have grown to love producing, even though I know that I’m not anywhere near the kind of producer that I want to become just yet. But having someone else produce my play – which is something that hasn’t happened in a while on my own home turf here in NYC – that ROCKS!
I feels so decadent! I can be Just The Playwright! I feel like a Roman Emperor! Where are the slave girls to dangle grapes over my gaping mouth?!
And if you knew The Management’s budget, you’d be laughing at me here, not with me (which you might have been doing already). This is not a decadent company. They are workers, and they have a guerrilla approach to doing more with less (in terms of budget, at least), and this is inspiring to me. When Purple Rep grows up, I want it to be just like The Management. But also different.
I have been Just The Playwright in the room at other times in my career and have felt a weird compulsion to get up and apologize for being there. But not with The Management. They were excited about me and by my work from the beginning, and their sincerity and warmth in making me feel welcome in their “home” has never wavered – just as the rigor of their talents has never seemed to diminish.
Purple Rep is still evolving (and is designed to have an ever-floating repertory of theatre artists on board), and everyone who takes part in a Purple Rep project is in our home because I opened the door and asked them to come in. With The Management, there was already a family in this home, and I’m the guest. But I love this family. I’m very familiar with Josh’s work as a playwright and with Megan Hill’s work as an actor. And to have them involved in the production of my play is deeply meaningful to me.
Working with The Management has allowed me to collaborate with director Meg Sturiano and to get to know her as an artist and human being. This has been among the very most satisfying aspects of this experience for me. Meg is an amazing director. Her process is so active, kinetic, muscular, and her approach and her spirit and her enthusiasm has been so nurturing and empowering.
But the whole family thing means more to me than the relief of not having to produce my play myself. Nicole & Josh Beerman just had a baby boy. And we looked at pictures during rehearsal the other day, and we were kvelling! Maybe I’ve been the curmudgeon-in-residence at other times in my life, but it has been so lovely to get to know this family and to be a guest in their home.
It seems that every off off Broadway production company I know of has some sort of mission statement that goes beyond “we do great plays” and fine tunes it down to: “We do plays centered on promoting XYZ” or “We produce plays that take place in a certain part of the world” or “a certain time in history” or “come from the perspective of X” As both a playwright – who looks to work with other companies – as well as someone who started his own production company, what are your thoughts about that? And did it make finding a company for Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary easier or more difficult?
Well the second part of this question is easier to answer, so I’ll start there:
The Management was actively looking for new plays by other playwrights. The first show of The Management that I saw was MilkMilk Lemonade by company member Josh Conkel (of whom I’ve already proclaimed my love), but starting last year with Crystal Skillman (if I say I love her, too, does this make me seem like I love everybody? [a little bit ... yes] Because I don’t, but when I do love somebody, and/or their work, I shout it from the rooftops, and I really do love Crystal) [Well then that's just necessary, I would say ...], and her play CUT, The Management was clearly looking beyond Josh and his work.
But I didn’t approach them, they approached me. Actually, they approached me after they approached Adam Szymkowicz.
Well, that’s quite an honor! Like being the one Brad Pitt chose after he chose Jennifer Aniston … That makes you Angelina.
Adam Szymkowicz is one of the finest playwrights I know, whose work is always elegant, funny, inventive, and heartbreaking. He also has a blog on which he interviews playwrights – and this blog has become an amazing resource, and a way to validate lots of lesser-known playwrights, as well as a way of informing the public about the inner workings of some better-known playwrights, too.
He also happens to be among my very favorite people in the world. I was the Best Man at his wedding, a fact that I never tire of informing people about.
I think originally, The Management asked Adam if he’d send them one of his own plays, but somehow that didn’t work out (I think the dude has, like, FIVE off-Off Broadway plays lined up, which has got to be a record!), and then I think he suggested his wife, Kristen Palmer’s play The Heart In Your Chest, which I think The Management is strongly interested in, but it might have been too daunting for this season. And so then Adam suggested that they read Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary.
I don’t think that The Management knew back then what a close friend I am to Adam, and so they figured, wow, this dude Adam’s interviewed hundreds of playwrights, and then he just throws the name Larry Kunofsky out there, so this dude Kunofsky must be the fanciest playwright in town.
I know that’s what I would think!
Which, of course, is hilarious, because I am so not fancy.
Well, a little bit. Some times you’re a little bit fancy. But I’m sorry … go on …
And so then, Meg Sturiano, Management company member and director-in-residence emailed me, asking for the script.
Now, I have a personal ethic about rapid response to all communications, both personal and professional. If you contact me, whoever you are, I will get back to you within a day, or I will commit Seppuku or something.
Damn, Larry. That’s hardcore.
There must be something Calvinist hidden within my Modern Orthodox Jewish upbringing.
