Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Playwright Profile: Steve Pirot

1) What is your writing process? Do you start writing right away? Outline? Research?
I am a student of the Dr. Frankenstein School of Formalism, which requires that I write at night when the screaming mob might shut the hell up for a few hours so I can focus on my craft, please-and-thank-you. What I create comes out my perpetual research. Most of my creations are abortive failures, which should never be seen or heard by another human being. Aimless. Musing. Experiments. Plain crap.
I regularly cannibalize myself. (I’ll probably try to put this paragraph into a play someday.) I have a graveyard of scribbling to steal from, from which I stitch together some kind of form from preexisting forms. At first all I expect is a mumbling, shambling beast, that might grow to be more articulate as it acquires self-knowledge.
I like to draw outlines. I like outlines that are shaped like clouds that are shaped like elephants. I don't plot stories. It’s a nasty habit. It stunts your growth. It’s expensive. It’s linear.
I write when I feel like it, but I'm always writing, so you could deduce that I feel like it a lot. It’s fun. When I have fun writing something, then I reasonably assume that actors will have fun performing it, directors directing it, stage managers stage managing it, and the audience audiencing it.
2) Where do you write?
I don’t particularly enjoy writing on my laptop, but I usually write on my laptop. I'm trying not to take my computer everywhere I go these days, so I mostly work at home. I do enjoy how easily computers can restructure text. However, I prefer to write with pen and paper, and there is a row of benches overlooking the river valley just a block away from where I live, so when the weather is not so cold as to freeze ink, that's where I might go.
3) What do you need to have with you when you write?
I don’t ‘need’ anything, but I do like to have music when I write. I also like a bar of Lindt Excellence 80% dark chocolate, a bowl of cashews, a bowl of walnuts, and a bowl of raisins, and a big coffee, and books, and water with bubbles in it. However, I must note that these are also the things I like to have with me when I’m watching movies, or reading books, or entertaining guests: they’re my regular domestic comforts.

4) What is the last great play you saw?, What made it great?
Ladyvision: a one-woman show created (with Trent Wilkie) and performed by Jill Pollock. It’s a particular expression of her peculiar genius. It defies expectation. And it’s hilarious. And it’s heartbreaking. I would say the same of Jason Chinn’s Ladies Who Lynch. Jason understands the expectations of the audience, he builds the expectation of the audience, and then he defies them. It’s great writing, but that only allows for the possibility of a great play: it doesn’t guarantee it. What made both of these plays great were great performances.
5) Mac or PC?
I wish I could proclaim Linux, but I’ve never used it.  I’m more excited about pens. The Sharpie Fine Tip Pen is my favourite. Relatively inexpensive and fun to scriven with. It reminds me of a pen I used to use in the 80s.
6) Who are your mentors?
I’ve been influenced by hundreds of people, but my two major mentors have been Tom Peacocke (Drama Department of the U of A), and Richard Fowler (ex-Artistic Director of PRIMUS Theatre).
7) Do you have writing rituals?
8) Best advice for when you hit a wall?
The ‘wall’ is just an excuse to not write. Perhaps it’s a valid excuse. Maybe you’re exhausted, or hungry, or there’s something else you’d rather be doing/should be doing, or maybe you’re just a lazy person, or you’re scared of failure, or scared of making the wrong choice… or some other bullshit. But, there is no ‘wall’ that is any more real than Santa Claus. Stop believing in walls; stop making excuses; keep writing. Or stop writing. Writing is an act of will. Either you will or you won’t.
9) Best piece of grammar or style advice?
Brevity. Soul. Wit. 
10) If you were to write a play about your own life, what would the opening line be?
“For fuck’s sake. Not again!”

Steve Priot is a born and bred Edmontonian theatre artist.  He has a BA in Drama and a BFA Acting from the University of Alberta.  He has worked with Azimuth theatre as a road manager, actor, director, playwright, and is currently their a Co-Artistic Producer.

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