Rodrigo Nogueira on 'The Ideal Obituary' and Starting Over in America. by Declan Maloney Drummond

 Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

What is ‘The Ideal Obituary’ about, and what inspired you to write this darkly comedic story? 

It’s about a man who tries to shake his wife out of her depressive numbness taking her to funerals. So they can be a loving couple again.

If I’m being honest, at first, what inspired me was my obsession with being the best, being perfect, being loved by everyone (I think I only admitted this before to my therapist. LOL). That’s what actually moves the husband. Of course, he loves her, but ultimately he needs this love to be materialized in the idea of a perfect family, a perfect home, the American Way which basically influenced Western society.

And that’s when I realized the play should be political. Till what point this conservatism that formed us isn’t the cause of our desensitization to problems around us such as racism, violence and poverty? So I decided to address these aspects through this couple’s life.

You accomplished so much in Brazil before moving here and starting fresh in the industry. Do you find that presenting your work to an American audience has been a very different experience? What are the main differences you find? 

I grew up watching American television and films in Brazil. So, even though I wrote in Portuguese, I believed my dialogues were very similar in form to American writing. I also lived in Bethesda, MD for two years when I was a child. And that was a very special part of my childhood. So, presenting my work to an American audience is something I always wanted to do.

But it was petrifying. Because even though I spoke the language, that didn’t mean I understood American culture. And that didn’t mean I could write plays in English! Now, I’m beginning to think that I actually can. 

But starting fresh is extremely hard. Not just because of the downsizing of the productions, I don’t mind that at all. But because no one knows about you and honestly no one cares if you’ve written movies for Disney and Universal in Brazil or if you directed a musical for 50,000 people in a rock festival in Lisbon. So you feel like your accomplishments were taken away from you. But it’s part of the game and I’m here to play it.

 Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

Photo by Emilio Madrid-Kuser

Do you usually direct your own pieces?

It’s something that I like to do. But it’s definitely not a rule for me. I don’t think I’m a great director even though I really like to direct. I think some plays that I write are better off with me directing them. Others, really need a different director.

I’m so curious about your use of disturbing and abrasive media clips throughout the piece. What did they represent for you as a part of the story? 

I wanted to remind the audience of the outside world. And maybe lead them to think that the couple in the play is not crazy or sick. They are a result of the same world we live in. A world that is constantly bombarding us with so many advertisements, music videos, news reports, reality shows, social media, talk shows, sex videos (and the list goes on and on and on) that maybe we just lost perspective and reality just went bzerk to a point that the a political leader suggests that teachers should use guns in schools. (I’m sorry, I just can’t believe that actually happened).

What do you hope for the audience to take away from this piece? 

I think I gave that away in my last answer. But I have a theory about what an audience takes away from a piece. I think Richard Foreman once said (I may be terribly wrong that it was him who said this) that theater doesn’t need costumes, lights, actors. Theater doesn’t even need an audience. Just bodies passing thorough a stage. And that is enough to change the energy in the universe. Now, I wouldn’t go that far I love working with actors and I’m a huge fan of  having an audience! I guess what I’m saying is that no matter what effect a play has on someone it changed something in them. Even if they just got really pissed because they saw something they hated. That’s theater!

What’s next for you?

I’m writing two romantic comedies for Brazil. One of them is set in Israel so I got to go there to do research a few months ago, and it was really exciting. In the US, I just finished a film script called “I love my cancer”, it’s something I’ve been wanting to write for a long time: a gay man in his 30’s feels like something is missing in his life. He finds out he has stomach cancer and instead of killing the tumor, he decides to love it as if it’s his own child. As the tumor grows in his stomach, he believes he’s pregnant.

I’m also writing a junior musical with Gershwin Songs for Tams Witmark. And my next play is called “Real”, where I tell two stories that overlap on stage: an american woman who doesn’t want to have children and a gay immigrant who never found love. They both feel lonely and left out. All the actors in her story play different roles in his. As the play progresses the audience finds out similarities in their stories to the point that they might just be the same person.

'The Ideal Obituary' is at The Tank till March 24th.


headshot1 - rodrigo nogueira.JPG

Tiffany Antone on Protest Plays Project by Declan Maloney Drummond


What is the mission of Protest Plays Project?

The Protest Plays Project mission is to cultivate connectivity between theatre artists, organizers, and audiences in the hopes of fostering civic action.

What inspired you to initiate it?

