21 Aug Kick Off Celebration with Charles Busch
The OOB Festival is one of our favorite events of the year at Samuel French. So, we like to start the week off right – with a party! Last night we invited the Final 30 playwrights to mingle and to celebrate this ephemeral art form we love so dearly.
At the kick-off even we also like to invite a special guest, and we were elated to have the award winning playwright and performer Charles Busch as our Honorary Festival Playwright. Busch has written and starred in an expansive body of work, including Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, The Divine Sister, The Lady in Question, and The Tale of the Allergists Wife which earned him the Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award and a Tony nomination for Best Play. He also won the Best Performance Award at the Sundance Film Festival for his screen adaptation of Die, Mommie, Die! Then, in 2003 he won the Drama Desk Award for career achievement in play writing and performance.
During the Q&A with our Literary Director Amy Rose Marsh, Busch generously shared the lessons he learned from when he was starting out. Even though he went to college for theatre, he found he wasn’t getting cast in any shows there. “I was too gay. I was all wrong in every possible way,” he explained, “There were no parts for me.” So, upon returning to his home in New York City he set out to create his own parts. He’d ask himself, “what do I have to offer?” From there he molded his solo performances and would book his shows at as many venues as possible.
That said, Busch also had great advice on how he wrote parts for other performers. He smiled when explaining that who he wrote for depended on a pivotal question, “Who do I want to spend time with for six weeks?”
One of the playwrights asked about his transition to film, and after detailing his journey to writing the script adaptation for Psycho Beach Party (and how he was initially resistant to it) Busch explained that “you really have to keep an open mind.” Though the long and multi-layered jokes he’s known for work wonderfully on stage, he admitted that when writing for film he had to make adjustments.
Throughout the Q&A Charles Busch regaled us stories about hole-in-the-wall venues in the Lower East Side, how he and his friends raised $55,000 on their own to produce Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, and the hilariously strange roles he’d had in his colleagues’ plays, they can all be summed up in the poignant lesson he learned from self producing. After explaining how shocked and excited he was by the success of Vampire Lesbians of Sodom, he said, “Sometimes you have to make your own luck.”
The festival continues tonight with our first round of short plays. We hope to see everyone at the Vineyard Theater tonight! To our Final 30 – you’ve worked hard to get here, so have fun this week and break a leg!