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Interview with Marlowe Moore, October 19, 2007 | UNCW Archives and Special Collections Online Database

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Title:
Interview with Marlowe Moore, October 19, 2007
Date:
October 19, 2007
Description:
In this interview, local author and playwright Marlowe Moore discusses the early influences which led to her writing career, her education at UNC and in Eastern Kentucky's masters program, and the experience of being an active playwright in Wilmington.
Phys. Desc:

Interviewee:  Moore, Marlowe Interviewer:  Rodrigues, Carmen Date of Interview:  10/19/2007 Series:  SENC Writers Length  60 minutes

 

Rodrigues: This is Carmen Rodriguez. Today is October 19th, 2007. I'm in downtown Wilmington at the home of short story writer and playwright, Marlowe Moore. Marlowe is author of Ashes of Love, Flame Burt Out, which was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is also the playwright of Three Men, which opened in Wilmington this year to wonderful reviews. Welcome Marlowe.

Marlowe Moore: Thank you.

Rodrigues: I would like to start off our interview with going back in time, taking you back to your childhood and finding out where this love of writing first began. I read you grew up in North Carolina. Can you talk a little bit about where specifically you grew up and when you first started reading and then writing?

Marlowe Moore: Okay, sure. I grew up in a small town in eastern North Carolina called Rocky Mount. And Rocky Mount already has a bit of a literary reputation to it. It's referenced in the Allen Ginsberg poem "How" because he and Jack Kerouac used to cruise through Rocky Mount when Jack Kerouac was on his way to see his aunt, who lived in Rocky Mount. So in a lot of the beat poetry for Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg Rocky Mount will resurface every now and then; which we always thought growing up in high school was funny because it's just this lame little town in eastern North Carolina that they had managed to put on the map. And so I grew up in Rocky Mount-- and I suppose because Rocky Mount is like most small southern towns, it's so rich in years of history and generations of families, and there are so many stories in the town already and there are so many people who have been there for so long that can tell the tales and pass down the stories from generation to generation that I grew up in a very story-telling rich environment. And as far as knowing when this inspiration to write, or to read, came from, when it started I can't tell you. I don't ever remember not reading, I don't ever remember not writing, and I know, from the time I was in the womb, I grew up in this town surrounded by friends and families, and just this rich literary heritage, that I know that I was hearing in stories and in told stories, for my entire life. And for whatever reason all of my people are verbal storytellers. So I grew up with a lot of very influential storytellers. My life will never, ever see The New York Times bestseller list, but I started to write. And I started writing in kindergarten. And my mother had taught me to read when I was very, very young. So when- by the time I got to kindergarten I already knew how to read, I already knew how to write, and so while other students in the class were learning to read and write and learning their ABCs I didn't have anything to do, and it made me very maladjusted-- I'll say maladjusted seeming to my kindergarten teacher; and I was bored. And so she assigned me a special project which was to write stories and illustrate them, and then she bound them in this enormous yellow book and I got to do the cover and put my name on it and give the book a title. And that was probably my first formative seminal experience, the being given this charge of here, you write a story, you put it on paper, you do the pictures and we'll make a book. And I still have it. Of all the moving around I've done in my life, this book has gone with me. And it's very tattered and torn up at this point, and I'm not even sure that all the pages are in it, but it just reminds me that I was born into this life, and I don't ever remember- or I don't remember being any different and I don't remember ever wanting to be anything else.

Rodrigues: What was that first story about?

Marlowe Moore: Well this will tell you that I came into this world associated with political leanings. One of the stories-- and this is the only one that I can remember because there were about four or five little stories in there-- it was about this race of these creatures from outer space who live on this happy planet, and some invading race of large, overpowering monsters comes in and tries to take over this planet of happy little creatures, and they stage a revolution and overthrow the big monsters and kick them back out to whatever planet they came from and then return to this happy little planet. (laughs) Yes, I don't know, it was there from the beginning, what can I say?

Rodrigues: And so when you first started writing those stories was there any idea of oh, this is great, I can really enjoy doing this, or were you just seeing this as playtime for you?

