A man who can’t handle the overload of information in modern society decides to drop out. RUNNING TIME: 11 minutes.
One, Three, Two will be presented on Thursday, October 25th at 8:00 pm.
About the Author:
Michael Weems is a Houston based playwright and actor. Recent playwriting credits include: Bludgeon the Lime (Phare Play Productions); Fragments and Onward, Forward (Little Hibiscus Productions), Subtlety (Chattanooga State Community College), Laugh Riot (The Seven Collective); Burden Me (Strawberry Riant Festival); Blown Away (Ensemble Theatre of Chattanooga); A Fondness for Aqua Net (n.u.f.a.n ensemble) and Run Run Away (Changing Scene Theatre’s Summer Play 2011). Recent plays published include: Fragments (Next Stage Press); Bludgeon the Lime (JAC Publications); Scattered Arranged (Independent Playwrights); Synchronicity (Plays – The Drama Magazine for Young Audiences), and a selected monologue for Meriwether Publishing Limited in their upcoming collection, Young Women’s Monologues from Contemporary Plays: Volume 3. His one act Subtlety was named ‘Outstanding Play’ by the Curan Rep Notes from the Underground Festival, and Waiting Life was named as a top 10 finalist in Saint Mary Hall’s “Spring Shorts” 10 Minute Play Fest in San Antonio, Texas. Thanks to my loves, Christine, Thomas, & Jack. www.michaeltweems.com. Member of Dramatist Guild of America.
OOB Festival: Tell us a little about your playwriting career. When did you start writing plays? Have you had any memorable “ah ha” moments about writing for theatre?
Michael: I consider myself a bit of a late-in-life artist. My interest in theatre developed during the later part of my college experience and writing even later than that. At around age 27, I’d finally become accustomed to living in New York City and gotten comfortable acting/temp jobs and found free time between the two to start telling the stories I wanted to share. My first play, Fragments, evolved from highly fictionalized fun times in college and shrunk from a massive 120 pgs down to the more manageable 60 – and it’s now published. Since then, I’ve written over 50 plays which have received over 50 productions across 8 states and have 3 full length plays published.
My biggest ‘aha’ moment came from penning a short one act for a festival. Up to that point, I really had not shared my work widely and most people only knew me as an actor. A group of writers, including myself, formed a small writing group and would listen, read, and act out each other’s scripts in a supportive workshop-like setting. After an initial reading of my play Burden Me, the overwhelming feeling hit me of knowing that people enjoyed it, validated my ability to make them think and feel, and that I’d set out exactly what I’d hoped to accomplish. From there, I knew I wanted to make that happen as often and as far spread as possible.
OOB Festival: Talk about your entry to this year’s Festival. How did you come to write this play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
Michael: One Three Two came from a few very basic prompts – one being reality. As a father to two young boys, I often am in a state of either cleaning, picking up toys, or scrambling. Often, I’ll find myself between two rooms wondering what I’d set out to do and where I’d come from – the chant that accompanies this is, “What am I doing here?” Beyond that, I had the idea of a much more highly frazzled individual than myself and tied in the reliance upon numbers and technology to function as his downfall. Finally, I wanted to create a world in which he was happy. My favorite solution was one of landing him in a place of pure ignorance and silence and seeing how things evolved from there.
OOB Festival: What/who are some of the major influences on your writing? Do you have any sources of inspiration that might be considered unconventional?
Michael: I’ve come to appreciate many writers as influences upon my writing. My earliest exposure was to some of the American classics – Williams, Inge, Miller, and O’Neill – from whom I enjoy finding ways to explore a bit of a throwback and simplicity of the early 20th century. Recent authors such as Labute, Shepard, Mamet, and Kushner have let me explore the darker side of comedy and drama creating an ability to create darker pictures.
One area of fiction that might not naturally be considered a conventional inspiration is some work from authors like Charles Baxter, Ann Beattie, and Tom Perrotta (amongst others) – all writers who have an innate gift in making the suburban and simple seem absolutely intriguing. I’d attribute my attention to realistic dialogue as a benefit of having read most of their works and studying how they create scenarios, characters, and situations from the everyday.
OOB Festival: Your Festival piece has been performed all over the country already – Buffalo, Houston, Connecticut, Orlando, Chicago. Have you seen all of these productions? What have you learned about the play or about your writing? Have any of your other shorts and one-acts been produced to this extent?
Michael: I have only been fortunate enough to have seen the production in Houston, TX, but have done my best to maintain contact with all directors/producers who produced the piece nationwide. The Houston production was done by Driven Theatre for their Fragmentation III series, the theme of this year’s festival being of ‘communication.’ Here, it was directed by Phyllis Gooden and featured Arlice “Anycole” Young and Nick Locke. Their interpretation of the piece was performed with an extreme intensity and dedication. Ms. Young played the steady but fed-up anchor to their relationship without diving into a one note character and Mr. Locke was frantic, out his mind; and with the lead of Ms. Gooden, made it entirely believable. The play was met with a Q&A session and I learned from this performance that a good deal of the audience could readily empathize – they shared that overwhelming desire to simultaneously turn off the phone and the mind and slip away.
Other multiple productions I have include A Fondness For Aquanet (5 productions nationwide) which is a ‘80s throwback to John Hughes teenage confusion and love – the play’s origin was actually from a 48 hour theater project led by my wife, Christine Weems, when we actively produced in NYC. Subtlety, a short but sweet piece about a couple finding cryptic clues in a crossword, has gotten 5 productions nationwide; and Waiting Life, an even shorter play depicting a second date in NYC, has gotten 4 nationwide. My full length play Fragments leads the way among my longer plays with 3 productions and an upcoming film adaptation under our production company – Cone Man Running Productions.
OOB Festival: Tell us a little more about your experience of the theatre scene in Texas. How is the theatrical community of Houston different from that of New York? Are there any Houston or nearby theatre companies we might not know about but should? Do you think your work is directly influenced by your location?
Michael: In my 2.5 years so far in Texas and specifically Houston, I’ve found that it’s a direly underrated arts community. The scene is wide, encompassing, welcoming, and provides year-round opportunity as far stretching as the suburbs (where we reside). The biggest difference I can tell between NYC and Houston is simply that certain areas/audiences here prefer the less controversial works and some companies exclusively utilize that for their audience base. For the more outgoing theatergoer, there certainly are great companies who strive to challenge the audience with more adult content. I honestly think that location has not affected by style or stories remotely. I’ve followed prompts which have led to more accessible family works, but I’d much rather find a theatre wanting to produce work that I have which might be controversial than to force myself into an aesthetic which isn’t create honest writing from me.
A few hidden gems in theater scene here include: Texas Repertory Theatre – they constantly put up elite productions and are wonderful people. Mildred’s Umbrella Theatre Company – a company located downtown which pushes every button in terms of the aforementioned challenging the audience with daring and strong material – is acted and directed exceptionally.