Category Archives: Interviews

MICHAEL ANTHONY IS BACK FROM IRAQ, IN HIS NEW MEMOIR, ‘CIVILIANIZED’–FROM PULP/ZEST BOOKS ·

Michael Anthony is the author of Civilianized, “an intense memoir” (Kirkus) about his return to the U.S. from a combat tour in Iraq. He is also the author of Mass Casualties: A Young Medic’s True Story of Death, Deception, and Dishonor in Iraq, which received a starred review from Publishers Weekly. He has written for the Washington Post blog, the Business Insider blog, as well as several others, including a year-long stint as a feature writer and the editor of the “War and Veterans” section of the Good Men Project. He lives in Boston and can be contacted through is website: MassCasualties.com.

Michael Anthony Gives Part I of an Interview, regarding his new book, with SV’s Bob Shuman.  Part II will be published February 14.

Do you think your experience reintegrating into American life, as told in Civilianized, is fairly representative?  

I think there are parts that will be universal to some or most veterans and other parts that won’t be as universal. I think what’s universal is that all veterans, who return from war, have a reintegration process, whether it’s two days, two weeks, or two years–that’s the big difference. The process is smoother for some, rougher for others. Over 20 percent of returning veterans are diagnosed with PTSD; between 20 and 22 veterans kill themselves every day in the United States; and veterans represent the largest minority group in the homeless population. There’s definitely something that’s “happening,” for veterans, as they’re making the transition from “war,” to “peace,” Civilianized is just the beginning of a conversation of what that might be.

Tell us about the book—and how it was harder and easier to write than your first memoir, set in Iraq, Mass Casualties.

For both books I had journals from the time period to utilize, which made it a lot easier. But with my second book, I also have the benefit of having an MFA from Lesley University, which I didn’t have with my first. So I think writing the second one came a little bit easier (though it took a longer time) than my first one. In general though, I think memoir is the easiest prose to write. All it really takes, in my opinion, is to close your eyes and try in the best way possible, to describe what you see/feel/remember. The hardest part, I think, in memoir, isn’t in the actual writing; it’s in finding the strength to be honest with yourself about what the story really is, and what needs to be told.

What don’t non-military U.S. citizens understand about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?

I think the biggest thing people don’t understand is that these are real people fighting these wars (on both sides). We often demonize our enemies and put our own soldiers on a pedestal and, after a while, it no longer reflects the true human reality of war. When veterans come home from wars it’s hard to understand why they’re struggling so much when our only experience of them is as manly, stoic heroes in movies and TV shows. I worked with one woman in Iraq who held a job at a strip club before we were deployed.  Another woman was a police officer and one guy was a cashier at a grocery store–one was a firefighter, another was a tax accountant, another was a cab driver, and another was an English teacher. Real people fight wars and then real people come home from wars, and I think that’s what people don’t really grasp: the person who’s risking his or her life for you isn’t some romanticized, idealized person. It’s your brother, your sister, your neighbor, your coworker.  He or she can be that annoying kid from next door, your high school crush, that guy who dated your sister, that girl who dumped your brother.

I think that once we see that returning soldiers are real people again, with real problems and issues, which are and can be compounded by the stress and trauma of war, that it becomes easier to understand and empathize with what they went through–and are going through–on their return from war.

What did serving in Iraq give to you that you would never give back?

A few weeks ago, I was having a conversation with someone, and she asked if “the military/war changes you?”–and she was implying in her question that military service and war change a person.

I, on the other hand, told her that I actually believe the opposite: That the military/war doesn’t change a person; rather, it shows him or her who they really are.  In war you get to see who you “truly are.” Not just who you are as a regular Joe Schmo, working forty hours a week, who gets eight hours of sleep a night, three meals a day, and spends his weekends golfing. I’m talking about who you are when the tides are turned against you. Who you are when you’ve only had four hours of sleep a night for two weeks straight, when you haven’t had a day off in months, haven’t had a good meal in just as long, and you’ve got someone dying in your hands. I fully believe that it’s only in those moments that a person realizes who he or she really is. Joe Schmo may have the makings of a badass hero inside him, but he’ll never know it because he’s never been tested in that way.