Marlowe Moore: It was just playtime for me. I played with language the way that other girls played with dolls, and for me in my imagination I invented stories, I invented different things to do with words. I didn't play house, I didn't play bride, I didn't do any of that stuff. For me it was more just building fantasy worlds for myself, and I've done it my whole life.

Rodrigues: Did you come from a large family? Do you have any siblings or are you--?

Marlowe Moore: No, I have a twin brother and I have an older brother, who's four years older than I am. And that's it, it was the three of us and my mom and dad, and various and sundry pets along the way.

Rodrigues: When you were at home with your siblings and your family, did you also spend a lot of time reading from that point on, just constantly reading?

Marlowe Moore: Yes, I was the reader out of the kids, as a daughter, with two brothers, two very, very active brothers. A lot of times I read to keep myself company. I read to keep myself company and I read to escape. A lot of times-- and I think this happens with a lot of writers, you create fantasies because you're not real thrilled about your realities, you know. And so I could escape to books; and you're always with people that you like, for the most part, and even the people you hate you like to hate them. And it just sparks that imagination, to take you places that you would much rather be than the place where you currently are. And so I read, and I read a lot. And my mom, a huge Carolina basketball fan, and so I had the whole basketball season where every Sunday the whole family was watching basketball, and I had no interest in it; so Sundays I would read and everybody else would watch the basketball game. So circumstances in my life just made it possible for me to be able to read and write and just live in this world that I wanted to be in-- relatively undisturbed.

Rodrigues: Did you get most of your books from the local library or did your mom buy them for you?

Marlowe Moore: We were library people. We did the, you know-- I went to a public school, so they would bring around the- I can't- scholastic book forms; you could buy your own books. And that was one of my favorite parts of the school year is when we got the scholastic book order forms, and I would get-- you can order x number of books. So then it would just be the labor of pouring through the catalogue and reading the description-- I can only get five books-- and you would-- I wanted all of them. And so it was a process of narrowing down which Beverly Cleary book I was going to pick that year. And so those were the books that were bought for me. And then I went to the library regularly and loved the library. I ended up working in two libraries as I was growing up. I think it's a huge benefit to the community.

Rodrigues: What's it like to have access to all those books in the library? I know we interviewed another author and she said because she had so much access she started to read a lot of books that maybe she shouldn't have read. What was your experience with your reading selection?

Marlowe Moore: Well I had two ways that books came to me. I picked out my own books, which at a young age usually involved dogs, horses, or children in some kind of fantasy world, and then my mom would go to the library while we were at school and check books out, take my books back to the library and then check books out for me. And so in early childhood books were coming to me that were relatively safe. And then as I got to be older, that tween, tweenish age from 10 to 12, when my mom got the books for me from the library, she would look at a book, the title, and then she would check it out for me, because she just didn't have time to read all the book jacket. So she inadvertently-- and I'll say that she did not do this on purpose-- but she ended up checking out some books for me that were inappropriate; because I was an advanced reader so she would check out books from the either Young Adult or Adult section of the library and bring them back to me. So I ended up getting my hands on a couple of books that were very educational and taught me a lot about human behavior and psychology that never in a million years, at 10 or 11 or 12 years-old, would have suspected were possible, much less in print, for anybody to get a librarian to check out. So thanks mom.

Rodrigues: Let's move forward into high school. So you're in high school. Are you doing a lot of writing then, at that point in your life? Are you still just actively reading? When does the writing kick in, the continuous writing?

Marlowe Moore: The continuous writing-- I wrote a lot in high school. Let me see how I want to phrase this. At this point no actual writing training, no creative writing training came my way until college. A lot of the writing that I was doing was a result of reading books of poetry and then writing poetry. So I would get a writer and I would mimic their style. It was beyond what I thought I was capable of doing to- at that age either write a full story or begin working on a book. But I really at that point liked to express myself and express myself in language. And poetry was happening, and I'd gotten a guitar for my 17th birthday, so I was doing a lot of songwriting too, which fortunately none of that was ever saved, much, to my relief, at this point. And I had one high school English teacher my junior year, was Miss Nicholson, and the essays I wrote for English class were very, very creative and highly imaginative. I wanted to write stories but there was no reason for me to, because I was never assigned to write a story. And she asked that I write a story that she wanted to submit to a national high school competition. And because I didn't know how to do it I think I turned in some very elaborate and overblown character description of someone. And she submitted it and of course I never heard anything back from it. But that experience was the first time where I actually thought I can write grownup stories, I can begin to think of myself as somebody that wants to pursue learning how to do this. And so I knew from the time I was a junior in high school that I wanted to be a writing teacher, and I knew that if I was going to be a teacher I was going to have to do something to make some actual money. So it made sense to me to become a teacher and then I could teach and also write. So I knew when I got to Carolina that it was possible I was going to pursue some kind of degree in creative writing. And at that moment is when everything changed for me, when I made that commitment to I can be a writer and I can do it for life. And that was the impetus, that year, my junior year in high school, that I knew that I was going to put myself on this path and just kind of see what happened.

