My play NSA at the Left Out Festival.
An Interview with Manuel Igrejas

Indie Theater Now asked Manuel Igrejas a few questions about this upcoming event.

What has been the development process for this play? How many drafts? Has the play changed incrementally, bit by bit, through collaboration/rehearsal/workshops – or do you write a draft, mount it, and then go away and rewrite?

I started writing this play right after Hassan and Sylvia. I wanted to dig into the joys and terrors of long term gay relationships. It was also an excuse to reunite the Hassan team: David Hilder, John Wernke, Erik Kever Ryle and Casey Burden. The first draft (it was called XYZ then)had a staged reading at the Gay Center in 2011. There was another staged read in 2013 at the Pregones Theater and a couple of table reads. Each time I thought I nailed it but saw something I wanted to tweak. Last year it went through the boot camp of a Primary Stages Rewrite Workshop. It was very rugged but forced me dig into the play. This one has had the longest birthing process of any play I've done and included dozens of drafts. I can't wait to have this baby.

What do you as a playwright learn from collaborators, such as actors, directors, designers, and stage managers? What do you learn from reviewers and critics?

When we go into rehearsal, I consider the play just a carefully wrought blue print.I'm open to any and all changes. I want to surprise myself. I learned a lot from my work with David Hilder. He's not only a good director but an excellent playwright and his notes are priceless. I'm lucky to know really good actors so when they have questions, I listen. When a good actor has trouble with a line or a scene, then there's something wrong with the scene. If an actor is showing me something I never thought of, I will write it into the play. For me, it's not just a play; we're putting on a show and our job is to live as fully as possible onstage. Critics? Because I was a theatrical publicist for a long time I have a hard time taking in reviews of my own work. I'm used to reading reviews clinically, so I know how to talk to my client: contextualizing a bad review and exploiting a good one. I tend to short circuit when reading my own. What I'm really in it for is the rehearsal process. That's my happiest state of being. When the show opens, well, it belongs to other people.

Are readings helpful? If this production is a staged reading—what do you hope to get from the process? If this is a full production, has the play had staged readings, and if so, were they beneficial (and how)?

Readings are very helpful. I always have a table read or two. I never know what I've done until I hear it out loud. I usually just close the script, see what jumps out at me and make mental notes. As XYZ, this play was a semi-finalist at the O'Neill and a finalist at the Asuncion Project in 2014. There was a reading included. I felt restless during it and trimmed the play substantially. I was surprised that the audience had such good, thoughtful questions. On the other hand, Margarita and Max, which I did last year, was a note in my notebook in October, a table read in January and at the Midtown Festival in July. Each play has a different path.

What has been the biggest change in this script since you started writing it?

The characters have names now (they're not XYZ anymore). They are Monty, Stefan and Luis. Y went from being a midwestern guy to being Colombian-American Luis. It gave me a chance to write about growing up in a Latin-flavored world.

Do you ever hate any of the characters you write? Is that a good thing or a bad thing? What do you do about it when it happens?

Nah. I don't think I could ever hate a character I created. Sylvia and her mother in Hassan and Sylvia were not nice people but I loved how they owned their unpleasantness. They just want what they want! I've lived with Monty, Luis and Stefan from NSA for 3 years now and I love them, even when they misbehave. I'm the daddy and I love all my kids. I always enjoy the months and/or years I live with them.

posted March 28, 2014
Manuel Igrejas

Manuel Igrejas