One of the reasons I was compelled to come to IU was that the graduate theatre programs are such small cohorts, which allows for a lot of individualized attention and resources. We have only nine MFA actors, three MFA directors, and two MFA playwrights in the entire program at any given time! Starting this year with me is MFA playwriting candidate Aaron Ricciardi, who came to IU from New York City.
Aaron and I will have the chance to collaborate a handful of times in the next few years, but we’re getting a head start this semester: join us this Tuesday night, October 18th at 7:30 pm in the Studio Theatre for a staged reading of Aaron’s play Can I See Your Face?, which happens to be the work which Aaron submitted with his IU application.
In the meantime, why not chat with Aaron himself?
What is it about playwriting that you gravitate to more than performing?
Well, it’s not really more than performing, I still perform and haven’t stopped. For me, writing and performing feel like the same thing. They feel generative and creative. I’m really interested in people and in stories that I see in the world, and I like spending my time understanding those stories, and those people, whether I’m pretending to be them on the stage or I’m pretending to be them on paper through writing.
What brought you to IU?
I applied to a lot of places, but ultimately I came here because it’s a resource-rich program. I can have my work done on the main stage in a full production without having to self-produce (which is what you have to do in a lot of grad programs). I also liked that I’d be able to teach, and I wanted to be able to do that. The thing that really sealed the deal is that I really liked Peter Gil-Sheridan, who runs the playwriting program.
Who are some of your playwright influences?
Paula Vogel, one hundred percent. I would also say Brecht. Who else… You know what, I think I feel strongly about certain plays rather than certain writers. When I say Brecht, I don’t mean Brecht, I mean The Resistable Rise of Arturo Ui, and when I say Paula Vogel, I mean The Long Christmas Ride Home and How I Learned to Drive and Indecent. I don’t know that much of Dan LeFranc’s work, but The Big Meal is one of my favorite things I’ve ever seen. I love Annie Baker’s work, but the thing for me that really does it is The Flick. And I’m a big musical theatre queen — there are so many musicals that I feel passionate about. There are two plays I directed in college that are still my favorites – The Cradle Will Rock by Mark Blitzstein, and Bonjour, la, Bonjour by Michel Tremblay… I like a lot of things!
So word on the street is that we’re doing a reading of your awesome play Can I See Your Face on Tuesday evening. Can you tell me something about the play?
I started writing in when I was in college. It started as a ten-minute play. I was spending a lot of time going on gay chat rooms, I had a very active life on them, and I accrued a large list of men I would talk to. I was so interested in how so many people in those chat rooms would spend so much time talking about how they were straight, or assuring me of their straightness… which is such an odd thing to do when you were having a conversation in a gay chat room. I would talk to a lot of them via Skype but they wouldn’t have a camera, I wouldn’t be able to see them, and I spent so much time thinking, I don’t even know who these people are… they have lives outside of this intense relationship we’re developing. They would have these actual identities in their life that I didn’t know about. I also thought about how homosexuality is related to politics, and how people who live in different parts of the country, and how the chat room world could be a way to connect people who live totally different lives, who could then form this bond over the thing that connects them, which is being gay, and then could start a really intense relationship without knowing anything about each other with the ability to completely lie about their identities and who they are.
Why did you choose this play to apply to IU? What about it represented you the best?
It showed that I could be both bold and conventional, that I had some grasp over roles, writing, story structure, but also that I had a unique voice, vision, and perspective.