Collaborators In Conversation: David Esbjornson & Craig Lucas

by:  Todd Williams at 01/05/2010

Throughout this season, we will feature artists interviewing other artists working at the Huntington. Below, All My Sons director David Esbjornson (left) talks with playwright Craig Lucas (right), author of Prelude to a Kiss. Here's a short excerpt of the conversation that ranges from the Greeks, Ibsen, O'Neill, Strindberg and more. All in the context of All My Sons: 

    David Esbjornson: You’ve certainly spurred some important thinking on my end about the play in your questions. I don’t know if I can be articulate in answering them, but I can certainly try.
    Craig Lucas: So, I sort of remember what Elliot Norton taught us about the play back in my undergraduate days and I actually went back to my notes from Elliot’s class. And it seemed to me that a lot of what he taught us about the play isn’t true. We were taught that it was a kind of modern attempt to do what the Greek tragedians had done and that [Arthur] Miller was obsessed with the gods putting things right. And then, you know, I’ve since done my own translation, or adaptation rather, of Oedipus, and I have read those plays a little more carefully, and they’re not about justice at all!
    DE: No.
    CL: The gods are always punishing people for doing things that they had no control over, and didn’t even mean to do, and often unwittingly did. And the point of them all is that, if you’re a human being, you’re going to pay.
    DE: Right. And you had to cope with whatever was being dealt you.
    CL: Yeah, that’s just it. You’re just going to have a rough go of it. We’re mortal, and we’re going to get shit on, and we have to, as you said, just cope with it. But that doesn’t seem to me to be . . .
    DE: I think where it maybe ventures back into some of the Greek plays is maybe in the idea of free will and if there are moments in which human beings are free to make choices for themselves in the midst of all that. And, you know, you brought up Oedipus, which is what made me think that perhaps that element is something maybe Miller was interested in.
    CL: Well clearly, he is the very kind of fixated, in a way, on personal culpability, but also the thing that I can’t quite wrap my mind around still which feels deeply, deeply personal to him which is familial responsibility, that in a sense, okay, not to . . . here’s that little thing that appears in Mad Men: [Spoiler Alert] Larry’s suicide is a very strange gesture in the midst of a war where his life could mean the life or death of other soldiers. To take his own life in a response to what he hears about, mostly from the newspapers, is his father’s culpability is such strange and rash act. And then I was thinking Miller’s whole body of work and how much suicide there is in it. You know there’s the guy who throws himself off the tracks in After The Fall, of course there’s Willy Loman; the plays are filled with it. 


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Lisa Timmel,  Bevin O'Gara, and Charles Haugland share their thoughts on New Plays, Dramatury, and their experience sharing nightly conversations with the audiences that come to see our shows. Get the inside scoop of new scripts and play development!


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