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Interview with Arden Lasalle, playwright of “The Dark Comes at Night”

This week I had a conversation with Arden Lasalle, who is going to be reading his play The Dark Comes at Night, at a Sunday Sit Down next week, hosted by S.T.A.M.P. Here is a transcript of our conversation about monsters, anime, and new play development:

E: So if you could write a note, or a blurb to a new audience, or a group that was going to read your play for the first time, what would you say this is about?

A: The justifications of why people do what they do, why monsters do what they do. The justification of people and monsters doing monstrous things.

E: I’m curious about the style you’ve used in this play. What was the initial idea for you? Was it about monsters to begin with, or did it start with a plot point?

A: So, It started with an exercise in Advanced Playwriting. We had to have a chorus, we had to have a splash, we had to have some sort of use of light, and a dream, and a recognition. And so I started building that first scene with the Horde as the chorus figure and then the people – kind of like this idea of “us vs. them” with this “monsters and people” idea, and from there as I kept writing the story built itself in my mind and told me where it’s going from there.

E: Did you write chronologically or skip around in the story?

A: Mostly chronologically.

E: Awesome. And when I said “style” before, when I meant “style” I meant more along the lines of this sort-of fantasy style that you put in the play, and that’s something that I read on the paper and I’m really interested in. So, I’m curious when you were writing what were you seeing? Were you seeing it on the stage, or were you seeing more of characters, or thematic images?

A: I don’t think about it when I’m writing, but think it is more image based. I consume a lot of material in this kind of realm that I was writing in, but I don’t see very much theatre in this kind of “imagery realm,” so I really wanted to marry the two. And as for putting it up on the stage, I don’t know how it would work, honestly. But what I saw was this huge-budget, inflatable thing, that could become these huge, monster-like things. And crazy, Lion King-style costumes for some of the smaller monsters.

E: Right, and puppetry.

A: And large-scale puppetry. But it could also be scaled down where the monsters are people-sized and the people are smaller puppets, which could be interesting too.

E: When you talked about things that you were reading and consuming, what kind of material was inspirational for this?

A: Well it’s a little of embarrassing, I guess, but, Anime and I read quite a lot of fantasy, and love fantasy television shows, and I play Dungeons and Dragons.

E: That’s not embarrassing, I think Anime is so theatrical.

A: It really is. It’s kind of crazy. And what I appreciate about some Anime I watch is the marriage of their emotional plots, which are so simple and pure, with this large scale world that’s going on around them. So, that is also mirrored in this work.

E: Yeah it really felt to me almost like an exercise in world building. And I usually feel when I read plays that that’s one of the things that’s harder for me to grasp, the world outside of the plot and the thematic elements. So, that’s interesting, That’s not a style that I read a lot. I’m also curious if you have any tools or habits you have in your writing. And what was the process for you of sitting down to write this play for this class?

A: So what I typically do is –  I like writing in the middle of the day, or as soon as I get up. I like going to a coffee shop and getting an iced tea and sitting down and  just writing for a few hours. That’s mostly how this play got written, and I would mostly go to the Pavement outside of Hynes convention center. I find it very difficult to write on my own home, I feel very distracted so going somewhere else really helps me focus.

E: I want to also ask about if you’re going to continue the story, beyond a first draft or a one-act.

A: So, it’s the whole play right now, but I think in the future it will be longer. There’s still a lot that needs to happen, but I have no idea what it is.

E: So when you go into the Sunday Sit-down, or the Monday, sit-down,do you have any specific questions or if you have any goals to go into to developing the rest of the piece?

A: I’ll be working on re-writes before I work on the next draft, so I’ll be working on making sure things track and the play reads, and that the plot is understandable. So I’m going to make sure all the minute moments that are kind of crucial, may need to be drawn out or bigger. I want to make sure the characters seem how I want them to see, and that the play is doing what I want it to do.

E: So I want to make sure I ask you, as an artist who was a part of development with Daddy Issues at BU (by playwright-alum Tom Wark), do you have a special relationship with new play development, do you see yourself doing that in the future at all?

A: Working on Daddy Issues was incredible, it was so much fun, and working with the playwright in the room is incredible, it’s amazing. And I think new playwrights and new plays are really excellent to have around. When I think of Shakespeare, it’s a fixed thing, the playwright’s dead, it’s not going to be re-written, it’s a solid piece. All of Edward Albee’s stuff now is set in stone, the moment he died, it was like it’s not going to be changed now. When he was alive, he changed Zoo Story into a different play. So I think working with new playwrights is an opportunity for the exploration of the piece which is incredible, and interesting. And also being in an actor working on new plays, and having an influence that comes next – things I did in the room for Tom’s play changed the way that he saw the character and I think that’s amazing. Just the idea of having actors being able to read my play is an incredible prospect and it makes me so excited to continue working on it with new perspective.

E: Amazing.

A: Being a playwright working on a piece that is at it’s beginning stage, having the opportunity to like have the characters being to be realized in people is an awesome prospect for me.

Come to Arden’s play reading Monday at 10am! 

 

 

 

 

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