Monday, 28 July 2014

60 Seconds with Marc Acito

Marc won the Helen Hayes Award for Best New Play with his comedy Birds of a Feather. He is the head writer of the musical Allegiance, which won the Craig Noel Award for Outstanding New Musical and broke the all-time box-office record at the Old Globe. He is also the book writer of A Room with a View, which played at the 5th Avenue Theatre in Seattle.

With Tony Award-winning producer Dede Harris, he is developing a one-man “monologsical” of his first novel How I Paid for College, which won the Ken Kesey Award for Fiction and was an Editors' Choice for The New York Times. Translated into five languages the author cannot read, the novel inspired a sequel, Attack of the Theater People. Other projects in development include a mini-musical with Broadway legend Sheldon Harnick. He recently became the first writer to receive two NAMT grants in one year.

Now a regular contributor to Playbill, Marc did numerous commentaries to the 12 million listeners of NPR’s All Things Considered. He teaches Story Structure to writers of all mediums at NYU.

Which work (literary, stage, cinema) most influenced you when growing up?

The Wizard of Oz. Though I still don’t understand why Dorothy wanted to go back to Kansas. I would’ve stayed in Oz.

Where do you write? What’s on your desk and why?

I don’t have a desk. I write everywhere: the bed, the couch, the table, the toilet. Since writing isn’t just typing, I do a lot of “writing" when walking my dog.

Who or what had the biggest impact on your creative life?

My husband, Floyd Sklaver. He inspires me, challenges me. He’s both my editor and my muse. He knew I was a writer well before I did.

How does the conventional theatre structure influence your writing?

When it comes to structure, it’s all (Ancient) Greek to me. Everything else is just old wine in new bottles.

Do you have tropes that you most overuse?

Maybe one of these days I’ll stop writing about repressed people finding their true selves.

What are the benefits of the collaborative creative process?

There’s someone to argue with rather than just myself.

As a coach and creative writing teacher, what would you say is the most common mistake writers make?

Don’t be boring.

You work across a lot of genres. Where are you most comfortable?

Believe it or not, scholarly essays. If I didn’t have such extreme anxiety with taking tests, I probably would’ve gone to grad school and become an academic.
As an ex-drama student, I found How I Paid For College hilarious. What makes you laugh?
I am a connoisseur of youtube videos in which stupid people fall down and hurt themselves.

Will we see more of Edward Zanni?

Edward will be gracing the stage next year in a one-man musical adaptation of How I Paid for College.

Which book/show/exhibition/TV series has impressed you most this year?

I’m in the midst of gobbling Susie Gilman’s The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street, delicious sentence by sentence, page by page. It’s like a hot fudge sundae version of two of my favorite books, Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All and The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay.

Would you share what you’re working on next?

It’s all theater all the time for me now. Given the stop-start, push-me-pull-you nature of that business, I’m working on several projects at once on subjects as varied as the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War Two; the adolescence of Judy Garland; a musical adaptation of E.M. Forster’s A Room with a View; and a play about Albert Einstein.

Finally, which ice-cream flavour best represents your personality?

I’d say Ben and Jerry’s Turtle Cheesecake: an unexpected twist on something traditional; a little nutty, a little flaky and swirling inside.


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