Rodrigues: And so you went to school at UNC Chapel Hill?

Marlowe Moore: Mm-hmm.

Rodrigues: And you were pursuing English and you're starting to get into these formal writing classes. Tell us a little bit about the experience of being a writer who's been largely on your own and kind of learning what you can from reading and imitating, to moving into these formal writing classes where you have a professor guiding your work.

Marlowe Moore: Well I'll tell you, I was starving for instruction. I wanted someone to pull out a handout that took me step by step how you write a short story. I needed somebody just to give me the formula and let me go do. And I landed-- my first creative writing class was at Chapel Hill with Bland Simpson who is so famous in this state, just from The Red Clay Ramblers and the historical books that he's published and his fiction novels; and he's just an adorable, adorable man, and accessible, highly talented. And I know I wanted to be that princess at the foot of the master. So we got our first short story assignment, after an entire semester of write a character description, write a description of the setting, of dialogue, and go into all the elements of creating fiction, and then our final assignment was put it all together and write a story. And so I was like, okay, here's my moment, I'm going to get the handout, I'm going to-- somebody is finally going to tell me how you write a story. And so after the assignment I went to his office and I said, "Mr. Simpson, I'm so excited about this assignment. I just need to know how to write a story." And I had done that, I put myself at the foot of the master and I was waiting for the pearls. And he looks at me and he says, "Well, I'm sorry, I can't tell you how to do that, you just write it." And I was like, "What do mean you just write it?" And he was like, "Well I don't know, you just sit down and write it. You got some characters, you got some dialogue, you got a setting, go write a story." And I was like, "But how do you do that?" and he was like, "I, I don't know." And that was the end of our conversation. And at the time I remember leaving and feeling so disappointed that the veil had dropped and I'd seen the fact that nobody really knows how to write a story, and that's got to be crap. And then later on, down the line, you look back at it, or I look back on it now it's like it's true, you don't know how to write a story, you just sit down and you write it, damn it, and that's all there is. So my formal training started in Bland's class with what ended up being really the most prophetic and comforting piece of news about being a writer-- I don't know how you do it, just sit down and write. And so I graduated from Bland's class and moved into Marianne Gingher's class, and was beginning to learn how to write a story. I had no idea how to write a good story but I was figuring out how to write a story. And from Bland's to Marianne-- these are North Carolina writers who are just ardently dedicated to craft, and so for those of us young writers who were coming in, who were serious about being writers, they were unlimiting in their instruction of us, in their critiques of our stories, of what they demanded of us as readers of short stories. And I probably learned more about reading a short story and writing a short story just from being constantly demanded to be more, to be better. And that was good because by the time I was a senior I ended up in Doris Best's fiction writing class, and we were one of the last classes to come through Doris Best's class. And she's a legend, well deserved reputation, and is just an iconic writer, especially a writer from North Carolina. And when you got in her class if you were messing around she pretty much figured out right away and wouldn't have anything to do with you if you were not serious about the craft of fiction. And so for those of us who were-- that was a moment for me as a short story writer where I finally figured out what this thing about being at the foot of the master really meant, is you shut up and you listen and you do what they tell you to do. You read who they recommend for you to read and you take your craft very seriously but you never take yourself very seriously. And so I went through that progression of not knowing shit, which is still debatable, to having a relative idea of how you go about listening and not creating a story, to getting to Doris Best where you're- if you are listening then you're going to learn how to make art. And so that's where I got to, by the time I graduated from Chapel Hill.

