02 Aug F30 Countdown – Michael Ross
With only four playwrights left, let’s dive in and introduce Michael Ross.
Michael Ross is a British playwright and comedy writer who studied with the Royal Court Theatre’s Young Writers Programme and whose work has been performed in London, Edinburgh and in Melbourne, Australia. His plays include Happy To Help, a satire on the supermarket industry produced at the Park Theatre, London, with the script published by Bloomsbury Methuen Drama, and a new version of Lorca’s Blood Wedding for Anglia Ruskin University earlier this year. This is his first production in New York.
When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I wrote stories from a very young age, so I’ve always loved storytelling. I settled on drama as a result of getting involved in school plays and youth theater as a teenager. I loved the camaraderie and excitement of putting on a show and for a while the desire to be an actor briefly took over, but I eventually realised my limitations and that what I much preferred to do was to write the stories rather than perform them.
How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
It grew from an odd moment I had wandering down Charing Cross Road in London a few years ago. A well dressed, respectable looking middle-aged woman stopped me and enquired “Can I ask you a question?” Despite living in the city most of my life I am notoriously terrible at geography so I said “yes, of course” but braced myself for a request for directions which I probably couldn’t answer, but instead she asked “Do you know why the blood of Jesus poured out of him on the cross?” It was such a bizarre choice of words that it stuck with me, and through the mysterious alchemy of writing it somehow eventually became a play about two men who run a sinister religious cult and about how cruel, nonsensical and hypocritical is the religious compulsion to condemn homosexuality, which I will never for the life of me ever understand or respect.
What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Determined, driven, stubborn, possibly delusional.
What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
Harold Pinter was a huge early influence- he completely opened my eyes to the unique power of theater to play with notions of reality and the unreliability of memory. Tom Stoppard, Tony Kushner, Caryl Churchill and Howard Brenton who all prove that you can be imaginative, playful and entertaining whilst also being unashamedly intellectual, and David Mamet both for his mastery of dramatic dialogue and his refreshingly no-nonsense, unromantic approach to the writing process. From other mediums, my influences include George Orwell, T.S Eliot, Philip Larkin, Woody Allen, Nabokov, Philip Roth, Martin Amis and Charlie Kaufman.
What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I once appeared on screen with Brad Pitt. Whilst a student I did occasional work as a film and TV extra in London, and my most memorable job was in the cockney gangster film Snatch in 2000. I am nobody’s idea of an East End tough, but if you freeze-frame and look really hard at the boxing match scene towards the end of the film you can maybe just about see me amongst the cheering crowd of spectators. It was three long days in a huge warehouse with a shirtless Mr Pitt and flying visits to the set from Jennifer Aniston and Madonna (who was married to the film’s director at the time).
What are some of your favorite plays?
No Man’s Land by Harold Pinter, The Treatment by Martin Crimp, Oleanna by David Mamet, Travesties by Tom Stoppard, Angels In America by Tony Kushner, The Designated Mourner by Wallace Shawn, Mirror Teeth by Nick Gill, Contractions by Mike Bartlett, Body Awareness by Annie Baker, Thom Pain (based on nothing) by Will Eno.
Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
A one man play called The Shy Manifesto which is being performed in London, and hopefully going out on tour over the next year. It’s about a 17 year old boy who wants to start a political movement to advance the cause of shy people across the world, and it stars a very talented actor, Theo Ancient, on his nights off from playing Harry Potter’s son in The Cursed Child in the West End.
His play Eyes Full of Pornography will be performed on August 8th at 6:30pm. Dan and Matthew welcome you to sit down and make yourself comfortable, as they recall how they first met one sultry summer night 11 years ago in Greenwich Village. Matthew was nervously making his first venture onto the gay scene when bartender Dan leant over and whispered in his ear the chilling words which would change his life forever.