Interview with Kerry Kazmierowicztrimm on "Gray People"

July 16, 2014

Q: Since people are going to be hearing much more from you in the future, they should be acquainted with how to pronounce your name. It's pronounced kazmir-OVITZ-trimm, correct?

A: Haha, close. It’s actually Kazmir-OVICH-trimm, though you were much closer than most. I’ve gotten everything from Kazmeerboweeztrimm (I’m not sure where they got the “B” from) to Kazmerrychristmastrimm.

Q: You are a Syracuse University BFA acting graduate who came to Southern California via a fellowship provided by Aaron Sorkin. Do you think it is easier to make a name for yourself as an actor or playwright on the West Coast, or on the East Coast?

A: Yes, since Aaron Sorkin is a Syracuse alum himself, he provides a fellowship to a few select SU seniors every year that gives them the opportunity to come out to the West Coast and get a chance to experience Hollywood (I hadn’t been further West than Pennsylvania before the fellowship).

I think making a name for yourself as either a playwright or an actor is difficult anywhere. I think theater is championed more on the East Coast (particularly in New York City), which provides a greater opportunity for good work to rise further up the ladder. However, I think there are plenty of venues in Los Angeles and Orange County interested in developing/putting on new works, so that the West Coast can be a great place for playwrights to hone their craft.

As far as being successful as an actor, I think the definition of what that entails changes based on the coast. On the East Coast, while there is some film and TV work, it is still primarily a theater city. There are plenty of opportunities to do theater, though it is still difficult to make a steady living off of it. On the West Coast, while there is some theater, most of the work will be in TV, film, and commercials. Though the work still won’t be consistent, the pay-days tend to be larger, and the quantity of work out there is much greater (especially when you think about the fact that a TV show has to crank out a new episode every week for twenty-two weeks, while a single play can be in rehearsals and then performances for months).

Q: Jose Rivera once said that more playwrights should tackle screenwriting, that the discipline you learn is invaluable. How has your screenwriting education made you a better playwright?

A: Since screenwriting tends to be driven by visual storytelling and is very plot-based, it serves as a strong contrast to playwriting, which I find to be very character- and dialogue-driven. Since I often first approach a play by figuring out who the characters are and why I’m interested in forcing these particular people to interact with each other, I tend not to worry too much about plotting out the story beforehand. However, when I go back and edit my plays, I tend to incorporate some of the techniques I use for plotting out my screenplays (note cards, outlines, etc.). The difference is that with screenplays I use all those techniques before I ever start writing the screenplay. It’s all a matter of how, as a writer, you find your way into your story. Once you’re in it and really know what you’re working on, a number of the same tools can apply to both mediums.

Q: Gray People is a story of subtly shifting truths and allegiances that provides three actors with tremendously nuanced roles. When you write a play, is one of your goals to reward the actors with characterization that is as rich and deep as possible?

A: I’ve never been a fan of plays with a bunch of small, superfluous roles. It’s one thing if you’re writing a screenplay and that two-line role gets that day-player a decent paycheck, but with plays, it’s not going to be worth the actor’s time to spend a month playing the nameless bellhop. Also, you have very limited time in a play, and since the medium is so character-driven, any time you’re not spending further developing and layering your main characters, feels like time wasted to me. I also often write plays where people are forced into a single location and to deal with each other in real-time, so having minor characters pop in and out would tend to be unrealistic and wouldn’t add anything dramatically or thematically (unless the whole point of the play was that interruptions kept the main characters from having the argument they so desperately needed).

Q: What's the greatest bit of playwriting advice you have received - or alternately, the greatest realization that you have come to about the process or art of playwriting?

A: It wasn’t specifically about playwriting, but the best advice I received about writing in general was to write two to three hours every day, no matter what. No matter how tired you are, or how many other tasks you have to do, you force yourself to put your time in every day.

It’s effective because it will make you push through that period (we all have) early on where everything you write just isn’t very good. If you know you have to pick up the pen and try again, there’s never the finality of knowing something you wrote was bad and that this is the end of it.
 
Also, if you have to write every day, eventually a day will come where you don’t have a new idea, and that’s when you’ll start getting those rewrites done that you’ve been dreading. Far too many young writers are terrified of the rewriting process (even though that’s actually where the real writing begins), and I’ve found knowing I needed to write something – anything – to be an effective way to get myself to stop stalling and start doing the rewrites that my script so desperately needed. By this point I love rewriting (because there should be few things more exciting than knowing you can make something you created even better), but for a long time it was a struggle.

Kerry Kazmierowicztrimm's Gray People opens Saturday, August 23 @ 8pm at OC-Centric.

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