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.


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