-Playwright Cusi Cram
What are five things people don't know about Cino Nights?
1) Sometimes you have to stop rehearsing at Jimmy's because there are beer deliveries.
2) There are some tubes in the alley behind the bar that supply beer to three different bars. I find this both fascinating and a little scary. Now when I drink a beer I will wonder where it is coming from in a whole different way.
3) People who come will see a whole play that has been rehearsed for less than twenty hours.
4) Addie does a lot of mopping of that back room where we perform. She is a magnificent mopper. And also just generally magnificent. As is Daniel.
5) No one is making a red cent. No one is getting reviewed. No one is in it for the glory. All that is very liberating and a good place to begin to make something interesting.
What are five things you wish you knew?
1) I wish I knew how to make a soufle
2) I wish I knew a martial art really well. I would like to be a little bad ass. l am not in the least bad ass. It might be too late for bad assery. But I remain hopeful
3) I wish I knew how to write intensely and exercise regularly. I can do one, but not both at the same time.
4) I wish I could figure out a way to live by the Mediterranean a chunk of the time and still be able to do all the theater things I love and be near the people I love. I might need to start some kind of martial arts/theater complex in Italy, France or Greece. It could solve a lot of my problems.
5) I wish I knew a language that has a completely different alphabet, any one would do, Russian, Greek, Arabic.
Originally, you thought the play would be titled Blind Tiger. Is it still and if not, why did it change?
The play is not called Blind Tiger anymore, though I have a big chunk of that play. This is something totally new and weird and different. It's called Radiance but you know it could be called Blind Tiger....Hmmm...I really like that title.
Are you still going to offer free Hooch and get the audience to participate in a drinking game?
I really do want to do that sometime. There is a lot of drinking in this play but it's a little more serious. The next one is all about figuring out a way to do audience participation drinking. Don't you want to go see a play that does that?
What is your play about?
It's set in 1955 and is based on a really weird piece of American history. In a very broad, big, sweeping sense, it's about shame and how and if people can forgive themselves after doing terrible things. It's set in a bar. I've never written a play in a bar before, which is weird because there is a lot of drinking in all my plays. I think I will be able to answer this question more eloquently next week, after we have performed it. I am still trying to figure a lot of it out. This is definitely a first, messy draft. It's terrifying to me that people will see it. But I think it's a good terror.
Advice for theater artists?
If there is anything that this week working in a very basic and pure way has taught me is that it's really important for playwrights to get things up on there feet any way they can. I think it's very easy to get lulled into waiting for other people to produce you. And then feeling bitter and angry when that doesn't happen. So much has been written of late about the whole culture of developing plays--and I think a lot of emerging writers learn how to develop plays but not actually put them up. Putting something up is so much more satisfying and edifying.
I don't write plays to have readings of plays. I do this because I love making theater, collaborating with people who are smarter than me and help me make my work better, and through that process ultimately make me a better and more interesting person. I love making theater, not developing it. I appreciate that plays often do need development and laud the theaters and institutions that do it well, but that is not my end goal when I write something. I want to do it in front of an audience for real.
My advice is this: beg borrow and steal to make your plays happen. And do it simply if you have to, but stay connected to the impulse that drew you to theater in the first place. For me it has always been about finding a safe and creative place to play and romp with artists that fill me with awe. I can do that in a 500 seat theater, or the back room of a bar. My most satisfying creative experiences have often been in unlikely places. It's the making that is important. The rest is less important than one would imagine.
Anything you'd like to add?
I am so deeply grateful to the artists who have dedicated their time, energy and artistry to this process. Ana Reeder, Peter Hirsch, Kohl Sudduth, J. Eric Cook under the guidance of the amazing Suzanne Agins. And of course to Daniel and Addie and the good folks of Rising Phoenix Rep and the genius impulse that created this series. It's very wise and necessary. I don't say that about many things.
All Cino Nights performances are free, and space is extremely limited. Reservations will be available starting one week before the performance by calling our voicemail at 212.946.5198.
Radiance is written by Cusi Cram, directed by Suzanne Agins with J. Eric Cook, Peter Hirsch, Ana Reeder and Kohl Sudduth.