New Play "Die For Me" at FringeNYC
An Interview with Ethan Ness

Indie Theater Now asked Ethan Ness a few questions about his play Die For Me.

Who were the key figures who made this production happen—could be other artists, people who inspired the story, producers/producing company, etc.

Putting together a brand new play for Fringe Festival is a lot of work! We would never have been able to get it off the ground without our really, really talented team at Thin Space Productions, my theater production company. I have to give extra special thanks to Brittney Gossett, our company representative and all-around genius, and Staci Merritt, our stage manager. Our tech team is also amazing--Anthony Tornambene, our light designer, and Traci Bargen, our sound designer, have created a design with over 200 sound and light cues. And of course, no play is complete without its' talented cast--Gwen Sisco, Mark De La Rosa, and Jacob Berger, who have all put a lot of heart into this show. And there are countless others--the donors who all contributed to our Indiegogo campaign, our talented voice actors, and the original team who did our first ever reading of the script back in February. Every show has about a hundred people behind the scenes that the audience never sees, but the show would be nothing without them.

Why is this a play, as opposed to a film or a web series or a novel (or anything else)? And what is it about live theater that attracts you most, that keeps you revved and jazzed to work in this form?

There's something about live theater that is just so much more visceral, that can't really be experienced in a film or a book. There's something about seeing the actors right there, in front of you, that really makes you feel like a part of the action as an audience member. Our play, "Die For Me," also happens to be inspired by one of the most famous plays of all time--"Romeo and Juliet," so it's fitting that we would take the theatrical route ourselves.

Who taught you how to be a playwright? This could be specific teachers, or role models whose work you’ve seen or read, or of course any combination.

I've learned to write plays by reading plays. William Shakespeare is one of my greatest influences and inspirations, and you'll see a lot of callbacks to his work in "Die For Me." I love how he balances dark, serious drama with a little bit of comedy every once in a while. I also love that he can talk about big, 'important' things, like love, and death, and passion--but he puts these ideas into the heads of ordinary people, just like you or me. I like the fact that he can make you laugh, and cry. That's really what we're hoping to do with 'Die For Me.' I've loved and studied storytelling in all its forms for my entire life, and I've learned that if you let the characters and the story guide you, the rest will follow.

What have you learned about this play as it has evolved from first draft to the present version? And what has surprised you in this current production-what did you discover in the work that you didn’t realize was there?

Creating a brand new play is always a long journey. I started writing the play last September, wrote half of it, took a hiatus for several months, and then finished the play in February. Over the course of the writing, I knew what it was going to be 'about'--two high school students, in love, who come up with an idea for a suicide pact--and all that follows. Over the course of the writing, some ideas I had disappeared to make way for the main story. Allie(the main character)'s mother was originally a character, she is no longer in the final draft of the script. It's always surprising to see how a story changes, and sometimes a little startling to see what it is that you end up with, and how far you've come.

Without giving away any important surprises—what moment or moments do you most look forward to when you see this play being performed?

Without giving away, I'm really looking forward to a moment at the end--Reese and Allie, students, very much in love, have to decide if they are going to make the ultimate sacrifice or not. I wrote the thing, and it's been keeping me on the edge of my seat in rehearsal, every single time. I hope that it will be the kind of play that people can walk away from and wonder, 'Is there somebody that I'd die for?'

posted July 30, 2016