My new play, STILL NOT, playing now at The 2016 International New York FRINGE Festival.
An Interview with Harrison Bryan
Indie Theater Now asked Harrison Bryan a few questions about his play Still Not.
What’s this play about? Please give us a brief synopsis (a sentence or two) and also talk about what you believe to be the most important theme(s) in the play.
STILL NOT is a dark romantic-comedy, defined by an ever-present tension; as a young woman waits on a lonely park bench, for closure from her ex, and a young man waits for her to stop waiting. Together, these two strangers, yearning for connection, explore the traps of waiting for love - and the fear that it may never come. Themes of fate, desire, dependency, progression, awkward-romance, and human-connectivity run thru this 75-minute two-hander.
Why did you want to write about this subject/theme?
I'm young, sensitive, confused-often, curious, flirtatious, ambitious, and always waiting, it seems, for unanswerable questions to be answered. And that's why I sat down and starting writing this exploration; hoping, I would come to some sort of CLEAR perspective on what I felt about "Love" and "Heart-Break"...but the reality is, it's all so out of our control. And I guess that's the lesson I learned from writing this. We are at the mercy of our "internal weather system" when it comes to our feelings, and how long it takes for our pain to heal. And anytime we expect it it to go away - or even worse, expect someone else to "come to their senses" - that only stresses the heart. So all we are left with is TIME. We must let time play it's toll, since we all learn and grow at our own specific pace. I wanted provide that type of hope to anyone dealing with a bruised heart, because it's important to me that people don't stew in their sadness - but keep living, and keep motivating themselves to be better, in spite of it.
How did you decide what names to give the characters in this play?
The young man is named "HIM" and the young woman is named "HER". The characters do have names, but I will never share them with anyone - and quite frankly to me, I think the two actors in the roles should come up with their own names. I didn't want them to have specific names that lodged them in to "someone else you know". It's important that they are as purposely-general - in hopes that they remain absurdly relatable. I hope this allows the audience to see parts of themselves in HIM and HER in a different way than if I would have named them "Jack" and "Jill" - and no, that is not their real names.
Describe your writing process. Do you write longhand, on a computer, a tablet? Do you write every day? Do you outline the play beforehand?
I wish I wrote everyday. Although, I don't know what that would do to my already non-existent sleeping cycle. I like to write at night, after long days of thinking about the script. I often think of writing like a form of improv with myself. I focus on letting the characters "yes, and" each other - and I've noticed when the scenes are really cooking, that is happening A LOT. And when I'm stuck, it's because I've forced the characters into an "idea of what they are" instead of letting them just react positively to each other. And sometimes the proper "Yes, And!" is a character saying "No" - but it is in service of a greater conflict - not as a procrastination to the climax. Sometimes, I outline - but a lot of the times, I will let the characters say too much and sometimes that reveals more to me about the direction the play needs to go in - as opposed to a pre-conceived idea. I think outlining is super helpful - and I think it's very important to know HOW the play ENDS when you start it. But sometimes that middle-work can unfold itself by just free-writing. For example, STILL NOT - which started as a ten minute play - almost wrote itself at times. I would sit down, expecting to maybe finish a beat - and next thing I knew I had written like ten pages...Sometimes, you just let them speak to each other - and if the "Yes, And" strategy is being implemented - that helps me discover the play WITH the characters. And that's a lot of fun.
Is there a character in this play that you particularly identify with? Which one, and why?
Both. And that will change pending on at where I am - emotionally - in a current relationship. I have been on both sides of the break-up coin. I think dealing with the after-math is hard, I think being the breaker-upper is hard, I think waiting for someone to get over their ex is hard, I think waiting for your ex to love you again is hard - it's all beautifully messy and momentarily tragic - and that's why I feel for both of these characters in different ways. Both are reminded by the end of the play that it's THEIR life. You don't belong to anyone, really. And the strong feelings you feel are just an indication of the fact that you are alive and you have a heart. Because I am playing HIM in this iteration, it's easy to think I am more partial to his story - but the truth is, I find myself just as interested by - and invested - in HER. It's easy to identify usually with the same gender as you...But! I hope men identify with the woman and I hope women identify with the man. I believe, our respective genders don't make any difference in how we deal with relationships - only our perspective and the timing of events as they happen to us matter.
posted August 17, 2016