(The following interview with playwright Ken Urban appeared on Adam Szymkowicz’s blog, June 25. Investigate his site further for additional Q&As with up-and-coming dramatists.)
Tell me a little about your SPF show that's coming up.
THE HAPPY SAD is about a group of seven people in an east coast city with subways and irony, all trying to figure out how to make relationships work in a world of too many options. The play starts with a straight couple breaking up and another couple, a gay couple, negotiating the monogamy question. Since cities are like villages, we see how their lives of these different people end up connecting. And sometimes when things get difficult, they break out into song.
It’s my ode to bisexuals. Not really. Actually, the play has a really clear origin. I was on Amtrak heading back to Boston from New York, right before Thanksgiving in 2007, and I ran into a friend. We sat and talked for a long time. She told me how a guy she was dating broke up with her that weekend, but she was also seeing someone else. Then the next day another friend told me how he and his boyfriend were thinking of “opening” things up. And I kept thinking: wow, there are so many options and possibilities now. We aren’t confined in the way our parents were – get married, buy a house, have kids, get old, die. We can try something else. But having lots of options doesn’t necessarily guarantee happiness. I wanted to write about that excitement and confusion.
I like to give myself rules when I write. Keeps me focused. For this play, I had two: one, to write about the subject matter with utter honestly, even when it cut very close to home; and two, the characters would sing, but that the play was in no way a musical (i.e. the songs did not advance the plot in the way they do in a musicals).
I am excited for the SPF workshop. Trip Cullman is directing and we have a great cast, which includes many of my favorite actors. I’m touched they are giving up their July to do the show and to do a pretty revealing play with two weeks of rehearsal. There is a fair amount of nudity in this show and everyone is so brave about it.
(Ken Urban’s work is included in One on One: The Best Women’s Monologues for the 21st Century and the upcoming Duo!: The Best Scenes for Two for the 21st Century—both from Applause Theatre and Cinema Books.)