Monday, June 3, 2019

Spotlight On...Bob Clyman

Name: Bob Clyman

Hometown: The Bronx

Education: Ph.D. in Psychology

Favorite Credits: Secret Order, The Exceptionals and maybe Tranced.  In no particular order.  After those three, it all depends on which day you ask me. 

Why theater?: I find great dialogue more exciting than any other single element in any art form, not just theatre.

Tell us about To She Who Waits?: It's about a mother-daughter relationship that may or may not have been damaged beyond repair.  When Meg left her husband, Jack, three years ago, she agreed to leave their 13-year-old daughter, Hannah, stay with him briefly, while found a job and a place for them to live.  However, during those three years, Jack and their increasingly extreme religious community have kept her from seeing Hannah.  Now that Jack has died, after making the church Hannah's legal guardian, Meg finally has a good lawyer, who is dedicated to fighting the church's encroachment on parental rights and convinces the judge to order 12 visits for Meg with Hannah.  But to have any shot at getting custody, Meg will have to convince her now 16-year-old, openly hostile daughter, who adamantly believes that Meg abandoned her, to leave the only life she has known, her church family and the place they've been waiting, certain that God will come for them any day, in order to move to a secular world, where the only person she'll know is the mother who left her behind.

What inspired you to write To She Who Waits?: I work with an high-conflict families in the middle of angry divorces.  I've never met people more desperate than parents who are fighting over custody of their children, and no irreconcilable difference raises the stakes more than disagreements over religion.  In addition to all the usual reasons for viewing their exes with unbounded animosity, these parents believe their children's souls are at stake.  But while my deep involvement these families helps to explain why I wrote this, it is only one of the reasons I could have mentioned, and those are just the conscious ones.  The truest explanation almost certainly comes from a murkier place that I couldn't begin to describe.   

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: Plays in which I can't afford to stop paying attention for even a second, because every word counts.  I've always been drawn to British playwrights.  While they obviously don't have a monopoly on this, so many of them seem undaunted by the challenge of dramatizing complex, layered subjects, whether philosophical or political, which they're able to handle with crisp, pointed economy while still managing to be funny as hell.  Out of those writers, the few who are also highly theatrical and freakishly inventive, like Caryl Churchill, are the ones I usually go back to, when I need someone more inspiring than me to inspire me. 

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Caryl Churchill, if she can spare the time. 

What show have you recommended to your friends?: Most recently?  The Ferryman.  Maybe because I'm living in an era of small cast plays, when anyone who decides to write a play for more than four actors does so at his or her peril, I get very excited by plays like The Ferryman or Ruined or almost anything by Brian Friel, which can actually show a community in action instead of merely refering to one offstage. 

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I think I'll pass on that.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: That's hard to answer, because any play I love, I can read, which isn't the same but for me a pretty good alternative.   The only reason I would go through the effort of traveling back in time, just to see a play, is if it were the first production of an early play by a writer who created an exciting new voice, so I could hear it fresh – before my experience of hearing it could be shaped by the writer' eventual reputation and all copies with minor variations that followed.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I'll definitely pass on that.  It's probably becoming clear why I'm not on social media.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: If I were still the me I am now, I would love to be a bioethicist -- as long as I wouldn't have to either go to medical school or learn too much science that's really, really hard, before someone would hire me.  If I were the me with talents I don't begin to possess, I would be part of the Yankees' starting rotation.  Maybe their number two starter, because if let myself wish to be the number one starter, there's a much greater chance of being struck dead. 

What’s up next?: I've started writing a play about Doomsday Preppers.  As with just about everything I write, I'm having fun taking on a subculture that baffles and troubles me, in the hope that I'll be able to understand its members better and write a play that even they would consider fair. 

For more on Bob, visit