Back when the MadLab theatre group out of Columbus, Ohio, staged an award-winning production (a revival, as the world premiere happened at the Overtime) of my play Clowntime is Over, the director/actor Andy Batt sent me a few questions to answer. I did my best to answer them. (Note: this Q&A took place in August of 2015.)
ANDY BATT: Do you have any personal feelings about clowns, llamas, bunnies, mice, or snakes that you feel we should know about?
JOE GREEN: Yes. I love bunnies more or less like an eight year old. Llamas are generally amusing, and the snake...to reveal that story will give away plot points in the play. However, someone very close to me had a snake (which I had named Pancakes despite the snake already having a name) that inspired that element.
This play has a lot of religious as well as scientific ideas and philosophies floating around in the text. Do you identify yourself with any specific religion? Atheist or Agnostic?
I became an atheist around age 12 or so and stayed that way for twenty years. I would lean agnostic these days. I studied Western philosophy from a young age and am reasonably familiar with its major tenets and movements up until Wittgenstein, where in my opinion things got a little derailed. But that's a long story.
You also touch on a lot of historical psychiatry. Do you have a love of psychiatry? If so, where does that come from? Tell me about your mother.
Nice. No mom issues here! I am familiar in a casual way with psychology but am in no way expert. Jung is an important thinker to me, but almost every writer or artist will say that.
What was your initial inspiration for the play?
One of my best friends is Michelle Mezzone, for whom the play is dedicated. We were talking one day about a television show she used to watch in the Pacific Northwest that featured a clown, and as she was describing it to me the first act of the play more or less appeared in my head. That doesn't happen very often - very little of my life directly comes into my plays, except this one. Which might be why it's my favorite of the ones I've written.
Who is your favorite playwright and why?
An impossible question. I love so many modern playwrights - Shanley, McNally, Mamet, Durang, Kushner, Guare, and of course Beckett and Ionesco and Stoppard and Robert Bolt. I do gravitate more to post-Beckett playwrights than, say, O'Neill or Williams. I actually kind of dislike Arthur Miller. Very difficult question.
What is your favorite play and why?
Jesus. Probably the play I've read more than any other is Richard III for the sheer pleasure of the words. I could go Travesties, by Stoppard. Speed the Plow or Glengarry, Mamet was at his peak then. Danny and the Deep Blue Sea, and this one thing - a little one act where these two kids fall in love that Shanley did that just knocks me out every time. [I didn't remember the play at the time, but it is The Red Coat.] It's a really hard question and hope I didn't bore you with the answers. Also - I'm a pretty big fan of Clowntime.
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