Plays for Two is a unique anthology of twenty-eight terrific plays for two actors, by a mix of celebrated playwrights and cutting-edge new voices. I had the pleasure of speaking with playwright Pete Barry about his play Hearing Aid, his writing process, and his theater and film company, The Porch Room.
JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
PETE BARRY: I don’t think I knew what I was signing up for. I walked into my high school’s theater auditions (for what ungodly reason I can’t remember) and they asked me to perform a prepared monologue. I only vaguely understood what a “monologue” was. And any of my teachers could have told them I had no idea what “prepared” meant. So I performed all three parts from the Dennis scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I think I shocked them into submission, so they cast me as Durdles the gravedigger in The Mystery of Edwin Drood. It was all downhill from there.
JL: 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?
PB: I’m the stay-at-home-father of young children, which means keeping them from scaling the refrigerator by day and explaining what 2:30 AM means in the middle of the night. So I’ve adapted my writing habits to snatching moments of time here and there, usually before everyone’s awake or after bedtime. There are thousand of pieces of scrap paper with my scribblings all around my house. I haven’t quite mastered writing on my phone while at the playground.
JL: Can you tell me about the play that’s being published in Plays for Two?
PB: My mother is constantly pitching play ideas to me. They are always terrible. But her mere existence often inspires me. Unfortunately, she’s losing her hearing, which she’s much more good-natured about than the rest of us who are trying to talk to her. This play, Hearing Aid, wrote itself pretty organically. It’s about the frustrations of an older, married couple who can’t hear each other anymore, and so they end up having two totally different conversations at the same time. I also wanted to explore the way couples can talk without actually communicating or understanding each other at all.
JL: What excited you about being a part of this anthology?
PB: I’m star-struck. When I was in college, David Ives was the tops. You had to do or see at least one of his plays every semester, and I remember falling off my couch laughing while reading Mere Mortals. Now Eric and Nina have put me in a book with him, where my play will flirt inappropriately with Venus in Fur, forever. And that’s not even mentioning the rest of the talent they’ve collected for the anthology. Thank you, Eric and Nina, for allowing me to walk among giants.
JL: What advice do you have for up-and-coming playwrights?
PB: If you can produce your own work, do it. Wear all the hats you can – actor, director, producer – on whatever scale or budget you can manage. Try short plays; if you can write three to six of them for a small cast without a set, you’ve got an evening of cheap drama that’s relatively easy for a local community theater to produce.
JL: What next for you? Where can we follow your work?
PB: You can check out the antics of my company, The Porch Room, at www.porchroom.com.
About the Playwright
Pete Barry is an award-winning screenwriter, playwright, actor, director and musician. His short plays have been published in numerous collections, including "Accidents Happen" and Eric Lane's anthology "Shorter, Faster, Funnier". His screenplay “10 Crimes in 2 Hours” was a finalist in the 13th Annual Writers Network Screenplay and Fiction Competition. His short play “Drop” was a winner in the 34th Annual Samuel French Off-Off Broadway Festival, and was published by Samuel French in 2010. Other short plays, including “Nine Point Eight Meters Per Second Per Second” and “The Banderscott” have also been selected for performance by Samuel French. He is a cofounder of the Porch Room, a film and theater production company. With the Porch Room he has produced and directed several collections of short plays, including "Five Cornered Thinking" at the New York Comedy Club and "Antony and Cleopatra: Infinite Lives" in the 2013 New York Fringe Festival. A collection including four of his short plays, “Accidents Happen”, won the 2009 NJACT Perry Award for Outstanding Production of an Original Play. Pete lives in the Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania with his wife Jean and his daughters Lia and Violet.
About the Anthology
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!