Some years ago I was sitting in a playwriting workshop led by the talented playwright Jeffrey Sweet, and someone asked him: What skills and background best prepare you to be a playwright? His response: Actor, because you know something about how plays work, and journalist, because you'e learned how to write clearly and succinctly. Hey, that's me, I thought, thank you Jeffrey!
I've always been a late bloomer ("Why has it taken me this long to discover this about myself?"), and that's been the case for me as a playwright. I grew up in the U.K. and had my first formal acting experience at the age of five when I was cast in the movie, A Town Like Alice, alongside my good buddies, Virginia McKenna and Peter Finch. I acted on the stage throughout my school years, but it wasn't until after I moved to the U.S. in 1977, that I re-connected with the theatre. I did a bunch of community theatre in Vermont and New Hampshire, and then some professional stage work in Boston, where I also earned some supplementary income from corporate videos and voice-overs for commercials (with my authentic British accent.) All this time I'd made my living primarily as a writer, first for newspapers and later in fundraising, communications, and grants management for nonprofits.
Ironically, it was an on-stage crisis that launched me as a playwright. I was performing in a play festival at the Boston Playwrights' Theatre, and I went up: For 10 agonizing seconds that seemed like 10 years, my mind was a complete blank. A fellow-actor rescued me and we stumbled through the scene together. Most actors have experienced this terror at some time in their careers, but for me the moment was seminal and profound: increasingly, I'd been having trouble getting secure with lines, and the problem was affecting both the quality of my performance and my pleasure in doing theatre. It was certainly a great diet plan--I was losing 3-5 pounds every show from the stress of it all--but it was a lot less fun. And that set me thinking: what else could I do in the theatre that I love so much? Duh! I could write. I could write plays. So obvious and, as it's turned out, so right.
In the last 12 years, I've written seven full-length plays, 15 short plays, picked up a couple of national awards and two playwriting fellowships, and had more than 70 productions and staged readings of my work in the U.S. and internationally. Okay, so I'm a little thicker around the middle (aren't we all) but I'm a happy camper.
I'm also fortunate to live in Boston, Massachusetts, an increasingly vibrant theatre town, and I have wonderful support from my two main Muses and the loves of my life: my wife, Mindy Fried, and our daughter, Sasha.