The Rogue Theatre Festival's final presentation of its virtual opening night on Thursday, December 10th is Larry Rinkel's play, Brian's Poem. Rogue Theatre Festival founder, Allison Hohman Interviewed the playwright about his work, and shares it with LocalTheatreUSA.com.
Allison Hohman: Where did you get the inspiration for writing your piece? Larry Rinkel: Literally, Brian’s Poems was written in response to a festival competition where the theme was “The Library.” But actually it was written in fond memory of Brian K., a high school classmate of mine who took an MA in creative writing from Stanford in 1972. Brian died in San Francisco during the mid-1980s, and the only copy of his MA thesis outside Stanford is held by the library of the University of São Paulo, Brazil, where my play takes place. I’ve seen only a few of Brian’s poems and they’re brilliant.
Allison Hohman: What is your writing process? When inspiration strikes? One hour a day? Larry Rinkel: Everyone works differently. I write when I feel I need to, and I share Mark Rothko’s belief as articulated in John Logan’s Red, that “Most of painting is thinking... Ten percent is putting paint onto the canvas. The rest is waiting.” Even when I am not physically writing, I am always thinking about it.
Allison Hohman: How did you first get involved with theater and becoming a playwright? Larry Rinkel: I have been interested in theater (musical and otherwise) for as long as I can remember, and I dabbled in playwriting off and on from my high school years in the mid 1960s. My first play ever was an adaptation of Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Le Coq d’Or for which I wrote the book and music when I was 15. It has fortunately never been produced. But I did not start writing seriously until I retired in 2014 and had much more time to devote to playwriting.
Allison Hohman: What do you love about this piece and what will others love about it? Larry Rinkel: This play is a love story imbued with magic realism, an ultimately successful attempt by an old man to recover the last memento of the person he most loved when young. As one reviewer on New Play Exchange puts it, the play depicts “A last grasp to connect with the person you've loved most in your life well after they've been lost forever.” And another adds: “Those we lose when we're young, or who we know never got to experience life beyond their own youth - they stay with us.”
Allison Hohman: How important do you think it is for theatre festivals to offer opportunities for new or up and coming playwrights?
Larry Rinkel: Extremely important. There are many unknown and talented voices out there, and while theaters understandably want to present familiar works that are more likely to draw larger audiences, theatre can remain alive only if new works are frequently presented for audiences willing to take a chance on playwrights they don’t know.
Allison Hohman: Have you participated in theater festivals before? What was that experience like? What has your experience with Rogue Theater Festival been? Larry Rinkel: This is my second year with Rogue, so I’m pleased to take part again. But otherwise I’ve taken part in numerous festivals all over the U.S., sometimes directing and producing my own work, other times with the help of others. The experience has varied widely, but I will take any opportunity to have my work shown and to establish as many professional relationships as I can during the process.
Allison Hohman: How has the rehearsal and performance process differed now in Covid times vs. regular times? Larry Rinkel: Although I participated in the auditions and observed some of the rehearsals, I have always taken the attitude that I have final say on the script of my plays but the director has final say on the production. Within reason, of course, and that doesn’t mean we can’t argue back and forth about what the other is doing. My wonderful director Gregg Pica, whom I’ve worked with four times before, has been largely in charge of rehearsals and has prepared the final Zoom video-recording with his frequent collaborator Megan Grace Martinez. Not having face-to-face contact (Gregg is from Brooklyn, two of the actors as well as myself are on Long Island, our other actor is from New Mexico), Gregg rehearsed and recorded the play using Zoom, and then spliced together the footage to create the “performance,” using background images and an exciting opening montage to create the feeling of a journey to a distant land.
Allison Hohman: If you weren’t a playwright, what would you be doing? Larry Rinkel: I have no idea. I suppose the question presumes that I am a playwright.
Allison Hohman: Any advice for aspiring playwrights? Larry Rinkel: How much space do I have? To put it briefly: Learn your craft. See and read as much theatre as you can. Ask for advice on your work, but accept only whatever advice makes sense to you. Write short (10-minute or even 1-minute) plays as well as full-lengths. Submit to as many theatres, festivals, and competitions as you are eligible. Make friends with actors, directors, stage managers, other playwrights. Upload your work to newplayexchange.org, and write comments on other playwrights’ work as a way of building relationships. Expect a lot of rejection but try not to let it get to you; it may not be a reflection on your work, but rather that there is so much competition for the available opportunities.
Allison Hohman: What’s up next for you? Larry Rinkel: My latest full-length play now in progress is about two identical twins both with artistic ambitions, their domineering mother, and the father who killed himself when his own dreams of becoming a painter were thwarted.
About the Playwright
Before turning to playwriting full-time, Larry Rinkel taught college English in New Jersey and later worked as a technical writer. A lifelong devotee of art, theatre, film, and classical music, he has had work produced across the United States. His full-length A Kreutzer Sonata was awarded Best Play at the Secret Theatre’s 2017 UNFringed Festival, and received its Long Island premiere in December 2019. Other produced plays include adaptations from Chaucer and Dante, a farce about gender-blind casting in Shakespeare, another farce that takes place in a Chinese restaurant, several (mostly gay) romantic comedies, and a few 1-minute plays including a very cute one about Chopin’s Minute Waltz.
About The Play.
By: Larry Rinkel
Hoping to track down one of the only copies of an MA dissertation of poetry written by his deceased high-school crush, an elderly man travels to São Paolo, Brazil, only to find the library is about to close. But with the help of a somewhat ironic ghost, he finds he might have achieved his ends and then some.
Cast and Creative
The Old Man Robert Budnick
Brian Marco Antonio Cunha
The Librarian Danette Sills
Playwright Larry Rinkel
Director Gregg Pica
Dir. of Photography Megan Grace Martinez
8:30pm - Thursday, December 10th
Buy Tickets: https://www.showtix4u.com/event-details/40487