I started PPP after the 2016 election.  An assault on civil liberties was already a hallmark of Trump's agenda, so seeing him get voted in was really motivating for me.  I wanted to do something theatrical that would actually contribute to the movements rising up against what many of us see as gross abuse of our most vulnerable communities.  I decided I would create the PPP site in order to connect playwrights creating socially conscious plays with Resistors.  Our initial response was positive, but I realized it wasn't enough to simply aggregate plays, so I shifted away from being a "collecting" point and took on more of an organizational role.  PPP has two main projects we're working on right now: The #TheatreActionGunControl support event and our Heal the Divide/Heal the Divide on Campus initiative.  

With #TheatreActionGunControl, we are asking theatres across the nation to open their spaces to #Enough and #MarchForOurLives organizers, and/or to create opportunities for theatrical actions during the month of March.  These can be play readings, music events, spoken word... The means are multitudinous—it's the focus (supporting this months civic actions for Gun Reform/Gun Control) that matters.  

in addition to initiating this call to action, we're offering access to over 200 plays written in response to gun violence.  Over 40 playwrights sent us the New Play Exchange links to their plays.  Caridad Svich and NoPassport reached out with their 24 Gun Control Plays and AFTER ORLANDO collections.  Claudia Alick sent us the Every 28 Hours Plays.  Playwright Rachael Carnes put out a call for playwrights to write about specific school shootings and has already amassed a collection of 21 brand new short plays and monologues on this tragic subject.  There's so much material available to support theatrical action, we hope theatres join us in putting these plays to work!

What are your hopes for the future of the Project?

I definitely hope that more theatres and theatre-makers connect with us so that we can continue to refine our approach and become more and more useful in addressing social issues through theatrical actions.  I hope that #TheatreActionGunControl helps theatres dialogue with their audiences and communities about gun violence and explore the role we all can play in curbing that violence.  I'd really like to see theatres incorporate more socially active work in their seasons, be it through productions, workshops, or readings.  I think there is room for theatres to do more to educate as well as entertain their audiences.  Theatre evokes empathy in a way that can open both hearst and minds, which makes it an important resource.  I'd love for PPP to continue to find ways to help theatres be more socially engaged.

What else are you working on?

I started an online residency for socially engaged playwrights last summer (called Heal the Divide), and it has blossomed into a multi-campus/intercollegiate project called Heal the Divide on Campus Initiatives above.  Last semester, students at six different colleges/universities wrote plays inspired by social issues of concern in their communities.  This semester, each of the six schools will read plays from every campus in an effort to explore different cultures/perspectives and create opportunities for constructive dialogue.  I'll be presenting a panel on this project at the Association for Theatre in Higher Education conference this summer along with Iowa State University's Charissa Menefee, and University of Texas-Arlington's Detra Payne.  

Since I also run Little Black Dress INK, I continue to work on our Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Fest and as a playwright, I'm just over here also trying to find time to finish rewrites on two plays while getting started on a new one.

Gracie Gardner on ATHENA by Declan Maloney Drummond

 Photo by Peter Falls

Photo by Peter Falls


Athena is about two very different teenage girls forming a shaky friendship as they practice together for Nationals. What drew you to this story?

Back in high school, I became close friends with a classmate because we were both the slowest runners on the cross country team. It was this feeling of: "We're next to each other, should we be talking?" That dynamic was something I was constantly negotiating as a shy teenager -- if I initiate a conversation, am I foisting an unfair burden on this person? Or am I being rude if I don't speak at all? In this play, Mary Wallace and Athena are constantly wrestling with those questions on a larger scale, but they are fencing directly across from each other, engaging in this form of socially sanctioned violence against one another. I used to fence as well, and I was drawn to the idea that you could see the actual sport play out on stage -- not a simulation of the sport or a theatrical gesture to indicate it, but actual, real time game play. My hope was to use that idea to explore the lengths to which someone would go to maintain a connection when they feel alienated. 

At the heart, what do you feel that Athena is really about?

My friend Tanya Everett (who is one of my favorite playwrights) saw the play and said something that felt right to me: "We want to love and be understood and we fail so often, not because we are bad people but because we lack tools."

How was Athena developed into production at JACK?

I started writing this play years ago, but it wasn't until recently that Emma and Julia (the amazing women who run the Hearth) officially commissioned it, and I started digging into it with a production in mind. The turnaround from commission to opening was November to February, which is quite fast. During the development process I was on the west coast, and Emma and Julia were in New York, and we were all working sixty hour a week day jobs, so it was challenging. They recorded actors reading the play and sent it to me, which allowed me to do revisions. 

 Photo by Mike Edmonds

Photo by Mike Edmonds

How involved were you in the casting/rehearsal process? Do you usually try to have a hand in that process for your pieces?