Rodrigues: The relationships, it sounds like you had a lot of good relationships with your professors. Did you make equally wonderful relationships within the other student writers there?

Marlowe Moore: I did. My best friend at Carolina, who's an incredibly talented writer, who abandoned the craft to choose other things, we went through together; we went from Bland to Marianne to Doris Best together. And I've kept up with a few of the other students who were in my class, and one now is a literary editor in New York City who came out of our class. A couple of other students I know went on to become teachers, but there weren't very-- after college I didn't really keep up with very many. But in there it's just like I think any group of cadets, the ones who are serious are going to form a bond and sort of weather the basic training together. And it was a delightful thing because as we learned to become better readers, and better writers, then after the workshop it was like, "What did you really think about my story?" And, "Well here's what I thought about what happened to you and whatever that guy said about that character being unbelievable he's a total douche, so don't pay any attention to him anyway." And so we were able to form like that kind of trust about I know that you're serious about this and you know I'm serious about this, now give me something I can work with. So that was a very nice learning experience in the workshop, because you need that background, for every other workshop situation that you're going to be in thereafter. So like I was going to get a training ground to be, I hope, a good workshop member, and also to know what to listen to and what to disregard when you're in the workshop situation.

Rodrigues: So after you graduated from Carolina, I guess they call it here, and was it during the time at Carolina that you took your playwriting class, when you studied with Rob, was it during that time? So let's go back, because playwriting has actually become a large part of your life. So you're learning art but becoming a fiction writer, a short story writer, and somewhere along the line you studied abroad in Australia and you take your first playwriting course. Let's talk a little bit about that experience and how it's changed you- or had it changed you?

Marlowe Moore: Theater has always drawn me, but I had never- I don't know how you go about being this thing called a playwright or how you write a play and then people do it. And as I was getting into the writing community at Carolina I started to read plays and I started to really be seduced by what happens in a play, where you don't have any narration, all you have are characters and dialogue, and all the action, all the emotion, everything has to happen in the dialogue. It is very much like weaving a web, it has to be a very sturdy, cohesive product, out of nothing, some people and some things people are saying. And so the more plays that I started to read, I just started to think I really want to do this, I just want to try it. And when I was going to study abroad and while I'm gone to Australia, the University of Wollongong, there was a playwriting class that was offered by an Australian playwright named Clem Gorman, and he had done, in the 1980s, a play that got international acclaim that was called The Manual of Trench Warfare. And the class was full and so I remember the morning that we were going to sign up for classes-- and we got a special privilege with registration as study-abroad students, because we hadn't been there to register when everybody else registered-- and I remember going to the registrar and just begging, "Please let me in this class. I studied with Bland Simpson, I studied with Doris Best-- and they didn't know who these people were but I felt they would make a difference. But I guess I was just desperate and pitiful looking enough that they let me in this class, even though it was full; they overrode one student and let me sit in on this class. And the first day of class Clem Gordon comes walking in and he is- looks a little bit like W.C. Fields with Richard Simmons' hair that's cut very close to his head. And he had-- I don't know if you'll remember this-- but there used to be a hair taming product that looked a little bit like a shower drain, that has picks on it, and you fit it over your finger and you comb your hair like this. And he would constantly comb his hair throughout our playwriting class, just this mop of uncombable, kinky hair. And the first day of class he comes in with the comb disk on his finger and he's got two armloads of plays. And he dumps the armloads of plays on the table and combs his hair, and he looks around and he goes, "These are the plays that I've written." And I was immediately and completely intimidated; which of course it took me a long time to figure out what he said because they speak in English but you can't understand, as a southern woman, the words that are coming out of their mouth, so it took me a while to figure out that all these books that he was dumping on the table were plays that he had written. And so I knew right away. I was like, I'm either going to love this class or I'm going to hate this man. Fortunately I end up loving class and loving this man. And he walked us through a very visceral experience with being a playwright. And he didn't have theory books, he didn't have instruction books. We sat down and we looked at plays and we wrote, and we looked at plays and we wrote, and we looked at plays and we wrote. And then by the end of the semester we had to write a full-length play that would run 90 minutes on the stage, 90 to 220 minutes on the stage, and give it to him. And he gave very practical advice: you don't eat on the stage; when people are-- you have to figure out how to get people on the stage, you have to figure out how to get people off the stage; you never, ever have anybody say anything that doesn't do anything for the play-- just very practical advice that as a watcher of theater you don't think about these things. If you have 18 costume changes but you've got your character always on stage, how are they going to change clothes? And so he gave us this practical advice and made us write. And I wrote this play- and I remember the name of it, it was called Cases. And it was essentially about my family being at the beach at Ocean Isle, and I wrote it and I was like I don't know what I'm doing, and gave it to him, and he loved it, and he said, give it to theater companies, don't quit, don't quit. And because he said that I thought well all right, I won't quit. And so I left and came home, and the bug had started, and I knew at some point, and it wasn't right then, but at some point I was going to become a playwright.

