Wednesday, August 12, 2015
Spotlight On...Nicholas Korn
Hometown: Cincinnati, OH
Education: I received my Bachelors in English Literature from Northwestern University, but have also studied acting at the National Shakespeare Conservatory in NYC and Improv from both Second City and ImprovOlympic in Chicago.
Favorite Credits: From 1999-2003, I founded and ran a classical theatre company called Stage First Cincinnati. We produced 23 shows in the black box theatre at the Aronoff Center for the Arts. I have never worked harder in my life – or had a better time. In 2006, my play The Antic in Romantic was a finalist for the Kaufman and Hart Prize for New American Comedy, and in 2012, my self-produced film "Revel’s Rivals" won the Best Animated Feature award at the Louisville International Festival of Film.
Why theater?: I think the true magic of theater is actually something most contemporary work misses because its reliance on naturalism: and that is the power of language (and occasionally the scenic image) to ignite the audience’s imagination. It is the power of suggestion. In improv, they teach you that if you say to an audience, “we are here in Tahiti,” they accept that you are, for the purpose of this entertainment, in Tahiti. And that acceptance generates a great deal of fun and participation. In cinema, however, you are required to be filming in a tropical location that is either Tahiti or someplace very much like it. For me, the heavy weight of realism is too great a burden for something as light as art to bear.
What inspired you to write Delirium's Daughters: I am going to deflect the question a little (well, maybe a lot) – because the inspiration for this individual play is part of a larger process, a way of working, that while I hesitate to say it is unique to me, is still different from what I see in many other contemporary writers, whether working for the stage or page. I think that many writers, when they come upon an event in real life, whether it be a large public event from the news or something personal, are taken with a desire to present that event in very much the way it took place – making only what changes are needed to keep the narrative interesting. My first impulse is to ask “why is this interesting?” – and look more into the dynamic inside it. I think everything that resonates with us – especially those situations that happen outside the circle of our own personal lives – has the energy of a myth beneath it. Once I have identified what I think that iconic relationship or behavior is – and how it plays out, that’s when I start build the story. My own personal tagline is: Mirth and Myth. The art and act of comedy is more essential – and more philosophical and poetic than we give it credit. Of course, so much of today’s comedy is really our shallow pop culture making fun of how shallow it is – we live in a day of easy parody and satire. But there is a great well of comedy that’s to be found beneath that surface. Serious drama assumes that we are all suffering and that we have to face our suffering with the hope to understand and accept. My view – which is a comic’s view – is that we are all a little crazy and a little broken, and while there is always some conflict that comes with that, once you step outside your own little circle – there is a great deal of humor, understanding and joy. That’s what I want to put on stage.
Tell us about Delirium's Daughters: Three sisters – each of differing temperaments and personalities – have been proposed to on the same day by four gentlemen. The youngest daughter, Celia, is being courted by two fellows. One is a proud egotist, and the other, the town rascal, whose name is Giovio. The father, Senor Di Lirio, says the marriages may proceed if his wife approves – which proves to be problematic since she passed away three years earlier, and the old man, in his grief, still believes she is alive. The progress of the play follows Giovio’s well-intentioned and ridiculous tricks to bring the father to see the truth – and to pave the way for the marriages to take place. One of the dynamics of the play that still intrigues me is that the nature of the antagonist is inverted. Usually, the antagonist is the bad guy, the bringer of damage and danger that earns the disapproval of the audience. But that role here is played by the father, who becomes quite quickly the most sympathetic character of the story. A case could also be made that Giovio is the antagonist, and that Di Lirio is our hero, even in his madness. But there too, the adversary turns out to be well-liked by the audience. The point here remains that there is no bad guy, just two men fighting for the women they love – on either side of life and death – and generating a lot of laughter (and few tears) along the way.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: On the one side, I am very much a classicist – Shakespeare, Moliere, Shaw, Wilde. Great language, great characters and great dramatic architecture. Interestingly, Shakespeare works with a primarily a historical perspective – even his comedies and tragedies are based on stories that were about century old at the time of his writing them. That’s something you see in the Greek tragedians as well. The other three were great mockers of the manners of their day – but the humor always drives down to a human impulse or observation that is always current. On the other side, I’ve always been a big fan of the Marx Brothers and Charlie Chaplin. You can add Monty Python to that list – and you will see that influence at work in the second act of Delirium’s Daughters. That being said – I don’t think there’s anything funnier or better constructed than John Cleese’ work in "Fawlty Towers".
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Well, I just mentioned John Cleese, but you could add a host of other Brits to that list: Ian Holm, Derek Jacobi, Ian McKellan. All older and male, I know. To balance that out, Emily Blunt and Helena Bonham Carter.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: I did not see this live, but at one of those FathomEvent broadcasts that play in the megaplex: The Stratford Festival’s production of King John. It’s certainly not one of Shakespeare’s strongest – he had yet to develop that deep command of language and dramatic plot that frame everything later – but it was so cleanly done. Seana McKenna was amazing as Constance – add her to my list above.
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I’ll have to deflect here again, because I am not a fan of plays about putting on plays, or movies about movie making, novels about novelists – that sort of thing. There’s so much content in everyday life to pull from that it seems lazy to look no further than your own industry for material. Hamlet, of course, gets a pass on this – as does "Singing in the Rain".
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: First production of Henry V at the Globe. Muse of fire, indeed.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: Guilty being the operative word here – pinball and old school funk.
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Now that’s really a trick question because most people in theatre do other work, and I’m no exception. But to fill in the blank: If I weren’t working in theater, I would be a much more boring version of myself. Not that others don’t find me boring already.
What’s up next?: Working on a script called His Immediate Majesty. Stay tuned.