Between Riverside and Crazy’s Stephen Adly Guirgis on How Prayer & Sweatpants Help Him

first_img What’s the first thing you do when you sit down to write? Find something else to do. I do 500 things before I sit down and write. When I actually have to try and write, I’ll pray. I’ll say a prayer, you know, after I smoke 500 cigarettes and check my email and whatever. Prayer helps. What essential items do you like to have on hand when you write? Unfortunately, cigarettes. I like a candle. And lately I’ve been wearing sweatpants—basketball sweatpants. I spend a lot of time at my desk when I’m not writing, and when I put the sweatpants on, that’s a reminder it’s time to go to work. Like a uniform.  What’s something you think all aspiring playwrights should know, do and/or see? All aspiring playwrights should see theater and also act and direct. I’ve done backstage, front stage, small parts, big parts, direct. It all helps. Get your hands dirty in the theater. Even if you’re sweeping up, you’re going to learn. You’ll learn more than you can read in a book or just focusing on your story. I try to write my plays in such a way that someone’s going to want to play every part.  Between Riverside and Crazy What play that changed your life? View Comments Show Closed This production ended its run on March 22, 2015 Was there a specific event that sparked the idea behind Between Riverside and Crazy? Yes, there were two events. The first was I moved in [to his sprawling Riverside Drive apartment] the night my mother died. I moved in to take care of my dad. The idea of him being alone just seemed impossible to me. The other event was the color of the day shooting: A white police officer shot a black undercover transit officer. It was a really sad case, and I knew I wanted to try and write about it. Though Stephen Adly Guirgis is the ultimate multi-hyphenate—he’s a writer, director, actor, educator and former co-artistic director of LAByrinth Theater Company—he is best known for his visceral and engaging plays. These include the Tony-nominated The Motherf*cker with the Hat (his only Broadway credit), Our Lady of 121st Street, In Arabia, We’d All Be Kings, Jesus Hopped the ‘A’ Train and many more. His latest work, Between Riverside and Crazy, is a semi-autobiographical piece that centers on a retired cop and the inhabitants of his Upper West Side apartment. Guirgis graciously invited Broadway.com into his writing space, answered a few questions about his process and even picked up a pen for us.center_img Related Shows How do you stay motivated to finish a piece? Deadlines! That’s the only real motivation. It’s a motivator even to start a piece. If I had an idea that I want to try to write something, I might call you guys and be like, “Hey, I’m doing a reading in a week, can you be in it?” I haven’t written anything, but now I’m like, “All right, I have to write something!” That will get me started. I keep creating those artificial deadlines, and then the real deadlines eventually kick in. Name a playwright that influenced you. What’s your favorite line in Between Riverside and Crazy? What’s the best piece of advice you ever received about writing? Writing is rewriting. I agonize over the first draft. Somehow I feel it needs to be birthed perfectly, but really the trick is just get that first draft out. You can revise and rewrite, and hopefully you’re going to make it better and better. What time of day do you get your best work done? Middle of the night. Definitely. When everyone else is asleep. When there’s nothing else to do and no one else to call. What’s the nitty gritty hard work of being a playwright that nobody ever told you? It’s hard. The hardest thing is doing it. It sounds like a simple answer: sit down and stay down. But if you sit down and stay down, something will happen. And you just repeat, repeat, repeat.last_img read more