So I think what Iraq and fighting in a war has given me is a perspective of who I really am, as a person, and what people are really capable of when pushed to their limits.

Knowing what you now know, would you have enlisted?  Would you have become a writer if you had not served?

I would’ve absolutely done it all again. I worked in a hospital over there, helped save hundreds of lives, and was there looking out for my friends. Although my deployment wasn’t perfect, and there was a lot of crap that went along with it, there’s an allure to the power and purpose and passion that war offers.

Towards the end of my deployment, I volunteered to stay another six months, but I was the only one in my unit who had done a year straight, and the commanders wouldn’t let me do an additional six months. A year after returning from Iraq, too, I volunteered for a six-month deployment to Afghanistan, but a friend of mine got his packet in before me so he went instead.

If I had never gone to Iraq I probably still would have been a writer, since I’ve written since I was a kid. But I definitely wouldn’t be published, or as good, or as successful, and I definitely wouldn’t have been able to afford to get an MFA without a little help from my Uncle Sam.

What person, on the national scene, do you think should read Civilized and Mass Casualties—and why?

Anyone who works in the VA system, I think, should check out Civilianized. So many veterans are out there, hurting, and there are so many amazing, caring people who work in the VA, but they’re being thwarted by the politics and bureaucracy involved. So, I think, that if we can get some of the people at the top to read stories of our veterans, it will remind them that veterans are real people.  They’re people who served their country and are not just numbers or dollar bills, and, I think, that would have the potential to help the system.

View Civilianized on Amazon: Civilianized

(c) 2017 by Michael Anthony (answers) and Bob Shuman (questions). All rights reserved.

LIN-MANUEL MIRANDA SURPRISES BROADWAYCON AND ANSWERS 7 BURNING QUESTIONS ·

(Michael Gioia’s article appeared in Playbill Online, 1/28; via Pam Green.)

Lin-Manuel Miranda, the Tony- and Pulitzer Prize-winning creator of the megahit musical Hamilton, couldn’t make this year’s festivities at BroadwayCon because he is in London filming the upcoming Mary Poppins Returns film, in which he stars. So, we brought the Con to him—via FaceTime. In a surprise panel hosted by Miranda’s brother-in-law, Luis Crespo, the original Alexander Hamilton caught up with theatre fans at BroadwayCon, answering questions about what he’s up to and what advice he has for aspiring artists.

Do you have any advice for people pursuing theatre in college?
Lin-Manuel Miranda: The answer is this: Study all the things that you don’t want to go into in theatre. Study lighting. Do all the things. For my theatre major, I did makeup, I ran lights, I did sound design, I sewed costumes, and that stuff comes in incredibly handy when you work with other people. Theatre is all about collaboration, so you have to actually understand a bit of the job your collaborators are doing, so that you can speak to them fluently. And then the other thing is take, like, whatever you’re interested in—I promise it will come in handy. Tommy Kail was an American History major; it came in pretty handy when we had this idea. So that’s my advice. Do what you’re passionate about.

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https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/#inbox/159e835bea79933c

Photo: Hollywood Reporter.

PAOLA LÁZARO: A PLAYWRIGHT WHO PUTS HER DEMONS, AND FAMILY, TO WORK ·

(Elysa Gardner’s article appeared in The New York Times, 1/19; via Pam Green.)

Paola Lázaro’s inner left wrist is marked with a jagged outline of Puerto Rico, where she was born and raised. “My uncle tattooed me, in exchange for a pack of Marlboro Reds,” Ms. Lázaro, a playwright and actress, explained. “My dark theory is that if I’m found dead in a corner of a street and I have no ID, they can just take my body there. Everyone will know where I come from.”

