Sunday, August 9, 2015
Spotlight On...Christopher Duva
Hometown: Los Angeles, CA
Education: MFA - NYU Grad Acting Program / BAs - Middlebury College (Theater and History)
Favorite Credits: The Voysey Inheritance (Atlantic Theatre Co.); The Elephant Man (Royale (now the Bernard B. Jacobs)); An Experiment with An Air Pump (Manhattan Theatre Club); Compleat Wks of Wllm Shakspr (Abridged) (Westside Arts and Old Globe)
Why theater?: Nothing beats the interaction between performer and audience. It’s why I started doing sketch, improv and live music when I moved to Los Angeles. That was the element I missed most of all.
Tell us about A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again: It is a one-person show I’ve adapted from an essay by David Foster Wallace on the pleasures and perils of going on a luxury cruise. In 1995, after writing a hilarious and very popular “essayish thing” for Harpers Magazine on the Illinois State Fair, Wallace was asked by Harpers to go on a 7-Night Luxury Cruise and write about it. According to his essay, he barely survived “the insanity-producing pampering” he received on the ship. Any other writer might have ended up with a polished and disposable travelogue, but Wallace’s piece became an iconic and hilarious anxiety-fraught examination of the existential meaning of the American obsession with this type of tourism. I have always felt that it is one of Wallace’s best pieces of writing.
What inspired you to adapt A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again?: It’s been a long and somewhat (I guess I can say in retrospect) inevitable process. When my wife, Suzanne Weber, and I started dating I was telling her about being dragged on numerous cruise ships with my parents when I was a kid and she suggested I read this piece. She knew Wallace through Amherst Alumni events and suspected I’d love his writing. This was just before Infinite Jest was published and Wallace was about to become widely known. I read the essay, was instantly hooked and began reading everything Wallace wrote. I corresponded with him about possibly adapting his collection Brief Interviews with Hideous Men for the stage a few years after that. Wallace gave me his blessing but he wasn’t aware at the time that the rights were already tied up with a film option, so it couldn’t happen. About two years ago I came across the letter Wallace wrote to me and it felt like unfinished business. Suddenly it hit me that the piece I should really be adapting for the stage was A Supposedly Fun Thing… because I have always felt so personally connected to it. I drew up a proposal and sent it to Wallace’s longtime agent, Bonnie Nadell, After some months of back-and-forth, she and Wallace’s widow, Karen Green, generously gave me permission through the David Foster Wallace Literary Trust to adapt the piece. With The End of the Tour movie coming out this summer and the recent publication of the David Foster Wallace Reader, it feels perfectly timed.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I went to Middlebury College, which runs the PTP/NYC company (http://potomactheatreproject.org Go see them this summer!) so I was immersed in the poetic/political theatre of people like Howard Barker and Caryl Churchill. so I gravitate towards people who can combine a love of language and theatricality with incisive social commentary. The works of writers like Tony Kushner and Stephen Sondheim (to name two lesser-knowns) are always inspiring for me.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: There are too many! But, when I studied in London I saw Mark Rylance’s Hamlet at the RSC numerous times and have watched the trajectory of his career with awe and amazement every since. I’d love to work with him. I feel like that would net me a lifetime of drama school in one rehearsal period.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: I’ve been in Los Angeles for the past several years, so I feel theatrically illiterate right now,. But, I am dying to see Fun Home and Hamilton (and all the stuff my friends are in).
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Look, all I’d ask is for the chance to audition. I’d even self-tape. As for the title, my wife keeps asking me to sit down and write a own one-person show for myself and title it, Petty Grievances and Droll Observations.
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: Opening night of Hamlet, right? Is there another answer?
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Watching documentaries about Heavy Metal.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Sane?
What’s up next?: I would say that “next” would just be finding places and ways to keep this show alive after the FringeNYC. It has been such a tremendous pleasure working with David Foster Wallace’s words that I’m not anxious to look beyond this experience any time soon. It’s a fun thing I want to do again and again.
For more on A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again, visit www.supposedlyfunshow.com. For more on Christopher, visit www.christopherduva.com