Alessandro King is a 2016 graduate of our Fordham University/Primary Stages MFA in Playwriting. In honor of our MFA Alumni Reading Series, which runs January 9-12, 2017, we’re catching up with the graduates to hear about what they’re working on these days.
Tell us about your play in the Alumni Reading Series.
When I was a kid, I had a VHS tape called “Bugs Bunny Superstar” that featured Looney Tunes cartoons mixed in with a documentary about Warner Brothers animation. The documentary contained thirty seconds of silent black and white footage of the very young animators cavorting around their ramshackle studio, known as “Termite Terrace.” These men danced around my head for decades until my career as a sketch and improv comedian dropped me in a similar environment, triggering my fingers to finally write Cartoon Blue and bring that ancient footage to life.
Tell us about a pivotal theater experience from your life.
There are a lot of good ones, but the one most pertinent to this reading is from my first high school production. I was playing the zany German director in Kaufman and Hart’s Once in a Lifetime, and Kitty Carlisle Hart was in the audience. Afterwards I introduced myself and she said, “Oh, you were heavenly!” and that was basically it for me.
How did you come to be a playwright?
I was definitely an enthused character actor in high school, which means you play a lot of people much older than your actual age. I knew that didn’t really bode well in the professional world, so I think on some level I was always thinking about switching tracks. And then I got really heavily into Lanford Wilson the summer before college and woke up one morning knowing I was a playwright. It seemed like the logical career for someone who wants to tell stories about people who look different from him.
Which plays, playwrights or theater artists do you admire?
I’ll use this space to talk about Terence Rattigan. When his plays get done they’re usually accompanied by press pieces about how he’s a structure-obsessed chronicler of the British Upper Middle Class who was typical of his time. Don’t buy it. Rattigan was sui generis, one of the few playwrights with true affection for his characters, who treated them as ends in and of themselves and not means toward a contrived political or thematic point. In terms of emotional sophistication, manipulation of ensembles, and individuation of characters’ voices, he is one of the very few true heirs to Chekhov.
Seen or read anything good lately?
I’ve never seen a musical like The Band’s Visit at the Atlantic. So elegiac and delicate, with every song truly earned by the interactions of the characters.
What else are you working on right now?
I have written a monologue about the recent election. You’ll have to stay tuned to the Primary Stages blog for more details.
Any New Year’s resolutions for 2017?
I have sign over my desk that says “ONLY USE FACEBOOK FOR EVENTS.” I’m going to have it dipped in bronze.
Catch a reading of Cartoon Blue by Alessandro King on Monday, January 9 at 6PM. The reading is free and open to the public. RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.