Oh, wait … you said “seppuku”. I thought you said … ah … never-mind. Keep going …
However, when Meg first wrote to me, I was in rehearsals for The Un-Marrying Project during the first season of Purple Rep. And I was trying to wear all these hats on my one head: playwright, Artistic Director, “Producer,” money-borrower, favor-caller-in-er, plumber, etc., that I actually took a couple days to get back to Meg, whom I hadn’t even met, and, really, this goes against the very core of my belief system, but Meg didn’t know that, so she must have figured, wow, this dude is so fancy that he doesn’t even want me to read his work, which is hilarious because I used to spend way too much time BEGGING for directors and producers to read my work.
So Meg wrote back in this really humble way, apologizing for asking to read my script again, but if the very notion wasn’t too offensive to me, it would be an honor for her just to hear back from me, or something like that. And then I was just too embarrassed about the whole thing to even acknowledge how I violated my own ethics in my rapid-responsibilities. So I just emailed her the play with, I think, no comment. Which probably made me seem even more aloof and remote.
I’m on the edge of my seat … I can’t wait to hear what happens next!
But then Meg and the company read the script, and they actually liked it, and then they met me in person, and we hung out, and they realized that I wasn’t really a jerk, it just seemed that way via email. And then we started working together.
All of that is not to suggest that one should act like a jerk on purpose, because chances are, you will be successful at coming across as a jerk that way. I was just illustrating how, despite so many conflicting factors at play, it was the right place and the right time for me to collaborate with The Management.
Wow. That was just the answer to the second part. I haven’t even gotten to the first part. I may not be fancy, but I am verbose.
And, a bit hypnotic because at this point I’m not sure I remember my question. I think it was about how every company has a fine-tuned mission statement and how does that affect you submitting your work to other companies. But that was just a jumping off point. Get around to it when it makes sense to.
I’m actually very bad at submitting my work to other companies, because I’ve been writing plays for a long time and it seems that the only way to get your work seen by the right people is when they come looking for you.
The problem with this philosophy is that this particular instance is the ONLY time this has ever worked out for me.
So I’ve got to get better at submitting my work to other companies. Both as an individual playwright with a bunch of unproduced plays, and as the Artistic Director of a (VERY!) small theatre company with a tiny budget (picture me walking around clothed only in a barrel held up by suspenders, because that’s my new look for next year) that is eager to co-produce with other individual artists and producing entities, my need to collaborate more with as many other theatre companies and theatre artists as possible is essential for me to remain even a blip near the radar screen.
The Off-Off Broadway scene is really, really happening right now. There are a lot of companies doing really, really fine work. I love Flux Theatre Ensemble and The Amoralists, and Nosedive, and Packawallop, and Boomerang, and Blue Coyote, and Rising Phoenix Rep, and whatever’s happening at The Brick is always exciting, to name just the companies I didn’t have to spend even one second thinking about.
When I look back at the last sentence I just wrote, I don’t really think about the “sensibility” or the “aesthetics” of these companies, I think about how I love the plays that these people produce, the playwrights, actors, directors, designers who tend to work with these companies, and basically, I like the people who work at these companies. I dig them as people. I grok them, if you will. (I use that word in a lot of my plays. Look it up. Seriously.)
I think that’s really what it’s about. And yet, these companies do have a very specific sensibility and aesthetic, and my own company, Purple Rep, most emphatically does, too!
But it’s important to remember that when I become interested in a theatre company (and I think this is true for most people), it’s rare that I care first and foremost about their mission statement. If I like the plays that the company produces (and they have to produce, not just develop! Because institutionalized Play Development is the NINTH CIRCLE OF HELL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!), and I like the people involved, then I’m interested. But it’s good when a company has a very clear mission. It makes them look like they know what they’re talking about.
There’s another lovely tension between the idea that everyone working consistently Off-Off Broadway is part of (in a sense) one company, and the fact that, as it appears on the surface, different companies do different things. Another way of saying this is: the Off-Off Broadway community (in which I am deeply honored and proud to participate) is often just a bunch of tiny communities. And other times, it really is one community. And that tension gives us balance; it’s a good thing that both things are true. Sometimes the tiny company- or project-based communities are like ghettos, but their separate-ness brings diversity and richness to what we do. So sometimes I’ll work in my little Purple Rep shtetl or visit the ‘hood around the corner. As an Artistic Director, I aim towards a fidelity to the ideals on which my company was founded, but as a playwright, I have a more promiscuous attitude – I want to crawl into bed with all kinds of companies. Please Note: This last bit is a metaphor. I don’t want theatre companies considering my work to think that sleeping with me is a requirement.
Karen, do you think anyone is still reading this at this point?
Well, I am. You are. Presumably Adam Szymkowicz stuck around.
I mean, it was a great question, but the answer makes War And Peace look like a novella. But to paraphrase Voltaire, I didn’t have time to give you a short answer, so I only gave you a long answer.
