Thursday, February 6, 2014

Spotlight On...Ken Urban

Name: Ken Urban

Hometown: Medford, NJ

Education: Bucknell University, Rutgers University

Favorite Credits: The Happy Sad (SPF), The Awake (59E59), "The Happy Sad" (film at the IFC)

Why theater?:
I have no idea. When it's good, it gives us a taste of real intimacy, which we all crave. It's mostly bullshit but every once in awhile, it’s the most transcendent thing.

Tell us about The Correspondent: In a moment of extreme despair, a grieving husband hires a terminally woman to deliver a message to his recently deceased wife in heaven. He then receives a letter describing events that only his wife could know, and he must find out who is responsible. Is the correspondence from a con artist or has his wife returned from the grave? It's a ghost story.

What inspired you to write The Correspondent?: When I was working on another play, that director came across the afterlife telegram service. It is a real thing. I didn't make it up. In short, the website allows you to pay a person nearing the end of life to bring a message to someone in the afterlife. I started thinking about writing a play about the service just because I couldn't believe such a thing existed. I started the process of doing an afterlife telegram, though I stopped when they started asking for money. Though I am an atheist, I wanted to understand what would bring a person to invest in such a service. Grief has always been a subject that I return to in my plays.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I have always been interested in art and music that makes me see the world in a new way. There's a Christopher Wool painting --  I have it as a postcard and look at it often as I work -- that is simply the text "The Show Is Over The Audience Get Up To Leave Their Seats Time To Collect Their Coats And Go Home They Turn Around No More Coats And No More Home." That's what I want theatre to be like. The show is over and suddenly everything looks different. It happens when you see live music. You can have a strong physical reaction. There are so many theatre artists who have inspired me. But I find, as I get older, I find my work being more and more inspired by music. I have been recording a lot with my band and I am sure that filters its way into the writing.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Truthfully, I was always hoping I would get a chance to work with Phil Hoffman. He was so kind to friends. And his performances, especially in "Synecdoche, New York" and "Boogie Nights", were really inspiring. I saw him around a few times but never had the courage to speak to him. I figured he didn't need some rando stranger telling him he was a great actor. But now I kinda wish I had smiled at him. I always thought it was cute that every time I saw him, he looked like he just rolled out of bed.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: In the fall, I recommended Wallace Shawn's Grasses Of A Thousand Colors to anyone who would listen to me. The acting was so finely detailed and the writing was so provocative in its linking of environmental devastation and sexual cruelty that it really fucked with my head. Since we've been in rehearsal, I have been so immersed in The Correspondent I haven't had a chance to see anything.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: No one would want to see that movie.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Since everything can be discovered on the internet, this is a question probably best left unanswered.

What’s the most played song on your iTunes?: According to iTunes, the most played song is a tie between "Fishing" by Pluramon and "Please Forgive My Heart" by Bobby Womack. I have no idea what that says about me.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: The sad truth is I have no idea. I don't think I'm a good at anything else.

What’s up next?:
Who knows? That's the problem and pleasure of the future.