In preparation for American Theater Company’s annual 10 x 10 Play Festival, I connected with the featured playwrights about their careers in the theatre, the relevant themes of the play(s), and the role of theatre as a tool for social change. Click here to learn more about the 10 x 10 Festival and please enjoy this wonderful interview with A. Rey Pamatmat.
Jacqueline Lawton: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
A. Rey Pamatmat: I grew up in a very isolated part of Michigan and community theatre was a way to do something outside of school where I could meet people of all ages, from all walks of life. My first role was Eeyore in The House at Pooh Corner. It wasn’t until seeing a Broadway preview of Angles in America that I thought about writing, though. Mr. Kushner’s play was really the one that made me realize anything was possible onstage.
JL: Next, tell me a little bit about your writing process. Do you have any writing rituals? Do you write in the same place or in different places?
ARP: I write in the morning, and I tend to write in public (cafés, writers’ rooms, public atriums, parks). Other than that, it’s just me scribbling in a notebook. Nothing fancy.
JL: Why was it important for you to be a part of American Theatre Company’s 10 x 10 Festival?
ARP: As anyone who is friends with me on Facebook will attest (perhaps with a hint of annoyance), I had a complete meltdown when the events in Ferguson began. I was shocked in those first weeks when there was almost no coverage of the mishandling of the initial shooting, the community’s grief, and the insanity of the disproportionate police reaction. I began posting pictures from Twitter and whatever news articles I could find on my Facebook timeline.
It’s significant that a lot of stories about injustice and economic inequality are not being reported or they’re being reported with so much bias against protestors, people demanding justice, and the general public (I took part in some Occupy Wall Street actions when the New York Times among others was trying their hardest to ignore or defame that movement; I’m also quite obsessed with Edward Snowden who was rebuffed by major news outlets when he approached them with the NSA leaks). Being part of the 10 x 10 Festival this year is another way of keeping these events in the mind of the public, and of adding perspective that counters established organs, more concerned lately with survival than they are with their duties or the truth.
JL: Tell me about your plays. What do you hope the audience walks away thinking about after experiencing it?
ARP: I am in a Dark Place Today and Unable to Write a Play is about a day when I was in a dark place and unable to write a play (ha ha). Instead the events of many recent killings of unarmed black men were running in a loop in my head. Rather than fight that, I memorialized it and the many versions of those images that I kept imagining and re-imagining. Imagined images are also part of Winning, which was a response to Darren Wilson’s characterization of Michael Brown and too many people’s easy acceptance of that description. My hope with both is that people think about the way perception and perhaps even delusion are shaping reality into a world in which none of us want to live.
JL: What role does theater have in advocacy work?
ARP: I don’t have a very articulate answer for this question. I’ve never considered my plays to be advocacy; I just tend to frequently write on questions, issues, and ideas that are political. Theater can humanize events so that those who are perhaps less politically-minded can understand them and even begin to participate in movements toward justice. Theatre’s contribution to the development of empathy isn’t necessarily advocacy, but I do think an empathic public is essential for activists to be heard.
JL: What next for you as a writer? Where can we follow your work?
ARP: My play after all the terrible things I do will be playing at Boston’s Huntington Theater starting in May, and we’ve already started design and casting for it. Hutch Pimentel just mounted Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them here in Chicago with First Floor Theater, and I’m thrilled that Hutch will also be directing my 10 x 10 plays as well! Edith is currently running at the Bay Area’s Crowded Fire Theatre and will also have a June run in Boston mounted by Company One. If you head to Boston in June, as a matter of fact, you can catch both Edith and terrible things when they run concurrently for a few weeks. You can also always find information about these plays and other work I have in development at www.areypamatmat.com.
About the Playwright
A. Rey Pamatmat’s play after all the terrible things I do premiered at the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre and runs at next at The Huntington Theatre in 2014 – ’15. His play A Power Play; Or, What’s-its-name was presented at the 2014 O’Neill Playwrights Conference, his second residency there after Thunder Above, Deeps Below in 2008. Rey’s play Edith Can Shoot Things and Hit Them premiered at the Humana Festival, received the Steinberg/ATCA New Play Citation and nominations for 2013 GLAAD Media and Lambda Literary Awards, and was featured at Guadalajara’s 2014 Semana Internacional de la Dramaturgia. Productions: Thunder Above, Deeps Below (Second Generation), A Spare Me (Waterwell), DEVIANT (the Vortex), High/Limbo/High (HERE); awards: ’12/’13 Hodder Fellowship, ’11/’12 PoNY Fellowship, Princess Grace Award, Princess Grace Special Projects Grant, NYFA Playwriting Fellowship, E.S.T./Sloan Grant. Rey is Co-Director of the Ma-Yi Writer’s Lab. BFA: NYU, MFA: Yale School of Drama.
10 outstanding playwrights tackle race, police brutality, and community in Ferguson, New York City, and around the world. 10 inspired directors bring their work to life.
Join us on Monday, March 9th at 7:30pm for a uniquely challenging one-night-only engagement at the American Theater Company, as we are proud to present our annual short plays festival, 10x10.
Tickets are free but seats will fill up fast. To make a reservation, send us an email at ATC10x10@Gmail.com. Due to high demand, we are only able to reserve up to two seats per request.
At the door, we suggest a $10 donation to help us cover the cost of supporting the festival, though we welcome you to pay what you can.
This Year's Playwrights:
Jeff Augustin. Kristiana Rae Colón. Matthew-Lee Erlbach. Jacqueline E Lawton. Bonnie Metzgar. Dominique Morisseau. Lucas Neff. A Rey Pamatmat. Akin Salawu. Aurin Squire.
Kaiser Ahmed. Grace Cannon. Amanda Delheimer Dimond. Matt Dominguez. Azar Kazemi. Reed Motz. Hutch Pimentel. Tlaloc Rivas. Samuel Roberson. Conner Wilson.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!