THE PLAYWRIGHT ON THE PLAYWRIGHT     

          I cannot remember a time when I did not want to write. As a child, I was fond of reading, and, so, an understanding began, early on, for the power of words. My mother, Ada Maria Weyant-Wells was a poet. So writing was probably in my blood, or perhaps it was infused into it from her way of punishment. When I did something not to her liking, she would have me write a hundred, or more times in readable cursive, "I will eat my vegetables," "I will not lie," "I will not throw my clothes on the floor," "I will not say ain't," " I will not throw temper tantrums," and so forth. As I became older, sentences became a bit more complex; "I will remember that AN comes before a vowel and A comes before a consonant."  When I am not carefully thinking, I will say "AN historic," simply because that was tough habit to break, especially since it sounds so right. Shortly before turning twelve, my mother died in the certainty that she was in the hands of Jesus. Orphaned, my two younger brothers and I  stayed with our grandparents on Arden Farms in Harriman, NY. One can easily imagine how those sentences would have been during my teen years, "I will not lock myself in the bathroom and masturbate."  "Stop buying all those muscleman magazines!" My retribution came in the form of my flunking seventh grade English and then again two years later.         

          At a young age I knew I was a writer; at least, I knew I wanted to be one. But, I was yet to learn what I wanted to write, what genre I wanted to write—screenplays, novels, penny dreadfuls, etc.— and I needed to know how to do it. I began with grievous poetry. it always does. Then on to dreadful fiction. I wrote and re-wrote the first few pages of a novel through my entire junior and senior year of high school. I was obsessive, although I prefer the word perfectionist. So true; I would too often polished the craft I loved into "what the fuck is this!?" It was enigmatic and unreadable. Certainly I should be forgiven for the absence of any consciousness for making a connection between enigmatic and Roman Catholicism.  One survives on the other. And I loved it! Tragically, most young poets insert themselves into the poem. I was no exception. Hate the poem, you hate me! It is a tragedy because there is no growth without first learning to separate the two. And that is why I could not get beyond those first few pages. I was overly self-conscious, which means that every word had to be just so; and the degree of my self-consciousness is yet to decrease, as far as I know; every word must still be just so. And what exactly is "just so"? Well, that is why I could not get beyond those first few pages. The best I know in any moment is to make the next one better; and that is why I see my life as series of endless choices and re-writes.   

          After graduating high school in 1962 I went into the Navy and became a radioman on the Sea Wolf, a submarine. In the winter of 1964 I was stationed in New London, Connecticut and while on leave I went into the city. Being a native New Yorker, "The City" can only be one place; New York City. I met up with my best friend and we went to see a preview performance of Edward Albee's Tiny Alice. It was a life-altering experience. I had never heard words constructed in such a manner as to open places within me I never knew existed. It was as if hearing the voice of God. When the play was over I remained in my seat, numb and exhausted. I turned to my friend and simply said, "Bobby, I am going to be a playwright." And so it began. Albee led me to Beckett, Ionesco and Sartre. They were my early influences.  Later on, Albee, Williams and Orton would remain the major influences on my approach to playwriting.  Style and substance is the synthesis of prior influence.

          After being discharged from the Navy I walked right into pot, speed and LSD—otherwise known as The Sixties. Ten years went up in smoke! Did you know Sartre wrote Being and Nothingness on speed?  I only wrote lists;  lists and lists of things to do.  I read  Sartre's opus, yet  have little recollection of what any of it, other than "being" and "nothingness," was about. Maybe I was on speed, too.  Some things are read in the moment with a heightened sense of insight and clarity of understanding, but when you come to the end, you come to the end—the insight, the clarity and the understanding is gone.  Something lingers on an unconscious level and it shapes and  directs a life toward that one day it consciously embodies all that which came before.        

          I tried to make it as an actor, pounding the streets of New York, doing a lot of auditioning, but never any acting.  All my acting experience was in community and dinner theatre and two wonderful summers doing stock in Upstate New York.  Along the way I acquired a working knowledge of just about every aspect of Theatre—very important for the playwright. Most important because I could not hold a day-job. I knew nothing about anything except Theatre, so  that's where I stayed—my comfort zone.

          I was a playwright who played at playwriting well into the Seventies when I was reading Proust, E. F. Benson and Gertrude Stein; Proust's amorphous and beautiful rambling prose mixed with the highbrow wit of Benson meets Stein the obscure and her literary Cubism. If you haven't read Gertrude Stein, you must. As with the Cubists, she could show the front, sides and back of an idea all at once. She taught me how to think.  Proust and Benson taught me that style and substance are not mutually exclusive.           

          I wrote lots of what I mistakenly thought were "existential" plays right up until the early 1980's when I found my own voice and, for the first time, took my writing seriously and myself less so.  Not taking myself seriously took a couple more decades; and continues.  In 1971 I met Ron Perkins, my companion in life, my legal husband who believed in me, supported me, and continues to show me the way towards becoming myself, completely and absolutely.

         I have put my hand to most every genre. I wrote a drama followed by a comedy, a black comedy, a melodrama,  a musical,  a dramady, cabaret, farce and on and on -- always trying not to repeat myself.  I am yet to create my own genre or even break new ground . . . but I'm not dead yet.  And I’ve recently completed a wildly wicked, satirical [yet unpublished] novel—QUEEN CITY AND OTHER DIMENSIONS.  

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