Interview with James Colgan, playwright of "The Mulberry Bush"

August 2, 2018

Q: Your bio says that you entered theatre as an actor, and I understand that you have also been a lawyer. How have those two experiences informed your playwriting?

 

A: I think it's a must for a playwright to have first been an actor and also to have had a fair amount of experience on the stage before turning to writing. I had been acting for almost ten years, doing all manner of roles in several different theatres, before I tackled writing a play. I think the experience helps you understand what works and what doesn't, and it also helps you to "see" the play before you write it. Being a lawyer requires being precise. My legal career was largely focused on legal writing, - I was known for it - and good legal writing requires focused research, attention to detail, and clarity in expression. I do that in my plays as well, so that experience is a big help.

 

Q: You have really started to emerge as a playwright in the past few years. Was there a particular creative step or decision that was instrumental in this, that you feel led to your plays being honored and produced more?

 

A: No, I don't think there was any one event or decision that helped spur my "rise," if you will. Although in 2015, I started spending more time, much more time, submitting my plays to various festivals and contests and theatres. That seemed to help.

 

Q; Edward Albee was not a noted romantic, but he once commented that when you date someone, "if you’re unwilling to make a fool of yourself, you’re never going to get anywhere." The Mulberry Bush features a man and woman who are old enough to approach dating with their guard up, yet love makes them break up and make up, again and again. Do you think Paul and Wendy, the couple in the play, reluctantly and successfully reacquaint themselves with how crazy and foolish love can be?

 

A: Interesting question. I guess I should disclose that The Mulberry Bush is autobiographical: Wendy is a woman I dated some years ago (although that was not her name) and much of the play, the making out in the rain, the fiasco about condoms, their compatibility, their strong attraction to each other, and, of course, the repeated breaking up and getting back together, is all drawn from that wild and woolly and wonderful relationship. But to try to answer your question, no matter what age you are - and I'm 68 and I just got married, so I have lots of experience with this - no matter what age you are, love messes with your head. Totally. You can't think straight, you can't see straight, you can't think about anything else except the other person, you walk around wearing a goofy grin, the whole bag. Wendy and Paul are both old enough and experienced enough to know the pitfalls and the dangers of Love as well as its exquisite pleasures, but their reactions are different. When they meet, there's an instant attraction. Paul, being the more confident of the two, wants immediately to get closer to her and to know her, while Wendy, being the more skittish, wants to run like hell, but doesn't. At least not right away.
 
Q: Paul is also about 25 years older than Wendy. As a playwright, how do you convey the reality of that type of relationship? How do you sweep away stereotypes or preconceived notions that the audience may have of it?

 

A: Again, since this play is based on "actual events," I never thought about stereotypes or preconceived notions, either while writing the play or during the relationship. I don't think I ever gave much thought to the difference in our ages while we were dating and neither did "Wendy." The attraction was just too strong for that to be an issue. So it wasn't writing the play either. I just told the story.

 

Q: Do you like to write romantic comedy? It's a genre few playwrights seem to be tackling these days, or maybe just comparatively little of it is getting produced in these times.

 

A: I've written one other romantic comedy entitled Interrogation - and oddly, now that I think about it, it's about an older man and a younger woman, although the age difference in that one is much greater - and another of my full length plays, Running in Wingtips, has romantic comedy as an element of the larger story. I also have a short play entitled The Story of Oh (Revised and Abridged) that is more sexy farce than romantic comedy. I like it, but I can't say that I like it better than any other genre that I've written in or that I actively seek out ideas for other romantic comedies. My range of ideas for plays is very broad. For instance, right after I finished The Mulberry Bush, I wrote a play about the opioid epidemic entitled Avoidance which I just finished in April of this year. Coming up are a courtroom drama, a ghost story, and a play about women pilots during WWII.

 

James Colgan's The Mulberry Bush at OC-centric August 18 @ 2pm, August 19 @ 2 and 7pm, and August 23-25 @ 8pm.

 

To reserve your tickets, CLICK HERE or call 714-902-5716

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