Monday, August 10, 2015
Spotlight On...Mark Jason Williams
Hometown: Yonkers, NY
Education: BFA in Dramatic Writing from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. The perfect spot to be an awkward teenager coming to terms with my sexuality…
Favorite Credits: Recovery (New York International Fringe Festival and D.C.’s Capital Fringe Festival); The Other Day (Planet Connections Festivity, for which I received the festival’s award for Outstanding Playwriting) my essay, "Daddy Issues", published on Out.com
Why theater?: Because it’s both an intense challenge and an incredible reward. Writing a play can take years, but there’s nothing like the moment when words that once existed solely in my head are brought to life by a director and actors and heard with an audience. I really love theater because it’s life on stage. It can be funny or sad, sometimes both, but it’s something we get to experience in the moment and there’s nothing like. I love watching an audience while the show is going on and the notion of having an authentic, shared reaction to what’s on stage makes my spine tingle in the best possible way.
Tell us about Straight Faced Lies: Straight Faced Lies is about your worst family Thanksgiving dinner. It’s a deliciously dark comedy where barbs fly and booze flows, where bitterness, regret and delusions are passed around the table and everyone has a surprise, or two. While really funny, it’s also a timely and relatable play that tackles LGBT and women’s issues, and explores our fear of human connections.
What inspired you to create Straight Faced Lies?: Families fascinate me. I think it's pretty incredible that, despite fundamental differences, families can share the same cast of characters: the "good" child, the black sheep, a mother who feels abandoned, a father who isn't around as much as he should be. I think the family dynamic always makes for great theater. Put a bunch of people with distinct personalities in a room and watch the blood boil. Is there any greater conversation than what we talk about at the dinner table? I wrote Straight Faced Lies because I wanted to create an authentic, hilarious, and powerful drama about the impact our loved ones have on us, and the way we interact with others because of it. It's really a play for everyone. Especially if you've ever had a bad Thanksgiving, or wished you were adopted.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theater where epic characters are the forefront. Plays such as The Glass Menagerie and Death of a Salesman will always inspire me. I like listening to a conversation and observing life’s beats. Finding the moments in a conversation that may seem small, until you start to unravel them. I guess I’ll always be an observer in many ways, which is far less creepy than it sounds.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Meryl Streep (and I don’t care if that sounds cliché!)
What show have you recommended to your friends?: Fun Home
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: Do they have to look like me? If not, Benedict Cumberbatch. We’ll call the movie, “Markie” because that captures my artistic angst but makes my antics sound cute and inspirational.
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: The New York premiere of A Streetcar Named Desire.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I’ve been watching professional wrestling since I was five.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be ____?: Really bored.
What’s up next?: Straight Faced Lies in FringeNYC, and then I’ll probably write a new play or work on my novel. Plus, I’m committed to learning how to drive in the city, so that can take a while.