Look at me.
It’s come to this now.
I’m the guy who goes around paraphrasing Voltaire.
Sometimes I worry about myself.
Back to your play. I’m going to give you a scenario. A group of friends go to see your play and then go out to dinner afterwards. What do you think they will find the most interesting part of the play to chew on over dinner? What will be that one point that they all either have varying opinions on, or the one part that (hopefully) gives them the most to think about?
Well I like to personally attend all the performances (or as many as possible) of my plays in production, so since I’ll be there, I think that this group will no doubt speak, to some degree, about my play, at least at first, but then they will no doubt spend the rest of their evening remarking upon how strikingly handsome I am. Sure, the guy’s talented, I can hear them saying, but damn, he’s SO GOOD LOOKING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh wait, does this imaginary scenario take place in something similar to reality? Well, I wasn’t specific, but let’s go with “yes”. If so, I feel that I should revise my answer. Not necessary, but I won’t be the one to stop you.
Honestly, I think that this is the PERFECT question for this play in particular. Thank you.
There’s no intermission in this play, so it’s technically a full-length one-act, but there are two very separate parts of the play, both with distinct energies. It starts out pretty manic and antic and frenzied and kooky and almost dreamlike and surreal, and surreal in a way that feels almost hyper-real, and then it gets MORE manic and MORE antic and MORE frenzied and MORE kooky (or kookier) and MORE dreamlike and surreal and hyper-real, but then… after all of that… it shifts gears.
As the play winds down (after it gets to a point where you think it might run off the rails), as the play begins to prepare you to usher yourselves out into the night, the play becomes quieter and slower and softer of tone and spirit and more wistful and more somber, but also still funny, but funny in a whole different way.
And this new and different energy that the play finds in itself becomes almost like a whole second act, or perhaps even a whole other play entirely.
And I think that’s what people will be talking about later that evening. That transformation. And how… transformative…. It was. I really do!
How the play was one thing, and how it reached a fever pitch of that one thing, and how it then became another thing altogether. And how those energies affected them, these imaginary friends of yours, and, one hopes, the actual audience, as well.
Maybe some people won’t dig it, that shift. But I bet some people will. And perhaps some people will greatly prefer one of these two energies to the other. But I bet some people might connect deeply to the way that the energy went one way and then went another way. Maybe this evening of theatre and its shifting energy will remind people of the day they just had. Because some days are like that. And personally, any day when I see a play that has its own distinct energy, it changes the rhythm of my whole day. I know that theatre – really great theatre – can change your life. My simple hope is that my play will just change your day. In a good way, of course. And I want to say one more time that, yes, this is what I truly expect people to be talking about after they’ve seen my play.
But all my plays are about intimacy and tenderness and the need to connect, and how DIFFICULT all these things can be, and so if all I do with my life is to help generate the conversation of strangers towards these themes, then, despite what my teachers predicted, I won’t have been a complete and total screw-up.
Bonus Question! (but mandatory). You can answer this last one any way you want – it’s free form! Leave me with some last thoughts about the play, tell me a joke, give me a recipe, create a haiku, promote your favorite cause … tell me the best purchase you ever made. Really, the sky is the LIMIT! Anything that you feel like sharing - GO!
I’ll just say one more thing:
The last time I saw you, you told me that I was your favorite playwright.
I stopped you, and said, REALLY?! (Because I had to double-check. We had both been drinking.)
And you said, yes, you, Larry Kunofsky, are my favorite playwright.
And I responded to that by saying, I bet you say that to all the playwrights! But I think that was my way of being un-ready to handle the compliment you were giving me.
So I have a follow-up question that I will both ask of you and then answer for you:
Question: Do you know what that means to me?!
Answer: Everything. It means everything to me.
Well, the conversation doesn’t end there, but the interview does, my lovelies! So — now that this 2 part interview has stimulated your brain and given you all sorts of breadcrumbs about Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary don’t forget to mark your calendars and buy your tickets now. And be sure to stop back and read the review!
~~~Your Boyfriend May Be Imaginary by Larry Kunofsky directed by Meg Sturiano
. Starring: Darcy Fowler,Debargo Sanyal, Danielle Slavick, Maya Lawson, Risa Sarachan, Jordan Mahome, Quinlan Corbett, Kirsten Hopkins, Kunal Prasad, Geoffrey Hillback, and Penny Middleton. Lighting design by Grant Wilcoxen. Set design by Kyle Dixon. Stage Managed by Kelly Ruth Cole. . Running: 4/5-4/28, Thurs-Sat @ 8:00 @ UNDER St. Marks Tickets are on sale now! Cost:$18; $15 students/seniors Click HERE to Buy Tickets Online or Call: SmartTix at 212-868-4444