Robert O’Hara is not widely known as a playwright in New York. He has worked more often as a director. He has had one notable production of a play at the Public and several productions regionally, particularly at the Woolly Mammoth in DC. But as I’ve tracked his work in its various incarnations, including several readings over the years at Playwrights Horizons, I’ve come to admire him as one of the most adventurous playwrights I know.
My grandmother, Lizzie Bee O'Hara, was known by various names to various people for as long as she was in my life: Bee, Aunt Bee, Lizzie, Lizzie Bee, Mrs. O'Hara, Granny, Sister, Grandmama, Mama. (And a whole host of other names whenever she and my Grandfather cussed each other out. On a daily basis.) They had thirteen children, twelve of whom lived. Granny once told me that she delivered her twins herself “’Cause the fire truck didn’t get here on time.” My mother, Lillie Anne, was her third child and the first girl, and she had me when she was seventeen. Recently, she told me that I was a virgin birth. When I asked her what that meant, she said she didn’t understand how I got here because it was her first time, she was a virgin when she got pregnant with me, and she and my father “really didn’t do nothin’.”
Surrounding the premiere of Bootycandy at Woolly Mammoth, Robert O’Hara spoke to D.C.’s MetroWeekly about studying theater at Columbia: “At the end of my first semester, at my evaluation, the Chair looked at me and said, ‘Your teachers think you’re a little bit too focused on African-American and gay issues.’ We’re sitting in Harlem. I’m the only black student in the department. I’m the only gay student in the directing program. And you’re going to tell me that I’m too focused on African-American issues and gay issues?”
As Robert O’Hara’s outrageous episodic odyssey follows its young gay protagonist, Michael Jackson receives more than one passing but reverent shout-out. I spoke with the playwright about his relationship to the King of Pop, and why his presence suffuses O’Hara’s delightfully subversive Bootycandy.
Tim Sanford: What possessed you to want to write a musical? Kim Rosenstock: I always secretly really wanted to write a musical. And my friend Michael Mitnick, who was one of the two other playwrights in my class, had a lot of experience writing musicals. Actually, I first learned Michael writes musicals when we interviewed together to be admitted at Yale. And I remember on the train back not knowing if I was going to get in or if he was going to get in, and thinking, “I really hope we both get in and I can somehow trick him into writing a musical with me.” And that was my plan all along, so when this happened the light bulb went off and I said, “Michael, will you write a musical with me?” And he said… Michael: Absolutely. I had nothing else to do that summer, but being 2/3 of the playwriting class, being around Kim seven days a week for two years, I had not only become the biggest fan of her writing, but also she became my best friend.
Instead of a traditional orchestra, ‘Fly By Night’ boasts the talents of acclaimed Brooklyn/Austin rock band Foe Destroyer, who bring their musical prowess and wildly eclectic sound to the show’s New York premiere at Playwrights Horizons. Equipped with sardonic wit and a plethora of opinions, the three mad geniuses behind the noise—a.k.a. Daniel Garcia, Cade Sadler Chris, and McQueen—discuss with PH's Literary Resident Kari Olmon their songwriting, collaboration, and why they are uniquely suited to play in musicals.
Sandwich maker Harold (Adam Chanler-Berat) and his boss Crabble (Michael McCormick) finally express their rage having spent their lives robotically assembling sandwiches.
In this darkly comic rock-fable, a melancholy sandwich maker's humdrum life is intersected by two entrancing sisters. Featuring commentary by writers Will Connolly, Michael Mitnick, and Kim Rosenstock.
As if you need any more reason to love this cast, hear the answers to 7 questions from Adam Chanler-Berat, Allison Case, and Patti Murin and you'll find yourself with a smile on your face by the end.