Ms. Lázaro had just spent the morning watching a rehearsal of her new play — her first to be produced professionally — “Tell Hector I Miss Him,” which is now in previews and opens Monday, Jan. 23, at the Atlantic Theater Company. The cast includes two stars of the hit Netflix series “Orange Is the New Black,” Selenis Leyva and Dascha Polanco, as well as Ms. Lázaro’s fellow writer-performer Lisa Ramirez, in whose work “To the Bone” she acted two years ago.

Before the company broke for lunch, two other actors, Flaco Navaja and Luis Vega — playing a luckless cocaine enthusiast named Hugo and a clown-like figure called El Mago in Old San Juan — ran a scene in which they have drug-induced visions. The dialogue is gritty but lyrical, sprinkled with Spanish and pocked with profanity.

Ms. Lázaro drank it in, plainly still tickled to hear her words read back to her by pros. As Mr. Vega patted down and shook out his jacket, pretending to look for Hugo’s fix, she bent over laughing. She then stared, rapt, as El Mago shed his joyful mask and addressed a spirit from his past.

El Mago (Spanish for magician) is based on Ms. Lázaro’s paternal grandfather, who has so longed to be reunited with his dead wife that he has devised various suicide strategies, and related them — with some humor, apparently — to the playwright’s mother. “He says, ‘Tell the kids to come visit me in the next 20 days, because I’m going to die,’” Ms. Lázaro recalled. “Poor man, he’s 97, and he keeps living and living.”

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https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/19/theater/paola-lazaro-tell-hector-i-miss-him-atlantic-theater.html

 

GLENDA JACKSON TODAY ·

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Link to BBC 4 for Glenda Jackson profile: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b080mhp2

As Glenda Jackson returns to the West End stage, Mark Coles profiles the Oscar-winning actor and former Labour MP, with contributions from her son Dan Hodges, Hollywood actor George Segal and legendary theatre director Peter Brook.

Producer Smita Patel 
Researcher Sarah Shebbeare.

Link to Glenda Jackson in Zola’s ‘Blood, Sex, and Money’ on BBC 4:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b07zv3gp

(Photo: My Theatre Mates)

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ANDY BRAGEN TALKS ABOUT HIS NEW PLAY ‘DON’T YOU F**KING SAY A WORD’–AT 59 EAST 59TH STREET, NOVEMBER 4-DECEMBER 4 ·

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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.  

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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.

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MARISA BERENSON ON KUBRICK, MODELLING, AND REGRETS : ‘I WISH DALI HAD PAINTED ME NUDE’ ·

 

(Robbie Collin’s article appeared in the Telegraph, 7/29.)

Marisa Berenson first realised Stanley Kubrick wasn’t like other directors when he told her to stay out of direct sunlight for six months before filming.

It was the summer of 1972. Berenson was a 25-year-old Vogue cover model who’d spent most of her adult life whistling round the world with a photographer in tow. But she’d also just been cast opposite Ryan O’Neal as the female lead in Barry Lyndon, Kubrick’s long-gestating 18th-century costume drama. And his aim for total historical accuracy extended to the complexions of his cast.

I thought, ‘Oh my God, how am I going to get through the summer?’ ” recalls Berenson, now a regal and radiant 69, in the bar of a London hotel. (She’s appearing as Lady Capulet in Kenneth Branagh’s production of Romeo and Juliet.) “I had a trip planned to St Tropez, and in those days I was always basking on the beach in bikinis.” The solution, as it so often does, involved transparent kaftans.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/films/2016/07/29/marisa-berenson-on-kubrick-modelling-and-regrets–i-wish-dali-ha/

RITA BATTAT SILVERMAN INTERVIEW II: ‘REPLACEMENT CHILDREN: THE UNCONSCIOUS SCRIPT’ (BOOK) ·

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In December, we talked about the book you wrote with Dr. Abigail Brenner, Replacement Children:  The Unconscious Script.  Since then you’ve received an IPPY.  Tell us about the award and what you’ve won.

We are very proud of our recent IPPY, from the Independent Publisher Book Awards (http://tinyurl.com/dxtfej), presented to us in the category of Psychology/Mental Health. 

