About the Play:
In Fan-Boy, a lonely man’s assistant tries to convince him to trade in his Superman ideology for something less lame.
About the Author:
Megan Sass graduated from Syracuse University with a B.F.A. in Acting. Her plays have been read and produced by Extra Pulp Ensemble, The Vagabond Theatre Ensemble, The Riant Theatre, and Manhattan Rep, and Storahtelling. As an actress, she has appeared in productions and readings with The Williamstown Theatre Festival Workshop, Syracuse Stage, International WOW, Collaborative Stages, Extant Arts, Endtimes Productions, Heiress Productions, Extra Pulp Ensemble, and Storahtelling. She is the resident playwright of Extra Pulp Ensemble, and a member of Storahtelling. Special thanks to TDR, Marie Buck, and Joe Hennes. Fan-boy is dedicated to Grandma Helen.
Megan’s Forty Days to Forty Plays Interview:
OOB Festival (OOB): Tell us a little about your playwriting career. When did you start writing plays? What are some of your proudest accomplishments as a playwright?
Megan Sass (MS): I remember beginning to write a play in High School, but the first play I ever finished was during my freshman year of college. I didn’t take the writing thing too seriously, though, because I was at school to study acting. While studying in New York City my senior year during the Arielle Tepper Semester, I saw a flyer for The Lark, regarding submissions for their summer reading series, and decided, what the hell? I pulled out my play and spent the following two weeks re-writing instead of sleeping. I realized then that writing might be another option. During my following semester, I showed my first play, Joan 3:16 to a professor who told me I had to keep writing. And I did.
I am still fairly new to the world of professional theatre and New York City (at least I feel that way, looking at the bios of some of last year’s participants), so I think my proudest accomplishment so far would be getting accepted into this festival. And every time I write a part that really fits a talented actor friend of mine, there is a huge feeling of accomplishment there.
OOB: 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? What do you hope festival audience will take from your play?
MS: I was visiting France with my family, and while adjusting to the time difference, I would stay up at night reading my brother’s Sin City comics. I found the stories brutal and fiercely entertaining. I remember thinking, “The characters of ugly, but there’s a real sense of justice to all of these stories.” I began to consider the kind of person who makes a serious habit out of reading comics. I began to interview “fan-boys,” and became particularly interested in why so few of them followed or admired Superman, one of better known superheroes of all time. I started to write a play about a couple of fan-boys and their character allegiances, but about fifty pages in, I realized I was getting nowhere.
A few months later, I sat down and wrote Fan-Boy in one sitting. I realized that it wasn’t just the fans, but Superman himself that interested me. Fan-Boy turned into a full length play called Super Hero, which chronicles what Superman’s life might have been like from 1938 until today. (It is still very much a work in progress.)
After seeing Fan-Boy, I hope that those audience members who might have written Superman off as a “tool” will give him a second thought. While his ideology may be impossible to live by, we should at least strive to meet such standards. Really, though, if audiences just laugh a little and enjoy themselves for the 20 minutes it takes to tell Daniels’ story, I’ll be perfectly happy.
OOB: The dramaturgical research you did for Fan-Boy is fascinating; can you talk a little more about you interview work? How did you get in touch with Fan-boys (or are there Fan-Girls? Fan-people?)? Is there a particular story or experience that defined your research experience?
MS: Yes, there are fan-girls! But I haven’t met many. The first comic book shop I went into was in North Bellmore, Long Island, and the employees there told me they only had a few on their entire roster of frequent customers. I was told they would be easier to find in big cities, and I have seen quite a few in the shops here. I’m a pretty young fan-girl myself. I’m not sure how politically correct the terms are. “Fan-people” sounds a bit like a race of zombies.
I did most of my research simply by wandering into comic shops and striking up conversations with the staff and patrons. Sometimes I would ask one who seemed particularly knowledgeable if I could interview them later. People love to talk about what they love, so it wasn’t too difficult. And, it was fun for me! I could kill two hours talking about Spiderman and Batman and justify it as work!
Some people are fan-boys and you have no idea. I met my buddy Joe at summer camp when I was fourteen, and when I moved to the city we reconnected. I was telling him about how I had started looking into comic books and he went, “Really? I love comic books!” I couldn’t believe it when I saw his apartment; he has a veritable library of comic books and DVDs, and there are action figures everywhere. He kind of took me under his wing and showed me the ropes of the DC Universe. In fact, I think he was the one who taught me the term “fan-boy.” Unlike most of the people I’ve met, he IS a Superman fan, and we’ve spent hours hashing out what makes that character work. I can easily say that Superman brought us closer together. I guess if there’s a story that defined my research, that’d be it.
OOB: What is the history of your festival entry? Do you plan to hone and further develop the play in upcoming rehearsals? Has it already been produced?
MS: Fan-Boy was produced a year ago by Extra Pulp Ensemble in the Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One-Act festival. That production was directed by Marie Buck, and she was essential in helping me get the play into the shape it is now. I do look forward to further developing and editing the play in preparation for this festival.
OOB: Tell us a little about your producer? How did you come to form your relationship together?
MS: This play will be produced by Extra Pulp Ensemble, which is a company of Syracuse University alums. We were formed in the summer of 2008. The company is currently led by Sara Bues, Lulu Fogarty, Amy Newhall, and myself. All of us are also actors. When producing projects, Sara, Lulu, and Amy tend to take care of more of the production and organizational elements, while I stick to the writing and re-writing. I am incredibly grateful to them for this. I am a good deal better at organizing words onto a page than I am at organizing all the elements necessary to get a production off the ground into said production. (See? I can’t even effectively organize a sentence on the topic of production!)
OOB: You are a founding member of your production company, Extra Pulp, which is a fairly young group. Can you talk about some experiences you’ve had as young company trying to start up in New York? What advice do you have for other theatre-practitioners who are just out of college and looking to start a production company? It’s tough starting out, but it’s a great way to take charge of your own artistic situation. So far, we’ve been part of festivals and put up a few readings. We also get together once a month and table read a new script. This allows us not only to help new writers hear their words out loud, but to assemble all of the group members and check-in once a month. We have, of course, each set off as individuals to explore own careers. Because of this, we work to keep everyone in contact, and make sure to meet on a regular basis so that things continue to move forward. Despite the difficulties, having a base group of professionals and friends has provided me, and I believe each us, with a great support network.
It has been difficult working on a limited budget, and my advice to anyone forming a new company would be to hold fundraisers and come up with clear expectations for a group budget. It’s a good idea for those just out of college to try interning or working for an already established smaller theatre company. One of our members is also a member of Electric Pear, a great off-off-broadway company, and what she learns from them, she is able to bring back to us. Another challenge for many just-out-of-college companies is that all members are performers, and may only be interested in performing. Try to get someone running the group who is interested in producing or management as their career. A company needs producers, designers, writers, directors, casting directors, publicity personell, etc. If you’re just starting out, get people involved who are interested in those things from the beginning. And if you are all actors, be open to trying those things. Lastly, listen around for feedback on a company before involving yourself in any of their festivals. We look back and laugh at the experience we had producing our first show; the festival it was a part of was horribly unprofessional. (But don’t misunderstand; the show we produced turned out great!)
The main thing to know is, you learn as you go. We at Extra pulp know we have plenty to learn, but who knows? After all, Steppenwolf started out as just a couple of kids from Highland Park, Illinois.
OOB: Looking back over your personal history in the theatre, what emerges as your favorite memory? Is there a particular story you’d like to share?
MS: While studying at Syracuse, I was part of a scene study workshop with Andrew Palermo and SU alum Taye Diggs. This was during my final semester of my senior year, and my film acting professor and writing mentor Timothy Davis-Reed asked me to participate with a scene that I had written. I had never before acted in anything I had written (hell, I hadn’t written much at that point), and so, needless to say, I was pretty nervous. Before performing the scene, Taye asked what the piece was from. I don’t remember what I said, but I awkwardly mumbled something about it being its own scene, not from anything else. I didn’t mention that I had written it.
While performing the scene, I remember hearing laughter, and getting a real jolt. I’ve heard plenty of actors talk about how fantastic it is to hear an audience laugh at the jokes they deliver. But hearing those students and professors laugh at words I had written… it was a little intoxicating. I remember thinking, “They get it! They get it!” A week later, Tim handed me a copy of Final Draft and a note telling me to keep writing. And so I am.