Rodrigues: What made you decide not to follow his advice and distribute plays, and Cases at that point, when you got back?

Marlowe Moore: Something that I learned at Carolina is-- and I think it was in Marianne Gingher's class; if I unfairly attribute this to her I'm sorry-- where she told us one of the first things about being a young writer is that young writers always write about themselves, at first. And she hated to be blunt about it but it always sucked because your personal experience and your inability to be reflective on any sort of universal sense made it good first writing, good writing to train by. And I knew, because this was a play about me and it was a play about my family and it was the first play that I'd ever written that really and truly it probably wasn't very good. And so I thought if it was good enough for him to tell me to keep going then I'll continue to pursue the craft, but I think that this is probably just a play that will live in the bottom of my trunk and just stay there. And so it's never seen the light of day.

Rodrigues: So you graduate from Carolina, and you got these fiction classes and this playwriting class underneath your belt and you're moving forward with your life. Is it at that point that you go to get your Master's in English at Kentucky University, or do you take a break?

Marlowe Moore: I took a very, very long break-- left Carolina and then went-- I had this internship in the Marketing Department, in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, and worked there for three years and eventually became the editor of publications; and this is an absolutely just unbelievable playground of a place to work, if you're a writer or you like the arts, because you're just in an elevator and all of a sudden Ethel Fugard is in the elevator with you, or members of the Alvin Ailey Dance Company are walking with you to the cafeteria. It's just an amazing place to be. And I got to see a lot of arts, music, theater, for free. And this probably was my real life education in theater because I got to see the best of the best; the best costumes, the biggest budgets, the best lightings and the best theaters in the world. And it spoiled me because that became what I thought of as normal. When I write a play it's going to be in the Eisenhower Theater at the Kennedy Center and just-- these are all the resources I'm going to have. And so I was continuously learning at this point. And then when I left the Kennedy Center I was going to move back to Rocky Mount and write a book, because I hadn't been writing all the time that I was living in DC, and I'd been away from it.

Rodrigues: Did you leave the Kennedy Center in order to have time to start focusing on your personal writing?

Marlowe Moore: I did. I moved in with my brother and his brand new bride-- I can't believe I did that-- and I was going to start writing a book. And then of course I met a man and we fell in love and got married, and that put all of that on hold until graduate school, which happened-- oh, I'm really bad with dates but maybe 2004, 2003, probably 2003. And then I went to graduate school and began to really, really get serious about what I was going to do with myself as a writer.

Rodrigues: Was graduate school a way of you reconnecting with yourself then as a writer? Were you going back to your roots, back to that education, where you had had so much growth, in Carolina?

Marlowe Moore: Yes, and I'd been out of the formal education training part of writing for so long. And one good thing about going to class and being in a program is that it's deadlines that you have to meet; so you don't get the luxury of oh, I'm not going to write today. And so I knew I had to be back in a situation where I had deadlines that had to be met and I had projects and I didn't have the luxury of time. And so when I went back to Eastern Kentucky and started my Master's Program I didn't-- there were no formal classes or any concentrations on playwriting. And so it was like, well, I'll get this degree, I'll continue to write stories, maybe I'll actually start working on this book. But that's not what happened. When I got there the first professor that I met and connected to, as a writer, is a man by the name of Young Smith, who is also from the south and he's also a playwright. And when we started talking about playwriting, we were just like two girls in a hair salon, we just couldn't shut up about it. And there weren't, there wasn't enough interest at Eastern to have a class just on playwriting. And so I said let's do an independent study, and he said okay. And so for one summer, in between my first and second years in the program, he and I did an independent study, and that's where Red Giants was born. And so that's what we did all summer was worked on that play.