Our book Replacement Children: The Unconscious Script, with a heartfelt foreword by Katie Couric, is the first of its kind to explain this widespread phenomenon. The term, Replacement Child, refers to an actual emotional/ psychological syndrome but was never meant to suggest that anyone is ever replaceable.

For those who didn’t see the 12/11/15 post (view at http://tinyurl.com/jszp2pu)—and even for those who did–tell us who Replacement Children are—and how you’ve came to write about them.

A Replacement Child could easily be you, a family member, or someone you know. It is a term that describes the widespread yet profoundly misunderstood experience of individuals who are, often unconsciously, allocated to fill a void left in the family by a dead or incapacitated sibling. There is a wide range of circumstances that can set the stage for a subsequent child, or an older child, to become caught up in this powerful family dynamic. Besides a death, a child in the family may be living in the shadow of another who has suffered, or is suffering, from long-term illness, accident, or emotional loss—he or she may be a “replacement” for a lost pregnancy. Children born or adopted after a loss of another sibling, however, are not automatically replacement children and should not be described as such. 

 

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EDWARD BOND INTERVIEW: TORTURE AND BABY-STONINGS: WHY WE NEED SHOCK THEATRE … IN SMALL DOSES ·

 

(Mark Lawson’s article appeared in the Guardian, 5/22.)

Famous playwrights are traditionally honoured with productions to mark big birthdays or anniversaries of key plays. However, the theatrical establishment did nothing to acknowledge Edward Bond reaching 80 in 2014, nor was there a revival to mark the passing last year of five decades since the electrifying premiere of Saved, his tragedy about disaffected youth. And although Bond’s Bingo is probably the best biographical play about Shakespeare, it failed to feature in the epic death quadricentennial commemorations by the Royal Shakespeare Company and the BBC.

So is Bond bitter about his treatment by British theatre? “No!” he insists. “I’m far too busy.”

In Rome, there is a new production of Lear, his 1971 variation on Shakespeare, and another work from the same period, The Sea – a weird comedy of beachside goings-on – has become a hit at the Comédie-Française in Paris. Currently, Bond is working with the composer Laura Jayne Bowler on an opera based on his playEarly Morning  censored in 1968 for depicting Queen Victoria as a cannibal lesbian in love with Florence Nightingale – and is directing Dea at the Secombe theatre in Sutton, his first play (apart from pieces for teenagers) to be premiered in the UK for two decades.

https://www.theguardian.com/stage/2016/may/22/edward-bond-medea-war-dea-play-sutton-interview

MICHAEL FEINGOLD: THE CRUCIBLE’S HISTORICAL MELTING POT (PART II) ·

 

(Feingold’s article appeared on Theatermania, 4/29.)

To what extent were the people accused of Communism in postwar America's red scare actually dangerous or treasonous subversives? In most cases, probably not at all. A lot of them — and I have encountered a great many of them over the years — were liberal-minded, educated people, seriously concerned about solving America's social problems. If you had invited them to help you overthrow the government by force or violence, most, I imagine, would have laughed in your face. Certainly it is hard to conceive of the well-paid screenwriters who were stigmatized as the "Hollywood Ten," or the gentle-souled Group Theatre actors who suffered from the blacklist, hefting Kalashnikovs on the barricades, though it is very easy to picture them helping Southern blacks register to vote, or circulating petitions for the recall of some particularly odious right-wing officeholder. The Communist ideal was their superstition, like the pinch of salt tossed over a Salem housewife's left shoulder — a wish to placate spirits that might be dangerous if enraged.

Certainly, there were "real" Communists — Soviet secret agents and their suppliers of information — at work in classified industries. We had terminated the war with Japan by exploding the atomic bomb, and had elected not to share its secrets with our Soviet former allies, whose subjugation of Eastern Europe as a set of satellite states had demonstrated imperial ambitions equivalent to Hitler's. While leftists debated the issue of shared atomic power, believers in key places simply smuggled out sufficient data for the USSR to build its own nuclear weapons.

http://www.theatermania.com/new-york-city-theater/news/the-crucibles-historical-melting-pot-part-ii_76827.html