Marissa Skudlarek, BOA 2013′s Anthology Editor, is conducting interviews with the festival’s playwrights, directors, and actors. Next up is Daniel Holloway, author of “Write Dirty to Me.”
Daniel Holloway is making his BOA debut with “Write Dirty to Me,” a comedy that envisions Herman Melville, Alfred Tennyson, and Sylvia Plath as phone-sex operators… and some famous literary characters as callers on the chat line!
Marissa: Can you talk a little about the genesis of “Write Dirty To Me”? What was the initial impetus for writing this script?
Daniel: I got the idea for “Write Dirty to Me” after an unexpected close encounter with an actual phone-sex operator. I was working on a show and afterwards one of the cast members suggested we all go to his house, have a drink and continue to discuss the ideas of the play. We all piled into the little apartment he shared with his girlfriend, sat on the couch and started talking plays and literature. As we conversed, the sultry sounds of dirty talk would periodically waft in from beneath the closed bedroom door. About an hour into everything—in the middle of a dialogue about James Joyce—the door to the bedroom opens and in walks the girlfriend. “She makes phone sex calls,” the boyfriend said with a quick tilt of the head. She sat down with us and took up right away in the discussion of Ulysses. I was struck by how easily my brain moved from literature to sex and back again. It seems sex and art are always tied together for we homo sapiens. Words and storytelling are powerful tools of seduction, and sex has most definitely given rise to some wonderful novels, poems and plays. “All authors would make great sex callers,” I thought and things took off from there.
Marissa: The idea of famous authors working as phone-sex operators is definitely a great premise, and one that I can imagine being funny with any number of authors in the main roles. So what made you choose Tennyson, Melville, and Plath as the three authors that would be depicted in your play?
Daniel: I wanted to use authors that everyone would know and have some idea about already. I think we all had to read Moby-Dick or “The Charge of the Light Brigade” at some point, and who can escape college without somehow romanticizing Sylvia Plath? We already feel as if we know these three writers because we spent so many years with them in textbooks. It made it fun to bend and warp those expectations ensconced since middle school.
Marissa: Have you ever had lustful feelings for authors or fictional characters—and if so, who?
Daniel: Of course! I would do things my mother would highly disapprove of with Edna St. Vincent Millay. Don’t even get me started on my fantasies about a carafe or two of wine and a quill-and-paper fight with the Brontë sisters on a rainy English night. Character-wise, I think every one of us would go for a good Danish threesome with Ophelia and Hamlet. (Is it wrong that I could go on like this for quite a while?)
Marissa: What do you hope the audience will get out of “Write Dirty to Me”?
Daniel: Well, first, I hope the audience gets a laugh and a damn good time. I suppose too, on some deeper level, I hope the audience walks away thinking differently about these “classical” authors and poets and the words they wrote. Hopefully they’re inspired to read the books again, maybe for the first time since college, and see that they’re more than academic pieces… they’re tools that can help get you through this life. Also, if I can get a little intellectual for a minute, I hope that people will see how art connects us. We come together as a community when we all laugh at a dirty joke because it reminds us that we’re all the same; we’re all out there trying to get laid. Likewise, we we all nod when we recognize a famous line of a poem; it reminds us that we’re all the same on a level higher than the physical, too. Art unifies us.
Marissa: What about “Write Dirty to Me,” in your opinion, makes it feel like a “Daniel Holloway play”?
Daniel: I think it’s the mix of highbrow and lowbrow. A lot of people think you can’t make an intelligent penis joke, for instance. I think you can. For goodness’ sake, have you read The Canterbury Tales? There’s a fart pun every six lines. I think mixing the two—the “banal” and the “artistic”—is an exact mirror of the human condition. We all think poetic, beautiful thoughts and see the incredible beauty in life… and we all laugh at filthy sex jokes. It’s what we are as a species. Why can’t the two live together?
Marissa: How has the rehearsal process for “Write Dirty to Me” been? Has the script changed at all during the process?
Daniel: Rehearsal was a real eye-opener and the script definitely went through some changes. There is a fine line in American society between pushing the boundaries and producing laughter, and pushing the boundaries and having people snap shut like a well-oiled bear trap. Having an actor actually say the line—right out there in the real world—lets you know very quickly where things are falling.
Marissa: What’s up next for you?
Daniel: I’m currently finishing up another highbrow/lowbrow play, this one full-length. It’s a re-imagining of Beowulf and deals with modern capitalism, sexism and the state of modern writing… with the same irreverent bent as “Write Dirty to Me.” If you know anyone looking to workshop or produce a filthy, thinking play, let me know. I’m wide open.
Marissa: Now you’ve got me wondering if that innuendo there (“I’m wide open”) was intentional, or if it’s just that everything sounds a little raunchy after our discussion. In any case, thanks very much for talking with me about “Write Dirty to Me”!
“Write Dirty to Me” appears in Program 1 of BOA 2013, with upcoming performances on September 28, and October 2 and 4, at Tides Theatre.