Being in the room for casting and rehearsals is essential for me in the initial production of a show. I just don't know what the play is until it's on its feet, and huge changes can happen in that time. For me, it's important to be open to the possibility of change, even if none occurs. In this case, an enormous rewrite happened in between casting and first rehearsal. The play changed a ton, not only because I had been working on it for so long, but also because having the complexity and intelligence of actors in the space makes you reconsider your preconceptions. 

The New York Times review of Athena said that it only wished more stories of “the awful, wonderful, completely ordinary business of growing up in a woman’s body” had been told sooner. What stories do you think deserve more attention in theatre?

I've been interested in creating theater that upends the sports genre for a while now. I came up with the idea for Athena when I was in high school, when I was actively fencing, but reading plays like Never Swim Alone in college expanded my sense of how gesture could be used to examine a character's interior life. Back when I was in school, I created a play called Manning Manning Manning about Peyton, Eli, and their often overlooked brother Cooper Manning, which examined my complicated relationship with football. Once I moved to New York, I was sending out that play and an earlier version of Athena to theaters and development opportunities. No one I submitted to was interested in either of these back in 2013, and I got buried in rejections. 

A year ago, I wrote a piece called Ballgirl, which is about a teenage girl who works on the sidelines of the US Open catching stray balls as they bounce off the court. That play was also directed by Emma Miller who directed Athena and went up at the Queens Theater this summer.

I'm happy to see that some theaters are changing their minds about who can write what kind of stories. That, for me, is what I'd like to see more of on our stages: adventurous writers asking difficult questions, bringing surprising characters to life, and theaters having the creative vision to cast their expectations aside.

What’s next for you?

I'm writing a play called Los Angeles which is an adaptation of Dante's Inferno.


ATHENA is currently playing at JACK, and performances have just been extended through to March 24th. 


 "Manning Manning Manning" Photo by Ally Schn

"Manning Manning Manning"
Photo by Ally Schn

Gabriel Jason Dean on Terminus by Declan Maloney Drummond


What is TERMINUS about?

The plot: TERMINUS tells the story of Eller--a progressive white matriarch--and her mixed-race grandson, Jaybo, who live together down by the railroad tracks in rural Georgia. When Eller's mind begins to fade, her violent past in the segregated South haunts her from the very walls of the old family home. And as she descends terrifyingly closer toward a horrifying truth, Jaybo’s capacity to love his grandmother is put to the test. 

What it’s ultimately about for me is using the story and the metaphor of theatre to excavate the confession of the great sin which existed since the beginning of our country…the sin of slavery and the capitalist oppression of black people…and the subsequent dismantling of the social construct of whiteness that would come as a result of the admission of this sin. It’s a very personal play with much truth stemming from my own family history. I dedicate the play to “my nameless kin,” because, as my grandmother told me at a very young age, there were people in my family tree whose lives were lost because of the color of their skin.  

How did the show end up playing Next Door at NYTW?

Monk Parrots had agreed to produce the play and when NYTW called for proposals for their new 4th street theatre, we applied.  I am a Usual Suspect at NYTW and so had an existing relationship with the theatre. They chose us, along with Dave Malloy, Elena Araoz & Mac Wellman, Idris Goodwin, and several other very exciting artists.  We are thrilled to be part of their inaugural season.

You've got a fantastic cast and creative team. How was the team assembled?

With great care by me and director Lucie Tiberghien! Deirdre O’Connell (Eller) is a friend of mine who I met workshopping a different play (QUALITIES OF STARLIGHT) and when we started thinking about dream NY actresses to play the role, she was at the top of both mine and Lucie’s list.  Thankfully she said yes! We found Reynaldo Piniella (Jaybo) a few years back when we did a Lab reading of TERMINUS at the McCarter Theatre in Princeton, NJ. He was someone both Lucie and I wanted to continue working with.  Mat Hostetler (Bones) and Vanessa Butler (Finch) were new actors to me, but had worked with Lucie previously at Hartford Stage.  Shann Patrick Tubbs (That Man) and I went to graduate school together at UT Austin and we’ve been trying to find a project to work on together for years and this really fit the bill. Luke Leonard (Jim) is the Co-Artistic Director and Founder of Monk Parrots and the piece really spoke to him and he wanted to be in the room again as an actor. Jessie Dean (Leafy) is my partner in life and art and has been there every step of the way as this play has developed.  The role of Leafy has been tailored to her specific talents, in fact. And Clementine Belber (Annie) is making her professional debut. We didn’t have to look to far to cast that role.  She’s Lucie’s daughter and I persuaded her that she was perfect for the role!

