Monday, January 13, 2014

Spotlight On...Will Arbery

Name: Will Arbery

Hometown: Born in Nashua, NH. Raised in Dallas, TX. Four years in Gambier, OH. Two years in New York. Now in Evanston, IL. But my parents live in Wyoming now. 

Education: B.A. English and Drama, Kenyon College. Working towards an M.F.A. in Writing for the Screen and Stage, Northwestern University.

Favorite Credits: Devising and writing Six Windows Presents A Hero of Our Time with Calliope Theater Company last year. Dancing in Shaina Cantino's i went into a home that wasn't mine at a festival in The Kennedy Center. Sitting in a red hat as Zac Efron's body double in Liberal Arts.

Why theater?: Because theoretically it's always dying and it's pure. Because when it's bad, there are few things worse than having to sit through it. It's torture. But when it's good, it feels holy and impossible and scary. I just want to make things that make people a little freaked out to be in the same room as this happening thing.

Tell us about We Were Nothing!?: We Were Nothing! is a play about a friendship. It's also about different modes of communication. I don't know if it's funny or sad. Mostly I find it really embarrassing. It's site-specific and a little over an hour long and it's about two girls but I wrote it thinking about my own friendships. It's a noisy play with a scary silence underneath it. It's immersed in banality and evasion. But it's also sincere.

What inspired you to create We Were Nothing!?: I wanted to write a play that reversed the dramatic formula, something that was resolution until the conflict at the end became the resolution. I had also been obsessing about the effects of technology on communication. But more than anything, I wanted to write about growing apart from people, and growing up. So it's a mix of this immediate emotional stuff and formalistic academic stuff. I worked closely with Elly and Shelley and Lisa, and then Emilie when Shelley went off to grad school. We looked at our archived chats, emails, and texts. Eventually we realized that technology was the setting of Act One, but that the play wasn't "about" technology. This play is really about was how hard it is to talk to people.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?:
I'm inspired by a lot of things and mostly I'm just trying to come to terms with my own shame at being alive at all, but writers and people who have inspired me pretty directly are Young Jean Lee, Richard Maxwell, James Wright, Bela Tarr, Annie Baker, Orson Welles, Chekhov. More than any of those, I'm inspired by my sister Julia, who has Down syndrome. I love the way she talks. You can get a sense of it here: I'm fascinated with people who talk from entirely the heart in a very specific way. I want to capture the way they say things, exactly, because I think there's so much truth and delight and homage in that level of precision.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Richard Maxwell

What show have you recommended to your friends?: I haven't been in New York since September, but when I was there I recommended We're Gonna Die by Young Jean Lee.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I crowd-sourced this question and all my friends were like "oh man, that's super hard." But then my friend Will Dagger was like "Young Anthony Perkins?" and I like that. I grew up in a big Catholic family with seven sisters. My nickname when I was a kid was "Pickle" because apparently as a baby I came out all sour. Maybe the movie would be called “Pickle”, starring Young Anthony Perkins.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I don't feel guilty at all about it, but baseball stats. I'll troll and look at obscure players' numbers. 

What’s the most played song on your iPod?: "A Little Lost" by Arthur Russell.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: A teacher.

What’s up next?: Going to Aspen at the end of January and New York in mid-April for the Theater Masters MFA Festival, where I'll workshop and produce my short play The Logic, alongside students chosen from other graduate playwriting programs.