Rodrigues: What is the difference between being in an undergraduate writing program and being in a graduate writing program?

Marlowe Moore: Well the difference I'm convinced is purely at a level of personal experience. As an undergrad at Carolina I had the great privilege of being in undergraduate writing classes where the majority of the students were very serious about the craft of fiction. So I was coming from a strong, creative writing undergraduate program when I went to graduate school. Now I was 30-years-old when I went back to graduate school, and so I had the majority of my twenties to grow up. And so when I went back to school it was fun but I wasn't playing around and I knew what I was doing there. And so for me as a returning older student graduate school was so much more serious in the fact of how am I going to get this to apply to becoming a published, working writer?; which when I was an undergrad I just didn't have the life experience to know, to aggressively pursue that knowledge. And so the difference between graduate school and undergraduate school for me was that by the time I got to graduate school I was more of a colleague to my professors than I had ever-- even now I wouldn't consider myself anywhere near the same league as Bland or Marianne or Doris Best. But I'd been a published writer at this point, I've been a teacher, I had completed works that I knew that I could do. And that, and just the years, the years of practicing the craft, made me as a writer just a lot more serious, about it. And I loved graduate school. I would suggest for any writer coming to an undergraduate program or a B.FA. to go to graduate school. It's a different league, I guess is the best way to describe it.

Rodrigues: So after graduate school did you move back to Rocky Mount? Or is that when you found your way here to Wilmington?

Marlowe Moore: Yes, after-- I actually moved to Wilmington the day of the graduation ceremony at Eastern. And so I moved to Wilmington in December of 2005. And I had the products of graduate school with me. I had Rosaline and Baldasar, I had Red Giants, I had a slew of poems, a couple of short stories that were ready to be submitted. And so by the time I got to Wilmington it was just sort of putting the elbow grease to the work of being a writer-- submitting, getting your rejection letters, submitting, getting your rejection letters, seeing who is in town that'll put up a play, seeing who is in town who's interested in doing anything with theater. And landing in Wilmington I just ended up in the right place at the right time and I made the right connections almost immediately-- it was bizarre. So by the time I got here I had things that I could offer, as a writer. And it just, it took off, from the minute I set foot in this town; it was just amazing.

Rodrigues: Do you think that Wilmington is an ideal place for a writer?

Marlowe Moore: Wilmington is the ideal place for this writer. There's a huge creative community here. I happen to write things that other creative people are interested in, which has worked out very well for me. It's idyllic, it's an idyllic place to write because you've got the river, you've got the beach. So there's always solitude without ever being lonely, which is for me a happy place to be. I like my solitude but I'm not real crazy about being lonely, and so I basically write plays like through them. And so for me Wilmington is-- and I'm completely convinced that I have been headed in this direction for my entire writing career.

Rodrigues: You said that you found a great creative community here in Wilmington. Let's talk a little bit about that and how important that is to your life as a writer. What sort of people have you met? Do you have a separate group for your interest in playwriting and another group for your interest in short story writing?

Marlowe Moore: No. Wilmington, for me, has been about writing plays and producing plays, so far, and so the community-- I'm not in a writing community in Wilmington, I'm in a theater community in Wilmington. And there's a great crew for writers all in-- because you're the dreamer they're the doers. And so I've met producers, I've met actors, I've met stage managers, scenic designers, all the people necessary to a play. So I'm known, if I'm writing a play, that I'm not writing for nothing, that I know that the play will have a life eventually; which is a huge relief as a writer to know, okay, my soul is making me do this thing but at least the product won't have to sit in a drawer indefinitely-- you know? And so having the doers who are interested and that will come together to give the play life is inspiring, it's motivating to me as a writer, because then I think well, let's do another one, let's see what we can do this time. And so in that way it's good for me because it keeps me motivated. And at this point we're starting to figure out how we all work well together, which is nice. And I've got a couple of friends in town who are also writers. And we're in a community of-- sitting around talking about how bad writing sucks and how we wish we could do anything in the world except be a writer. And we'll occasionally read each other's stuff but we're more like moral support for each other.

Rodrigues: Let's talk-- it seems like a nice segue to go into your play, so let's talk a little bit about that. The first play that you wrote was Cases, and then it seems after that the second play that you wrote was Red Giants. Is that correct? Or was that?

Marlowe Moore: It was Cases and then I wrote Rosaline and Baldasar, and then wrote Red Giants and then wrote Three Men.

Rodrigues: Well then let's talk about Rosaline and Baldasar. And that was the first play you had go into production. It's a Shakespeare inspired comedy, and it smashed attendance records for Guerilla Theater at the Soapbox. Were you surprised at all by the overwhelming response that your work received?

Marlowe Moore: Yes I was. I knew-- Rosaline and Baldasar, because it's a comedy, that I tried very, very hard to walk that fine line between paying absolute homage to Shakespeare, which I feel like as playwrights it's kind of our duty to do, but also to make fun of a lot of the Shakespearian conventions, and I think part of the overblown part of Shakespeare that makes people think of Shakespeare as a very snooty type of literature. And so in that regard it's a real crowd pleaser because it's very true, as true as I can be, to the conventions of Shakespeare; at the same time it's really, really funny. It's like I knew it wasn't going to flop, that's all I knew. I was like-- and I put it out there because I knew that it wasn't going to flop. But I had no idea that it was going to catch on. And we had a lot of people that came to the basement of this dirty, stinky, smoky bar, to see this play, who just had no business being there. And it was incredible. They loved the play and we loved having them down there, and it was very, very surprising, that it took off in that way.

Rodrigues: What were some of the most surprising comments that you may find from an audience regarding that play?

Marlowe Moore: "You wrote that?" "Yes." "Every word, you wrote every word?" "Yes, I wrote every word except the ones that I borrowed from Romeo and Juliet." Those were the comments that were so-- they were very common, and the ones that took me the most off guard. I was trying to think if we heard any other responses to that play that were all that shocking. I don't think so. I think that's the one. Pretty much after every performance, "You wrote that? You wrote every word of that play?"

Rodrigues: After that, you followed up that play, as far as in production, with Three Men, and that opened in September of this year to equally wonderful reviews. Can you tell us a little bit more about that project?

Marlowe Moore: Three Men started in May of 2006. We had just done Red Giants in a stage reading at UNCW, and the actor who was playing one of the roles and also stage managing that play ended up being a very good friend of mine, and he had recently moved to Wilmington too, and I had seen him just enough to know that he was an actor whose talents had been sorely, grossly misunderstood and underestimated. And so I started with a goal to write a really, really hard play, for actors in Wilmington. And so I started just thinking about it, and in three minutes it started to grow. And the structure came to me first-- I want to write a full-length play that's three completely unrelated one-act plays, but they're all connected through certain themes. And then I started to think about what those themes were. And I wrote it without question, during the darkest, most confusing upheaval of my entire life. And so of course the themes that were drawing these plays together were very dark and they're confusing, and the result of upheavals. And it took me a solid year to write the play, and I think this was the first time in my life as a writer where the creation of a project very clearly paralleled my own personal and emotional journey. Because by the time I was done with this horrible year, Three Men was done. And so it was a catharsis for me. I didn't realize that at the time. And then being able to put it up at Thalian and see the thing that had been, this awful thing that had been living in my brain, come alive, and have people respond to it, was very powerful, it was a very powerful experience. Just writing Three Men and directing it and working with my closest friends on it, and then have it open up and putting ourselves out there to the public, in a very raw and exposed way was tough. But if we're not going to play it-- it's art, we can't play it safe. So that was a very, very powerful moment, culmination of Three Men for me, not one that I really want to repeat any time soon.

Rodrigues: And Three Men was also your directorial debut, is that correct? Can you tell us a little bit about having that opportunity of not only writing this piece but then being able to see it come to the way that you perceived it to be on stage-- do you have any control over that?

