From Piles of Papers to a Play! Interviewing David Wright

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THALIA: What inspired you to write When Love Speaks?


It was a while ago, so it’s testing my memory, but I went on kind of a reading jag of poetry—and I’ve always been someone who loves reading aloud. I even lead Storytime for Grownups at the library.
I remember at the time reading a lot of this poetry and thinking “wow this stuff really sounds good!” and there are all these interesting “second string poets”—not Shakespeare or Donne, not as well known but they have really great dramatic voices. I thought “these poems feels like scenes,” and that was the beginning.
I remember developing these huge files of all these poems and cutting them down. I had papers all over the floor of our apartment, organized by their dramatic intent. “Spurned lover,” “reproach,” “carpe diem,” each in a pile, to see how they spoke to each other. And I remember being delighted with the result, they do make good dialogue for the right cast.

Who is your favorite poet of all used in the play? 

I’m very big on John Donne. When I was an actor, and doing a lot of Shakespeare, I used some of John Donne’s monologues—satires on jealousy— as fantastic audition monologues.
I also fell in love with Thomas Campion during this process, and he is much more simple and direct. Wonderfully eloquent and effective, his personality comes out through the poetry. I remember him kind of catching me by surprise, and was really impressed with his voice.

What was it like to get into the rehearsal room? To hear these words allowed aloud with people?In the original production, and also with this current one, so much of creating this play, bringing these poems to life is in the hands of actors. Daniel is a brilliant director, and together with 110 odd poets who wrote this, he is really a co-author in helping to realize the situations and helping his actors get underneath, refining the moments of it. HE is every bit as much if not more a part of making When Love Speaks work as I am.

I knew a lot of the initial cast, I came to know Elizabeth (Austen) when she came in. I was very involved that first go round in casting because I knew how demanding working with this material is. A lot of this poetry is . . .they’re very well constructed machines, lots of bells and whistles to them, and it takes someone who can really get into the text and use it fully to make it work. The actors we hired then and now are really masters of that.

Hearing actors do this is all I’ve ever wanted out of this process. That’s the joy of the piece— hearing actors take these fantastic tools, these poems, these meaning bombs, and wring every bit of juice out of them. It’s a language circus, and such a pleasure to see people operating at that level.

What excites you about this new remount? 

This was a delightful kind of windfall, and it came out of nowhere! It was such a blessing to hear that they wanted to revive this. I know that it hasn’t aged, as it’s made of pretty immortal stuff. I’m excited to see what the new cast is doing with it, and think that switching the gender [of one of the younger lovers from male to female] is fantastic. You and I know, dealing with period texts where there is such a large ratio of men’s to women’s roles, what a challenge it is to find opportunities for women performers to get to do this material that they are so able to perform, in Shakespearean terms.

People who want a really pleasurable, sensuous entertainment that is not shallow, this is for them. I could not be more delighted that it is coming back.

What do you think of the touch of adding contemporary poets at the end of each performance? 

I think it’s a great idea! It will be really interesting to see how poets are writing love poetry now and how close to and how far away that’s gotten from how they used to do it. It’s always interesting to see same human experiences expressed in different ways. It will be fun to see how much and how little has changed— as the emotional and human experiences are still the same. For most of us, watching a play or reading renaissance poetry, we aren’t remembering 400 years ago, we are remembering a time when we were 17.

I’m doing a few of the post-play poetry readings, and I’m on the fence about what I’m going to present. There’s a great short-short story by Lon Otto called Love Poems that I might share. I’ll possibly be trying to stick to the sonnet form, carry it forward through the centuries to see how it has been used. Sonnets  are the prevalent form in this play, and they continue to be written! I was recently reading through a lot of different sonnets over the past 400 years, and it’s interesting to see all the uses they’ve been put to, and different time periods they reflect. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses. . .” that’s a sonnet. We are celebrating “that little room” as it’s called by poets who wrote in it.

A lot of my motivation in producing the play was hearing the language that is usually reserved for silent reading brought to life, restored to life. It doesn’t work the same silently, it works more out loud. I was fueled by the desire to honor the written word, and to celebrate it in the best possible way, to get back to its source and put it into the air. That’s what the actors, Daniel, me, the poets all are about—the eloquent and moving expression of soul.


Opens February 9th and runs until February 25th. Get your tickets now!

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