What's next for you?

As I type this, I’m in Rochester at Geva Theatre in the first week of rehearsal for my new play, HEARTLAND, which opens mid-March.  It’s receiving a National New Play Network Rolling World Premiere, so it will go from here to New Rep Theatre in Boston to InterAct Theatre in Philadelphia to The Vortex in Austin, Texas.  This play is a departure from the world of Attapulgus.


Dr. Harold Banks is a retired professor of Comparative Literature and Afghan Studies, waiting for his adopted daughter to return from teaching in Afghanistan, her native country. When Nazrullah, an Afghan refugee, suddenly arrives at his Nebraska doorstep armed only with his daughter’s copies of The Diary of Anne Frank and The Old Man and the Sea – the two men become unlikely roommates. Set in both Maiden Shar and Omaha, Heartland is the story of a father, his determined daughter, and a surprising friendship.


Charlotte Miller on Expecting (The Worst) by Declan Maloney Drummond


Tell us a bit about Expecting (The Worst) at Rattlestick.

"Expecting (the Worst)" is a fundraiser for my play "Raising Jo." My dear friend Chris Bellant is producing both the fundraiser and the play, he's also going to play Calvin, the lead in Raising Jo. Julie Kline who's directing asked Rattlestick if they'd be interested in housing the fundraiser since we've both worked there. I think I started working at Rattlestick when I was 26 or 27 as an assistant and that was actually where I had my first reading of Raising Jo, so it feels right to have the fundraiser there. Chris came to me with the idea for an evening of one acts and we sorted out the details of what we would want that to look like with Julie over the phone. We landed on an evening of original one acts instead of extant ones because we're fundraising for a new play. 

The line-up of writers is fantastic. How did they come to be involved?

They're fucking awesome. I'm lucky that all of these guys are involved, I guess I'll attack it alphabetically. Kara Lee Corthron is someone I know from doing a playwrights conference, she writes really quirky, dark, visually riveting work, and I just enjoy her immensely, I think everybody should get to hear her laugh at some point as well as see her plays. When the idea came to be for the evening she was one of the first people I thought of. Jessie Dickey is someone I got to know through the company I'm a part of, Rising Phoenix Rep. We were commissioned at the same time by the company and I just adore her voice, it's really forward and strong and funny, she's also a kickass actress so I'm thrilled that she's going to be in her play as well! Brett C. Leonard was my first writing teacher, I think I took two or three 6 week writing classes with him when I was 22 or 23, I've always been such a big fan of his writing, it's got a relentlessness to it even when it's quiet, we've kept in touch over the years so I asked him. Daniel Talbott is one of the folks I met at Rattlestick when I was assisting, I have know idea how to describe how I met Daniel because he's one of those people that's there suddenly and it's like he was always there and also like you've never met anyone like him (because you haven't). When he's a friend he's family, and he's inclusive and generous and just puts us all to shame with his ravenous work ethic and his writing balances what's sweet with what's sharp and rough and dark, he's one of my closest friends so it was a no brainer to ask. Finally, Ren Santiago is a writer I know through the MCC Youth company from years ago, I directed one of her plays at the Fresh Play festival there, I hadn't taught before and I hadn't worked with teenagers before and I hadn't directed before, and then I didn't really end up doing any of the three because she showed up and did the work. She has a voice that I don't think I've heard before, it's distinctly New York and female and of her generation, hers is a huge voice and it's been so exciting to watch her grow into it.

What is your new play, Raising Jo, about and what is the plan for its production?

Raising Jo is about a young couple that breaks up and then shortly thereafter finds out their pregnant. It's mainly about growing up, I think a lot of people in my generation have a hard time with that, and not in a "I need to learn to cook way." I mean in the "XYZ makes me feel like shit, but how do I take responsibility for my actions and move forward and not treat other people like shit?"  My dear friend Chris Bellant called me a few days before I moved to Los Angeles last year and asked if we could do a reading of the play, we did, privately, no director and then a few months later he called me and said he really wanted to produce this play. He's such a wonderful, talented, dear person, I've known him for years and he's been in two of my plays now, excited to work with him on a third. After we settled on a space we liked we started director hunting. Julie Kline is someone that I've known through the channels of Rising Phoenix Rep and Rattlestick, we've worked together a couple of times on some of my solo show stuff, she's super fucking smart and easy to be around and has a great ear. We're planning on a production in first week of June. I'm excited that I get to work with them on "Expecting (the worst)" now and then "Raising Jo" later, they're the best.

If you can't make the fundraiser, you can still donate here: