Innocent voice

 

Innocent voice

 

Date: April 13, 2011
by: Heidi Kurpiela | A&E Editor

 
 

Steven Drukman is surprisingly calm for a guy with two new plays premiering in the same month on opposite ends of the country.

Maybe it’s his journalism training, or the fact that being a busy playwright is not something to gripe about, because as Drukman says, “Most new plays generally sit in a developmental window for years.”

A former stringer for The New York Times, the 47-year-old writer never set out to be a playwright.

“I thought I’d be happy with my journalism life and my academic life,” he says, “until this play started vying for my attention.”

That play was “Going Native,” which Drukman wrote 10 years ago while working toward his Ph.D. at New York University.

The show premiered in 2002, at the Long Wharf Theatre, in New Haven, Conn., helping land the writer on the radar of regional theater companies across the country.

“I thought playwriting was easy because ‘Going Native’ got off the ground so quickly,” Drukman says. “It wasn’t until I wrote my next 10 scripts that I realized it’s actually very hard.”

He’s on a roll again, this time with two works: “The Innocents,” which premieres April 15, at the Asolo Repertory Theatre, and “The Prince of Atlantis,” which premieres April 29, at South Coast Repertory, in Costa Mesa, Calif.

Drukman has spent the last few weeks jetting between California and Florida for rehearsals, then back home again to New York, where he teaches fulltime at New York University.

“My attention is kind of fragmented,” Drukman says. “(Playwriting) is not like delivering a novel to a publisher and having an editor make changes. You have to be there on the floor, doing rewrites on the fly, constantly hearing what the actors bring to the work.”

He likens the responsibility to that of an umpire.

“The Innocents” — a romantic comedy about four San Francisco-ites struggling with trust, responsibility and love amid untraditional family structures — was selected from a handful of scripts developed last year during the Asolo Rep’s inaugural Unplugged Festival of New Plays.

Handpicked by Artistic Director Michael Donald Edwards, the dark comedy has deeper, more serious undertones as it tackles the social and political implications of willful innocence.

“I never thought (the Asolo Rep) would produce it,” he continues. “I thought it would get its premiere in San Francisco, New York or Chicago, but the audience here seems to be really adventurous.”

The play is the first show to rehearse in the Asolo Rep’s new Koski Production Center on Tallevast Road, and Drukman has been happy to break in the space.

Dressed in jeans and sock-less loafers, Drukman is exactly how you might imagine a journalist-turned-playwright to be: articulate, urbane and deliberate.

Journalism taught him to not get too attached to his words.

“Kill your babies is the advice they give all playwrights,” he says. “It can be heartbreaking at first, but you get used to it.”

For the past two weeks he’s sat in on almost every rehearsal, honing and tightening the script to fit the Asolo Rep cast, a process he’s also in the middle of at South Coast Rep, in California.

“It is a rare thing for a company to do a new play,” Drukman says. “Typically all the money is spent on the old chestnuts and whatever is left over for pocket change goes toward a new play.”

Lucky for Drukman, Edwards made a commitment to produce more new plays and “The Innocents” seemed like the perfect piece to hang this promise on.

“The play does gesture at larger socio and political themes,” Drukman says. “But at its heart it’s a funny family play.”

IF YOU GO
“The Innocents” runs April 15 to May 14, at the Asolo Repertory Theatre. For tickets, call 351-8000 or visit www.asolorep.org.

Contact Heidi Kurpiela at hkurpiela@yourobserver.com

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