Marlowe Moore: Well I knew from Rosaline and Baldasar-- and one of my most trusted friends directed Rosaline and Baldasar-- but I knew from sitting on the sidelines with R&B that my next project I wanted to direct just to see if I could, if I could make it happen exactly on the stage like it happened in my head. And because, as I said, Three Men was so desperately personal, I didn't want to put it in anybody else's hands either. And so the hardest part of that transition for me as a writer to being the director is that a play is- it has tiny, very tiny, imperceptible crevices in it that need to be opened, and a very good director can do that. As a writer-- because in your mind the thing's closed, it's finished. It's hard to step in a director's shoes and find the places that need to be opened. And one unfortunate thing that happened to me in Three Men was that I was working with actors who were not afraid to try things in ways that I hadn't pictured, to talk to me about different ways of handling what was happening on the stage. And I listed to them. And so these parts of the play that needed to open, they were able to do for me, because I was- it was very hard for me to divorce myself from being the writer. That was the most difficult part of Three Men. But I did like being where the buck stopped, I liked having all the say-so in what the costumes looked like or the music that we used, what the lighting looked like, how the characters were too- or how the actors, what I think about their characters and their relationships to each other-- that I liked very much because I wasn't going to misinterpret my own work, and that was a huge relief.

Rodrigues: Let's talk about Red Giants. It was the second play that you wrote and it is also now currently being considered for production in New York. How does it feel to have to take that next step as a playwright and have the possibility of your work being seen in what is often called the Theater Capital of the world?

Marlowe Moore: It's insane, it's sort of like buying a lottery ticket. I think it's not that hard to get a script to New York, people do it by the millions every day, I'm sure. So at this point I just forget that it's there. I don't really think about the fact that it's there and I'm just waiting to hear. It's just like anything else you send, it might hit, just like any lottery number, but the chances are that it's you know, another "thank you very much for your submission, we're not really looking for your work at this time; please consider submitting again." If anything ever happened to get the plays to a bigger audience, whether it be in New York or Chicago or Santa Fe or wherever-- in fact I can't imagine what that would feel like. So it just remains to be seen. So we'll see, I mean. Hopefully, hopefully something will come of it, I mean. Most writers, I think, dream of a bigger audience, something on a bigger scale. And so if it hits in New York I certainly wouldn't complain.

Rodrigues: One of the luxuries I think of being a playwright-- maybe it's a good luxury or a bad luxury, I'm not sure-- but it's being able to immediately see the reaction to your work. It's something that novelists don't really have the opportunity to do. How does that feel to sit in the audience and to watch people react to your work?

Marlowe Moore: It's--. That feeling of the first laugh, first gasp that you hear, the first time you hear somebody say, "Did they really say that?" or "Oh my God, I can't believe that they're doing that" is in some ways the most exhilarating feeling in the world. Other times you feel a little bit like a kid that got away with something-- you know?-- like oh my gosh they're really paying attention, they're really believing this. And it really and truly is a moment, I think, of-- for me as a playwright-- a feeling of pure human communion, because as a writer I write for the audience; very, very important for me to never unfairly manipulate the audience or ever set them up to pull the rug out from under their feet. I would never do that. And so when I feel like the audience is reacting in the way that I want them to-- because I'm ultimately going to take care of it in the end. It is a moment of connecting with people, that you don't know, that you might not even speak to each other after the play is over, but it is a true moment-- it's that artistic communion that you can't get in other aspects of just being alive, that you're both experiencing this thing simultaneously, and the one who created the moment for the other one to react to are drawn together; and I think it's a very tangible, worthwhile moment of human connection-- it's cool.

Rodrigues: We're running out of time, which is unfortunate. There's so much to still ask you. But I wanted to leave our audience with one final question and one final response from you. The theme of persistence, your persistence, is repeated throughout our conversation. What role does the persistent pursuit of craft play in the life of a writer?

Marlowe Moore: It is the life of a writer. Writing by its nature is a pursuit. If you do not persist there is no pursuit, therefore there is no writing. Continuing to put words on paper is not a writing career without pursuing the craft. And I don't know of any writer that I've ever read or ever met personally that has ever caught the craft. Your entire life is the pursuit of it. And that's the beauty.

Rodrigues: Thank you for your time and your honest answers. Thank you, Marlowe.

Marlowe Moore: Thanks.

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