Thursday, July 25, 2013

O Happy Writer: A Chat with Crish Barth

Crish Barth and I joined PlayGround in the same year, and during that time, I’ve always been impressed by his focus on dialogue and characterization. He’s also impressively tall. Crish will be presenting a reading of the first act of O HAPPY DAGGER, his full-length adaptation of the 2008 Best of PlayGround short, on Monday, July 29 at 8pm as part of the FREE PLAY: PlayGround Residency at the A.C.T. Costume Shop, so I took the opportunity to ask him about writing the play, adapting Shakespeare, and who the leads should be in the subsequent film adaptation of this darkly funny piece.

- Ignacio Zulueta, PlayGround Resident Playwright

Ignacio: Hi Crish!

Crish: Hey Iggy.

IZ: Thanks for taking the time to talk about your work. Now, many PlayGround commissions grow from simple prompts given to writers during the Monday night series. Is this what inspired O HAPPY DAGGER?

CB: Yes, a prompt from my first ever PlayGround Monday Night submission in October 2007: “Launch!”

IZ: “Launch!”, that’s right. How did you interpret that for this play?

CB: It sparked a scene about a producer trying to talk an actor into killing himself - along with an actress playing Juliet of course - on stage (to both end AND launch their careers) at the end of a run of Romeo and Juliet.

IZ: What can you tell us, in a spoiler-free way, about your approach to the star-crossed lovers?

CB: They're modern and talk really fast.  Of course this is paired with video of them performing in the actual play, so...

IZ: Eat your heart out, Baz Luhrmann. It's been a good year for Shakespeare in the writers pool, with playwright Ken Slattery developing THE SHAKESPEARE BUG, based on Othello, with Killing My Lobster. What's your take on the Bard and other sacred cows of Theatre with an 're'?

CB: I'm like Robert [the lead- I.Z.] in the play.  I don't really understand the obsession with Shakespeare.  Aaron Sorkin yes, Shakespeare no.  So I thought to myself, what would get me to go to another production of Romeo and Juliet?

IZ: And?

CB: Well.  If I knew the actors had signed on to kill themselves on stage at the end of the play…

IZ: (laughter)

CB: I'd probably go see that.

IZ: What are your future plans for O HAPPY DAGGER after the reading?

CB: Broadway. Subsequent feature film starring Bradley Cooper and Zooey Deschanel.

IZ: I’d totally see a snuff film with those two in it. So, tell us about your collaborators on the project - their history with the piece, and working with them for your reading on Monday the 29th.

CB: Well.  Really, PlayGround has been the collaborator, integral in the birth of this idea and the growth of it into what it is becoming.  They chose it for a Monday Night, they selected it for the Festival, they awarded the commission for the full-length.  Without all of that, it would probably still be an idea I'd hope to get to someday (and I'm not getting any younger).

IZ: Has anything changed in rehearsal? What's your weekend look like as you head into Monday's show?

CB: I doubt I've ever written more than I have in the last year - nothing will change about that this weekend.  Thankfully my fiancé is an attorney so she works more than I do.

IZ: In three words, none of which can be Happy, Dagger, or O, what's exciting you most about the play?

CB: Believable Relationship (on) Stage.

IZ: Thanks for giving this interview, Crish! I’m looking forward to act one of O HAPPY DAGGER this Monday July 29 at 8pm at 1117 Market St. The A.C.T. Costume Shop readings are free and open to the public, with donations graciously accepted at the door. For more information, visit

Ignacio Zulueta is a five-year PlayGround member and, along with Crish Barth, a new member of the PlayGround Resident Playwrights. His full-length evening of one-acts and songs, AROUND THE BAY IN 80 MINUTES, plays Friday and Saturday, August 2 and 3 as part of FREE PLAY: PlayGround Residency at the A.C.T. Costume Shop.


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