My First Edinburgh play: Brian Parks – ‘The biggest challenge of bringing a show from overseas? Money and logistics’
My play Americana Absurdum, which ran in Edinburgh in 2000, won a Fringe First, and then went to the Menier Chocolate Factory in London. It is composed of two separate, shorter plays, Vomit and Roses, and Wolverine Dream, which we first staged separately in New York in the mid-1990s. The director, John Clancy, then had the idea of combining them into one, two-part play, since they shared a somewhat sinister comic sensibility, a directorial style and a main character. It was a great idea.
I did not envision it having international appeal at the time, because it’s both very American and rather odd in its comedy. Happily, I was wrong about that. The main challenge of bringing a production to the Edinburgh Fringe from overseas is money and logistics. It’s a nine-actor play, so that’s a lot of airfare and housing.
Thankfully, any concerns about the Edinburgh audience ‘getting’ the play were soon laid to rest. They’d absorbed so much US culture already, they were totally on top of it. David Calvitto, who directs my play Enterprise at this year’s fringe, was the moving force behind getting Americana Absurdum to Edinburgh that year. It also turned out that our cast member Leslie Farrell knew David Babani at the Menier and was the first to get him interested in producing the play there. I believe it was the second play to run in its space, but the first produced by Menier. I would love to have another there someday.
As a playwright, it is interesting to see your work produced by different teams. I like both scenarios – working with people I know well, and who know my work well, and also working with new folks, to see what perspective they might bring. Hearing ideas from other people – be they old hands or new – is stimulating. I’m more polite to new people, though.
My main piece of writing advice is always the same and very simple: “Just try.” It’s also what I’m always telling myself. As for bringing a play to Edinburgh, wherever it originates from, I amend that a little to: “Just try – but raise an ark-load of dollars.”
CV: Brian Parks
Trained: Mostly self-taught, but I also have a Master of Fine Arts in English and playwriting from Brooklyn College
Theatre includes: Enterprise, Americana Absurdum, Goner, The Invitation, American Poodle (Splayfoot), Suspicious Package, Out of the Way, The House and The Golfer
Brian Parks’ play Enterprise is at Assembly George Square Studios, Edinburgh, until August 28. He was talking to John Byrne