“The point of being an artist and using language is to invite people into your reality. Who could imagine an Edward Albee or a Harold Pinter before there was an Albee or Pinter? That’s the thrill of the stage.” Eric Bogosian
$25 RUSH STUDENT TICKETS AVAILABLE FOR ALL SHOWS AT BOX OFFICE
Dallas welcomes playwright/ author/ monologist and respected stage and film actor Eric Bogosian to the Wyly Theatre for four performances drawn from his sweeping compendium of monologues, February 11- 13. Eric Bogosian: Bitter Honey The Best of 100(Monologues) A prolific writer of well-crafted, edgy stage works, he has had a distinguished film career and starred in 60 episodes of Law and Order. Bogosian offers clearly defined perspectives on the demanding art of live performance and today’s shifting cultural milieu. Bonifield interviewed the playwright in early January to get an idea of what to expect in the February performances and to learn the details of the comprehensive 100 (Monologues) project and Bogosian’s Kickstarter campaign supporting it.
You say you haven’t toured in a while. Why Dallas? “I have genuine affection for Dallas; it feels like a little Chicago with a dedicated, lively theatre scene. And I have fond memories from when we shot my first major film here in the 80’s, Talk Radio.”
What should Dallas audiences expect to see? Bogosian brings a repertory of 30+ monologues to Dallas, performing a different show each performance. The first night will draw from Wake Up and Smell the Coffee (2000) and flow with intentional connections between the monologues. The second night will feature excerpts from Sex, Drugs, Rock & Roll (1990). The third show focuses on material from Pounding Nails In the Floor with My Forehead (1994). On Saturday he will perform a second late night set, adult-oriented and more controversial content. “I like to perform off balance, not get tied down too neatly. Saturday night late you’ll see all the bits I have the most fun with. My solos are always about the core element in theatricality, raw and visceral.”
What got you started in theatre? Bogosian says he was “that oddball kid, not into sports.” His first role was as Lord Capulet in Romeo and Juliet in high school, where he had an inspirational drama teacher. He “fell in love with this magical process” but didn’t see acting as a life path or career. He moved to New York City to be an actor, but gave it up once there. “I didn’t think I had what it took. I started producing dance concerts at The Kitchen and began building solo performances based on character types. ” When theatre visionary Joe Papp happened to catch him one night, his monologues took off. He found himself with a writing agent. When he remarked “I’m not a writer; I’m an actor,” the agent reminded him he had written the monologues. Joe Papp continued to feature him, “which is how I expanded the one character Barry Champlain into the full length play Talk Radio and then into the film.”
Describe the emergence of Talk Radio the film: “Film director Oliver Stone saw me do the stage version of Talk Radio and decided to produce the film while he was in pre-production for the Tom Cruise film Born on the The 4th of July. He thought he could knock off Talk Radio in a month. He asked his production designer to build a radio station for our film at Las Colinas in Irving. It was cast in NYC and LA. Dallas seemed to be an ideal location to shoot it, with its character, the DJ, Barry, inspired by real radio shock jock Allen Berg in Denver, known as “the man you love to hate.” (Neo-Nazis assassinated him in his driveway in 1984.) We shot the film in early 1988. I went balls to the wall with the project. It took 25 days. We worked 16 hours a day, and I did rewrites at lunch. Didn’t realize what I was in the middle of…working with Hollywood’s hottest director who had just happened to see my stage play and me adapting the film while performing it.”
Describe your writing process: “Writing a monologue is the crack cocaine of acting. I start with the psychophysical situation. I go into a zone where I “am the guy” and start talking. I tape record, improvise for hours, transcribe the work and start in again to refine it, knit the pieces together. After 3-4 passes, it emerges. I have written entire pieces that never get used. Each work has to pass muster. I superimpose a specific grid on each: Is it fun to watch? Is it active, not all sitting down? Are its themes varied or is there a specific congruency? I try the piece out in front of a live audience. People laugh when a character speaks a truth.”
And your performing process? “I learn the scripts verbatim in vernacular. I perform them in a loose, improvised style, but word for word from the script. I like to surprise the audience by jumping dramatically from one character to the next. Theatre as an event is a magical thing where the audience knows it’s not real but accepts its reality, existing in two places at the same time. There is nothing else like it, no drug stronger than theatre.”
Bogosian’s perspectives on the current climate on stage: “In New York City, we have a high dollar situation that tends to keep out younger audiences. We need cheaper tickets, to make theatre more accessible for younger audiences who want to see things on the edge. Theatre today tends to be very tame. Too many revivals. Theatre is about the energy that’s going on, not just a topic. That’s what happens with Hamilton. It feels like a rock concert with its energy…with its young company and an eager audience. I want to see and do theatre that excites me, makes me scratch my head. We need more productions v. table reads and workshops. Get the work up on its feet. And find out where the play really is. New playwrights try to find new ways to use language on stage. Sometimes it works, sometimes not. Playwrights Horizons encourages new voices, also SoHo Rep and Rattlestick do a good job of bringing the work of new artists to life. So many playwrights have deserted New York City for strictly economic reasons.
The point of being an artist and using language is to invite people into your reality. We don’t know what it’s going to be until that person comes along and invites us into it. Who could imagine an Edward Albee or Harold Pinter before there was an Albee or Pinter? That’s the thrill of the stage.”
How did the 100(Monologues) come about? “When we did Talk Radio on Broadway in 2007 with Liev Schreiber playing Barry, he invited me over to his house to play poker. I had no interest in playing poker, but I went along. Next thing I knew I realized I loved poker. So I created a home game for my actor friends. Folks like Philip Seymour Hoffman and Bobby Canavale would sit in. One of them mentioned it would be fun to perform one of my monologues, and I said I’d like to film it. I had no idea what I was getting myself into at the time.
We have four solid hours’ worth recorded so far. We plan to resume shooting in February with new artists who want to participate. Finish the second half of the monologues, all performed by amazing professionals, some Equity/ SAG actors, some non-traditional performance artists. I love to watch other professionals’ techniques; it’s a dream to shoot them and study them. The monologues cover 1980-2000, with 97-98 monologues, plus a few from Talk Radio.”
Why the KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN? Bogosian started the campaign, with a pledge goal of $25,000, to finish his self-financed, half-completed project. As of today the campaign has 100 backers, pledging almost $24,000, with eight days left to reach the required threshold. Each monologue costs about $1000 to produce, including the costs of sound stage rental, equipment rental, and crew. His goal is to complete the monologue site as a resource compendium of these monologues, as interpreted by some of the nation’s leading character actors working today. Actors already on the site include: Dylan Baker, Ricky Paul, Billy Crudup, Michael Shannon, Jennifer Tilly, Vincent D’Onofrio and Mike Daisey. As described on the Kickstarter campaign page “ the site serves various purposes. First of all, it provides a resource for actors to observe their peers working on new material. It is also a repository of theatrical writing spanning over twenty years. Finally, though incomplete by definition, the site is a snapshot of the acting community of our time featuring some of the most notable and talented character actors in the national company. For our actors this is a passion project, and they’ve agreed to join us under a SAG new-media contract with deferred compensation. That means we can use our resources 100% for the production of the video and not worry about extra fees.” Check it out here and donate to support the project: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/100monologues/100-monologues-project-by-eric-bogosian
The finished monologue site to date: http://www.100monologues.com/
Eric Bogosian: Bitter Honey The Best of 100(Monologues) will run February 11 and 12 at 8pm, and February 13 at 7pm and 10pm at The Wyly Theatre, 2400 Flora Street, Dallas TX. Part of the “Off Broadway on Flora” Series. $29-$49