About the Play:
Hikers find 140 shoes filled with butter on a Swedish mountain: absurdity ensues. RUNNING TIME: 15 minutes.
My Name is Yin will be presented Saturday, July 23 at 4:30 PM.
My Name is Yin will be presented at the Festival Finals, Sunday, July 24 at 5:30 PM.
About the Author:
Tom Swift is a playwright, producer and financial planner. He currently serves as Captain of the Financial Avengers, a registered investment advisory firm that he co-founded with his side-kick, The Oracle. Together they recently incorporated a production company: Tom Swift and His Amazing Productions, LLC. He is a member of the PlayGround San Francisco Writer’s Pool and a four-time PlayGround Emerging Playwrights Award winner. His full-length gay marriage play (A Marriage) just received a staged reading at The 15th Annual Best of PlayGround Festival. He is currently working on a television concept (The Financial Avengers News and Variety Hour) and a book (The Rules of the Financial Avengers: Winning the Fight for Financial Freedom in Post-Bubble America.) Most recently in New York he served as Associate Producer for Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party, a hit at the New York Fringe Festival and a flop off Broadway. He has a degree in acting from Northwestern University, is a member of the Dramatists Guild, and currently resides in Berkeley, California.
OOB Festival: Where do you come from (home state, state of mind, or both)?
Tom: I work in San Francisco and live in Berkeley, but was born and raised in the Midwest and am a Midwestern boy at heart. I only discuss my state of mind with my therapist.
OOB Festival: Give us five words that describe who you are as a playwright.
Tom: Accidental. That is about it.
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?
Tom: This is a long story.
In 2003 I was selected to join the Writer’s Pool of PlayGround, a San Francisco-based theater company. Prior to that I had never written a play.
PlayGround is a playwright-focused company. The season is six months long. Once a month, on a Friday morning, the thirty-six playwrights in the writer’s pool are given a topic. Submissions are due the following Tuesday. Six of those submissions are selected by a rotating panel of Bay Area Theater Professionals and PlayGround Staff. The six selected plays are then produced the following Monday as script-in-hand staged readings at Berkeley Repertory Theatre. So . . . My Name Is Yin came out of that process. The topic for that month was Tabula Rasa.
However, the week prior to receiving the topic I had stumbled across an Associated Press story. The byline for the story read as follows: Hikers Find 140 Shoes Filled With Butter. The moment I read the byline, I clicked through to the story itself.
It was absurd. It involved the discovery of an art installation in a remote region of Sweden. That installation was a copy of a similar installation done in the Tibetan Mountains by a Chinese Artist.
The story ran everywhere – just Googling the title brought hits from every major news outlet in the world – and it raised so many questions: Who did the installation? Why? Who were the people who found it? Who wrote the story? Who was the government official charged with ‘cleaning this mess up’ and why did he seem so worried that the butter in the shoes would rot?
When I got the topic that Friday, I Googled the byline again and discovered that the Associated Press had since issued a correction to the original story. In fact, they had mis-attributed the original Chinese Artist by name and gender.
My thoughts went to that Artist. Who was she? What did she think about her work being copied by a stranger in Sweden? How did she feel about being misidentified in a story that ran all over the world? Why did she create such an installation in the first place, and what did it mean? (For more information about the artist and for photos of the original installation, go to: http://www.artnet.com/artists/yin%20xiuzhen/)
The correction to the original article (“Correction, Buttered Shoes Story”) compounded the absurdity of the story. But, suddenly there was logic to the absurdity. And, when I returned to the original question that popped into my head when I read the story (“Who would do an art installation in the middle of nowhere in Sweden?”), the answer was obvious: “A bear, of course.”
After that, it all fell into place.
OOB Festival: What is one thing you hope audiences will take away from your Festival piece? Is there any information you would like them to know before they watch your work performed?
Tom: I would like them to know that the play is based on a true story. I would like them to know that the Associated Press story has been incorporated verbatim into the play.
Beyond that, I just hope that folks are terrifically entertained. I believe in theater that is entertaining. If they get anything else beyond entertainment, that’s gravy.
OOB Festival: What/who are some of the major influences on your writing? What’s the most unconventional place/thing that you’ve taken inspiration from?
Tom: The writers of the PlayGround Writers Pool influence my work. By name, some of those are as follows: Aaron Loeb, Geetha Reddy, Cass Brayton, Jonathan Luskin, Evy Pine, Dianne Sampson, Brady Lea, Martha Soukup and Daniel Heath. There are many more – too many to name here – and you haven’t heard of them yet. But, you will.
PlayGround strives to create community, and it succeeds. To be surrounded by (and a member of) a community of playwrights, actors and directors is a constant source of inspiration. Being a member of PlayGround means you’re not alone – and for a writer, that’s a very good thing.
Otherwise, I draw inspiration from my father, who was a wonderful writer and an even better attorney. I’m also a musical comedy obsessive.
Regarding ‘unconventional inspiration,’ I would say the inspiration for My Name Is Yin is unconventional. I don’t often find inspiration in Associated Press stories about shoes filled with butter. Beyond that, I am constantly inspired by the world of finance and economics. Much of my future work will revolve around those topics (see below).
OOB Festival: What is your “dream play”–that is, if the more restrictive elements of production (budget, space, casting, and technical elements) were not a consideration, what type of theatre piece would you create?
Tom: It’s an epic four-act musical comedy, structured as an outrageously theatrical PowerPoint Presentation, which blends the financial history of the last decade with the two giants of the American Musical Theater: Michael Bennett and Stephen Sondheim.
Act One covers the lead up to the Great Technology Bubble. Act Two deals with the aftermath of that bubble, and the recession to follow. (These are the Michael Bennett Acts.) Act Three details the Real Estate Bubble, including our Government’s involvement in that bubble, and the Wall Street excesses underlying it. Act Four is the Great Recession. (These are the Stephen Sondheim Acts.)
The musical takes place in a pre and post Apocalyptic economic other-world, where the powers of financial good and evil battle for supremacy. The musical is fully footnoted, and comes with a prospectus, which offers in-depth economic analysis of the concepts shown in each scene and song, as well as notes regarding musical theater references (and the careers of Bennett and Sondheim).
It has a title. A Seminar!
OOB Festival: If someone saw you on the street, what’s one fact that they would never guess about you?
Tom: That I’m the Captain of the Financial Avengers.
About the Producer:
Tom Swift and His Amazing Productions, LLC — Founded in 2010, Tom Swift and His Amazing Productions, LLC, is the brainchild of The Financial Avengers: Arthur McCord and Tom Swift. The company served as Associate Producer for Abraham Lincoln’s Big Gay Dance Party, Off Broadway. Tom Swift and His Amazing Productions is currently developing a full-length gay marriage play (A Marriage) for production in San Francisco. Long-term, the company seeks to produce media related to Financial Avengers(SM) Inc, an investment management firm based in San Francisco, CA.
 A Tale of Two Bubbles, or Winning the Fight for Financial Freedom in Post-Bubble America (prospectus under lamé cover)