Andy Bragen (Playwright) is a graduate of Brown University’s MFA Program in Literary Arts, and is the recipient of Workspace and Process Space Residencies from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Other honors include the Clubbed Thumb Biennial Commission, a Tennessee Williams Fellowship from Sewanee: The University of the South, a Jerome Fellowship, a New Voices Fellowship from Ensemble Studio Theatre, a Dramatists Guild Fellowship, and residencies at Millay Colony and Blue Mountain Center. Produced plays include: The Hairy Dutchman; Spuyten Duyvil; Greater Messapia; Game, Set, Match; and This Is My Office, which was produced off-Broadway by The Play Company, and received a Drama Desk Nomination for Best Solo Performance. His co-translation from the Japanese of Yukiko Motoya’s Vengeance Can Wait was produced at Performance Space 122, and has been published by Samuel French. A member of New Dramatists, Andy teaches playwriting at Barnard College. www.andybragen.com.
Andy Bragen Theatre Projects and Rachel Sussman will present the World Premiere of Andy Bragen’s Don’t You F**king Say a Word, directed by Lee Sunday Evans at 59E59 Theaters, November 4-December 4 with performances Tuesdays through Thursdays at 7:15pm, Fridays 8:15pm, Saturdays at 2:15pm & 8:15pm, and Sundays at 3:15pm. Tickets ($35) are available online at www.59e59.org or by calling 212-279-4200. 59E59 Theaters is located at 59 East 59th Street (between Park and Madison Avenues). The performance will run approximately 80 minutes, with no intermission.
Andy Bragen aces his interview with SV’s Bob Shuman
McEnroe or Borg?
When I was a kid it was Borg, but these days, I’m such a fan of Johnny Mac–both for the beauty of the serve and volley game he had, and for his amazing, incisive commentary today.
Samuel Beckett or Bertolt Brecht?
Beckett for sure–I find that he digs beneath the political into something deeper, more existential. Also, he’s an absurdist, and I’m drawn to that. I like Brecht, but for me there’s no comparison.
Who are you in the world of Tennessee Williams?
My mother, from Mississippi, has more than a little Amanda in her. I’m not sure where that leaves me.
Don’t You F**king Say a Word: Tell us about the new play.
DYFSAW starts with two guys who have an argument during the third set tiebreaker of a tennis match. The story is told from the perspective of the women they’re with, who examine the incident, and in the process reckon with questions of love, aging, and the nature of friendship and competition. It’s a fast-moving, fun, and explosive comedy that uses tennis as a lens to get at some deeper questions.
Who are your collaborators and how did they become involved in the project? Tell us about the production history of Don’t You F**king Say a Word.
This is the first production of this play. When I saw Lee’s work on A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of the Great Lakes I reached out to her, and sent her a couple of my plays. We did a workshop of DYFSAW back in June 2015, and I knew then that she was perfect, so I set up the production.
Jennifer Lim workshopped the piece in 2015 and 2016, and I had worked with her previously on a production in 2008. I’ve done a couple of workshops and readings of other plays with Jeanine Serralles, but this is my first time working with Bhavesh Patel and Michael Braun.
Why is Don’t You F**king Say a Word the easiest and hardest play you’ve ever written?
It’s hard because it moves so quickly, has such an unusual structure–the play takes place simultaneously over the course of the match, and over the course of the couples’ two year acquaintance. We had to make sure it’s clear moment-to-moment, that the audience will be able to stay with it.
It’s easy because I connect to the story I’m telling (the title is a quote from me), the themes of it, the characters, and the sport. I love tennis.
Who taught you about the game? Did you learn about the sport on the courts, imaginatively, or some other way?
I know tennis from the courts, and I know the courts this is set on very well.
Is research an important component of most playwriting, do you think—or should it be?
I do think research can be helpful, in the sense that outside ideas and concepts to bounce off of can push us to places we might not ordinarily go. When I’m writing about a certain subject, I tend to read a lot of related books and articles, but I don’t take many notes. Rather, I trust my memory and subconscious to hold on to what’s important. Generally, something from my reading emerges in the play.
You teach at Barnard. What is probably the best advice you can give to a dramatist?
Lower the stakes. Don’t worry about the career stuff. Just read and write, and see stuff, find your collaborators, and find ways to make art. I was given this advice many times – I can’t say that I always took it.
What interests you about the 13P production model, which you’ve implied you like?
A chance to take the lead, to be involved in all aspects of one’s production.
A chance to take initiative, as opposed to waiting for gatekeepers to give you permission.
A chance to build one’s own brand, and get one’s own grants to make work, as opposed to filling a slot at an institution.
So, so many things . . .
Where were you trained as an artist and how did you afford it?
I took graduate courses with Tina Howe at Hunter back in the nineties, and that was pretty cheap back then, about $800 a class. I went to graduate school at Brown University in 2004, where I studied with Paula Vogel. The Brown program was fully funded, so I had a small living stipend.
What’s the first play you ever saw?
I saw a lot as a kid – my mother had TDF group tickets. I saw Moose Murders, which as a child I feel like I must’ve enjoyed. More than Frank Rich, at least.
What’s the first play you were ever involved in?
My grade school classmate Francesca wrote a play in third grade or so, which was done in someone or the other’s SoHo loft. I played the evil elephant. I believe she is a banker now.
Thank you, Andy!
Press: Emily Owens PR
© 2016: Answers by Andy Bragen; questions by Bob Shuman, Stage Voices. All rights reserved.
Bragen’s headshot: credit Dmitry Gudkov.
Rehearsal shot: credit Hunter Canning.