It’s almost the weekend, so we wanted to share another one of our playwrights with you, Tim J. Lord, before you shut down your office computer (or wipe down the bar. Or tutor that child. Or finish focusing that light, in Tim’s case! We at the Working Theater Directors Salon are multi-talented folk). Tim tells Luke about how his short play for the Salon, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, turns our prompt Will Work For ____ into “Will work [to] oppose blind progress” and how he feels his job as a writer is to engage with the world around us.
Luke: Tell me about your play BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT that you wrote for the Directors Salon.
Tim: This is actually the third time I’ve played with Agent Mark Rollins—he’s appeared in two other 10-minute plays of mine, “Montana Lovesong” and “Department of the Interior.” It was the latter of those that got me interested in eventually creating a full-length play that uses the Interior as a means of exploring the political and social tumult that really seems to dominate our national conversation these days, creating a political piece not about any particular agenda but about how every member of a society is in one way or another responsible for that society’s actions and inactions. With the rise of the Tea Party and the Occupy movements, I’ve become more and more interested in engaging with all that. The exciting thing about this installment though is that it’s the first time I’ve really explored Agent Rollins’ enemies, so that’s pretty cool.
LH: The prompt for your play was Will Work For __________. Can you tell me about how you approached it?
TJL: I was really into the Salon’s larger idea of “working for change” and I wanted to find a way to combine Working Theater’s mission with my personal passion for the outdoors and conservation and exploring relationships between people and place. Too often people living in cities forget about landscape and the environment. Particularly here on the East Coast it’s easy to forget about the all the vast tracks of land out west that actually belong to us all as American citizens, and it’s easy not to care about what happens to it because it’s all so far away. But that land belongs to the people and there are people who want to take it away and sell it to developers to be ruined. That got me looking for some interesting John Muir quotes to get me rolling. He was the original mind behind the conservation movement, and he founded the Sierra Club with the motto, “Not blind opposition to progress, but opposition to blind progress.” So my answer to the prompt became “Will work [to] oppose blind progress.”
LH: Tell me about working with directors. How can a director help in developing a new play?
TJL: It’s always helpful having another pair of eyes on a play. When I’m writing the whole thing exists in my head which means it’s easy to make logical leaps that aren’t apparent to people who aren’t me; and plays, obviously, are physical creations, so the director is that essential go-between, the person who knows what my vision is and knows how to communicate that to the actors in ways that are useful to them. And then there’s the fact that my plays tend to be pretty visual despite the fact that I’m not a visual guy–I never have any idea what my plays look like physically, so having someone who can realize that is essential.
LH: There is a lot of talk right now about the Occupy movement and what it means for those of us who work in the theater and in the arts. What are your thoughts on this?
TJL: As a writer I feel that my job is to engage with the world that is around me right now, so I think it’s foolish to ignore what’s happening with Occupy (and with Tea Party). Most theater folk I know are a part of both the larger economic 99% and a more local struggle between artists and those institutions that are more engaged in sustaining themselves than in true artist development and support. So as an artist I’m looking for ways to explore our economic upheaval onstage, and in the meantime there’s a big conversation happening in the theater world right now about that relationship between artist and institution, so I try to engage with that to help shape the future of how we create.
LH: As artists, we often have to work day-jobs outside of our career to support our work. Do you have a story about a day-job?
TJL: If you’ve seen an off-Broadway play since 2006, you’ve probably seen my work. My day job is working as a stage electrician, which means I hang, plug-in, and focus the lights for plays. It’s a good skill to have and it pays the bills. It also comes in handy when you’ve got a production of your own going and no one who knows the difference between a 26 and 36 degree leko. So if you need a new play and someone to light up, now you know who to call.
LH: Thank you! And time to plug. What else are you working on right now?
TJL: My full-length play, Down in the face of God is being produced in Los Angeles this spring by a company called AthroughZ. It’s a contemporary riff on some Greek classics, set on the banks of the Mississippi River. They’ve got a great company of actors and it should be a very exciting show. And then I’m working on a play called Fault & Fold, which just had a Roundtable Reading at the Lark Theater and has been invited back for a second Roundtable in the fall. This one’s an(other) epic play that follows two sets of siblings between Iowa, Afghanistan, and the places in-between. I’m really excited about it, and hopefully theaters will be too.
Tim J. Lord’s play, BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT, premieres at the 3rd Annual Working Theater Directors Salon on Sunday, April 22nd at the June Havoc Theatre. For more information, visit our website or check us out on Facebook!
Tim J. Lord is a native of the prairies and suburbs of the Midwest. A playwright & mountaineer he splits his time between New York, where he is a founding member ofbloodinthestone theater collective, and Los Angeles, where he is an artistic associate with the Veterans Center for the Performing Arts (VCPA) whose mission is to help military veterans reintegrate to civilian life through theater. His play Down in the face of God will premiere this spring at AthroughZ Productions in LA, and he continues to work on Over Before We Get There, a commission for the VCPA based on the short stories of Vietnam vet Nick Corea. Other plays have been developed and produced at The Public Theater, Summer Play Festival, Actors Theatre of Louisville, The Lark, the New Harmony Project, Chalk Rep, Rude Mechanicals, HotCity Theatre, and the NNPN/Kennedy Center’s University Playwrights Workshop. Tim studied with Paula Vogel while a resident of Providence, RI, and is a graduate of the MFA playwriting program at the University of California, San Diego.