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 David Ives about his award winning play Venus in Fur, his expert advice on writing, and upcoming work.
JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
DAVID IVES: When I was 17 I went to a matinee of Edward Albee's "A Delicate Balance" at Chicago's Studebaker Theatre. It was the touring company of the original New York production and had the great Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy (the original Blanche Dubois) in the leads. I paid $3.65 for a seat in the balcony and up to that point had never been so thrilled in my life. The passion, the eloquence, the profundity, the absurdity, the comedy -- all of it made me think I want to do THAT. So basically my life was changed, my future course decided during two hours of an afternoon several decades ago. And I still want to do THAT.
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?
DI: I write every day from after breakfast till the middle of the afternoon, then take a walk and listen to people's conversations and think about what I wrote during the morning. If necessary I go back to work in the evening, though that happens less often these days. I work in my writing room, at my table, in stygian darkness -- maybe because early on I did all my writing in the middle of the night. At one apartment I put black wallboard over the window of my writing room to block out daylight. So it is. I can fix but can't write anything new in hotel rooms, the only exception being when I was on my honeymoon and had to write a one-act for an upcoming evening of my short plays in New York. So in a hotel room in Oaxaca, Mexico, while my wife sunned by the pool I wrote, over the course of several mornings, "Time Flies," about two mayflies out on a date.
JL: Can you tell me about the play that’s being published in Plays for Two?
DI: "Venus In Fur" is a play that has four people onstage though there are only two actors. It's the account of a playwright/director looking for an actress to play in his adaptation of the 19th-century erotic novel "Venus Im Pelz" by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (who gave his name to masochism). As the playwright and an auditioning actress run through scenes from his play they find themselves.... But that would be giving it all away, wouldn't it. The Times called the play a psychodrama, the French press called it a black comedy. Take your pick.
JL: What excited you about being a part of this anthology?
DI: It's always fun being in any anthology because it's like milling around on first day of rehearsal with all the cast and personnel. The only exception was when I got included in an anthology and opened the volume in a bookstore to find this as the beginning of my bio: "David Ives (1917-1994) was the head of Boston Public Television..." Some assistant at the publishing house had gone online to find a bio of me and gotten the wrong man. It was a shock to read my own death dates, but I certainly found I was happier as myself than as the head of Boston Public Television. Especially since I was still alive and he wasn't.
JL: What advice do you have for up-and-coming playwrights?
DI: What other advice can one give? Write. Write some more. Keep writing. Then write some more. After that, write.
JL: What next for you? Where can we follow your work?
DI: At the moment I'm in rehearsal at Classic Stage Company in New York for a French comedy from 1708 that I translated/adapted. I call it "The Heir Apparent" in English. Over the past few years I've taken to adapting French classical comedies, partly because it gives me a chance to write in verse, than which nothing is more fun. I have another one coming up next season at the Shakespeare Theatre Company in D.C. called "The Metromaniacs," after an unknown French play from 1738 originally titled "La Metromanie." Next season I'll also have a new bill of one-acts at Primary Stages in New York, titled "Lives Of The Saints," combining some older short plays and several new ones.
About the Plawwright
David Ives is perhaps best known for his evening of one-act plays, All In The Timing (he has been included in the Best Short Plays series seven times), and for his drama Venus In Fur, which was nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play and has been filmed by Roman Polanski. The movie was in competition at the Cannes Film Festival in 2013. David Ives’s plays include New Jerusalem: The Interrogation of Baruch de Spinoza; The School for Lies (adapted from Molière’s The Misanthrope); The Liar (adapted from Corneille); Time Flies; and Is He Dead? (adapted from Mark Twain). A former Guggenheim Fellow in playwriting and a graduate of The Yale School of Drama, he lives in New York City.
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!