Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Interview with Mark Jason Williams of "The Other Day"

Name: Mark Jason Williams
Play: The Other Day
Relationship to production: Playwright
Website: http://www.markjasonwilliams.com/

Tell me a little about your play.

The Other Day is a funny, poignant and authentic look at the complexities of intimate relationships, both gay and straight. It follows the story of Mark and Santo, who fall in love after a chance meeting, and do their best to make things work over the years, until Mark’s friend Dina rips away the shiny veneer covering the men's fragile relationship. With the hope of moving on, Mark takes Santo and Dina on a vacation to Amsterdam, where each faces an emotional journey that redefines their relationships in surprising ways.

When it comes to relationships, do you think gay couples face the same issues as straight couples?

Relationships, whether they are between gay or straight couples, are universally complicated. I think we all face the same issues relating to insecurities, doubts, jealously, compromise, and making sure the person you are with is the right person. I think gay couples often have the “what now?” challenge that straight couples don’t, meaning that society has a set a standard for men and women to fall in love, get married, have children, and though we’ve made some progress, it’s still not the easy for gay people. I’m not suggesting a couple needs to follow society’s pattern in order to love another, but it would be nice to have the option. I also see a lot more open relationships within the gay community, which is something that fascinates me. I can understand and appreciate the notion of wanting sexual freedom, but then couples have all of these rules. Don’t kiss. Don’t have sex on a Tuesday. And I think, if you need all of these rules, then you’re not really free.

Tell me a little about the cast and crew of The Other Day.

They are some of the most talented people you will ever experience. Lars D. Drew, who plays the character of Mark, captures the nuances and insecurities of a gay man in his 30’s with raw honesty and humor. Amadeo Fusca, who plays Santo, is like a young Marlon Brando--a real dramatic powerhouse, yet charming and easy to relate to. Zach Wegner, who comes to us following The Deep Throat Sex Scandal, charms the pants off the audience, and makes them laugh and cry with one shot. And Elena Zazanis, winner of the 2010 Planet Connections Award for Best Actress in a Play, keeps the men in check! Seriously, her portrayal of Dina, a woman trying to help her best friend move on while struggling to come to terms with her own failing relationship, is so natural and so moving, you feel like you’ve known her for 10 years! Of course, last but not least is director Valentina Fratti, who is beyond brilliant. She got the humor, tenderness and themes of the play in about seven seconds, and has been an utter joy to work with. Her direction, in my opinion, is flawless and really keeps the show moving.

I understand that this production benefits the Hetrick-Martin Institute. How did you choose them as your charity?

I admire what Hetrick-Martin does for the LGTBQ youth. I got bullied a lot in high school, and I wish I had a safe place such as the Harvey Milk High School. I think it really does allow LGBTQ teenagers to be themselves and focus on what they’d like to make of their life.

You've written several plays, including "Recovery" which won awards at last year's Planet Connections festival. Do you often focus on LGBT issues or have a gay angle in your plays?

Actually, The Other Day is my first play that has gay characters, and it’s not even so much about them being gay. It’s a love story, and can be very much between a man or a woman, or two women, or even two cats. I’ve just started another play with LGBT themes, because the character told me he wanted to be gay as I was writing him. I’m all about the character! Recovery is a heterosexual love story, but that was never a conscience choice, it just happened. Those characters could easily be gay. I don’t feel like I have a responsibility as a gay playwright to only write gay shows, but I know that when I do write gay characters, I have a responsibility to make them authentic, honest and a non-stereotype. In other words, human.

Speaking of Recovery, it will be part of this year's Fringe Festival. Do you have similar plans to bring The Other Day back for the New York or other regional Fringe Festivals?

Yes! I’m very excited about Recovery returning to the New York stage, and it’s an honor and a thrill to be part of FringeNYC this year. The Other Day will be appearing in this year’s Chicago Fringe, which is also very exciting, and then I would love to bring it back to New York for an extended run, if I can find a producer...

Good luck and thanks for taking the time to talk about your show.

The Other Day plays its final performances at the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity on Tuesday, June 21 at 4:00PM and Wednesday, June 22 at 8:00PM at the Robert Moss Theatre (440 Lafayette Street).

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