FAR FROM THE TREE: 3 Tales of Parents, Kids and Insanity. Three one-act plays going up as part of the Midtown International Theatre Festival
An Interview with Andrew Rothkin

Indie Theater Now asked Andrew Rothkin a few questions about this upcoming event.

What’s this play about (in a few sentences); and what particular current issues are you addressing in it?

FAR FROM THE TREE: 3 Tales of Parents, Kids and Insanity consists of three of my short one-act plays, each dealing with family dynamics and the parent-child relationship. VOICE, a drama, reveals the struggle of a wife and mother who is leaving her husband to search for her own identity, and her teenage son who tries to stop her. Both are desperately trying to be heard and understood, but neither can quite find his/her voice. FATHER’S DAY, a comedy/drama, tells the story of two adult sisters visiting their father’s grave. Though well into their forties, at least, their relationships have changed very little since they were small children -- with each other and with the memory of their father. THE MAGENTA YENTA, a comedy, bursts with colors as Martha, the titular Jewish mother, will stop at nothing to see that her son finds the right partner. And I mean Nothing. Each of these plays explores familial and love relationships. Do we ever really change from the children we once were? When is it time to speak up and make a stand? What makes a marriage and marriage?

Why is this issue/these issues important to you? Why should it be important to the audience?

There is no getting away from your parents. Ever. Beyond the DNA ingrained in every single cell of our beings -- the people who raised us (blood relatives or not), the people who were there and guided and misguided us through the formative years of our lives, influence us through our entire lives. Distant, estranged or deceased -- your relationship with your parents doesn’t end when they do. Thus, ruminating on such relationships, watching some very different relationships that support and contrast one another, will make audience think and feel and laugh -- and very well could make a difference in their own relationships. The evening as a whole addresses a number of themes and issues -- perhaps the mostly timely being allusions to gay marriage. (I am delighted to say that in the course of the last 18 months or so, I had to change several lines again and again as various states legalized gay marriage. Then just last month, well after we were cast and rehearsals had begun, The Supreme Court made some references joyfully no longer relevant.)

Can a play actually bring about social change? How?

Yes. Social change is slow and develops over years. Like watching a child develop, you cannot see the change day by day -- though there may be some occasional spurts. Rather, one usually must step away, get some distance, before one can see how much change has occurred. Likewise, social change usually occurs over time. Someone’s minds slowly opens, his heart gently unfolds, and little by little, by being exposed to different ideas and different ways of looking at things, she begins to feel differently about some aspect(s) of the world. When more and more people are exposed to ideas different from their own, or when their knowledge and understanding is expanded, especially when mixed with empathy, real change can occur. The hard part is getting those people into the theatre…which is where humor and entertainment come into play. (My motto: make them laugh and they won’t realize they are being introduced to new ideas.)

If you could get one real person (past or present) to be the spokesperson for your play, who would you choose and why; and what would you want them to tell people about your work?

It is difficult to produce a production about parents without thinking of my own parents. At this writing, my father is in the hospital. Nothing serious, I’ve been told. But at 83 years old, is there really such a thing as non-serious surgery? I’d love for him to talk about the play. But it was my mother, now three years gone, that I wish was around to share her thoughts on this work. She was my #1 fan, and would have understood and appreciated the careful dance between comedy and drama which pervades my work. She’d tell the audience to just relax , laugh and have fun. And then look deeper.

Which is more important to you in your playwriting, and why: to tell an authentic story, to make the audience laugh, to make the audience cry, or to make the audience think?

My number one priority is to make people FEEL. Then -- once they leave the theatre -- to THINK. There are some really wonderful playwrights out there who are very intellectual and give the audience much to think about as they read or watch a play. While I respect these playwrights and would classify some as brilliant and highly effective, I don’t want my audiences in their head too much during performances of my work. For me, when a piece stimulates my brain but not my heart or gut, it takes me out of the world of the play -- produces a disconnect from the action on stage and my experience. With my own plays, I like to keep my audiences entertained -- have them laughing so hard that the emotions creep up on them without them realizing it, and ultimately, have them think of the themes and “messages” hours or days later. In this way, I equate the humor in my plays as the sweets the kids want to eat; they don’t need to know that vitamins and minerals are inside. Let them enjoy it. The good stuff will come through in time.

posted July 14, 2015
Andrew Rothkin

Andrew Rothkin