PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Richard Greenberg

PLAYBILL ON-LINE'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER with Richard Greenberg Take Me Out, the hot Off-Broadway drama about a professional baseball star who comes out of the closet, will be playwright Richard Greenberg's first Broadway credit in 14 years when it begins at the Walter Kerr on Feb. 4, 2003. But then, the way Greenberg's been produced in New York of late, he was bound to hit the jackpot eventually. Everett Beekin played Lincoln Center Theater in late 2001. The Dazzle followed in spring 2002, by the Roundabout Theatre Company. A few months later, Take Me Out opened at the Public Theater, and Greenberg's latest candidate for New York laurels, The Violet Hour, recently debuted at the dramatist's favorite regional haunt, South Coast Repertory in California. It's enough to make a writer long for a vacation. But first there's that rewrite for the Broadway version of Take Me Out, and the opening, and the interviews—like the one he recently gave to Playbill On-Line's Robert Simonson.

Take Me Out, the hot Off-Broadway drama about a professional baseball star who comes out of the closet, will be playwright Richard Greenberg's first Broadway credit in 14 years when it begins at the Walter Kerr on Feb. 4, 2003. But then, the way Greenberg's been produced in New York of late, he was bound to hit the jackpot eventually. Everett Beekin played Lincoln Center Theater in late 2001. The Dazzle followed in spring 2002, by the Roundabout Theatre Company. A few months later, Take Me Out opened at the Public Theater, and Greenberg's latest candidate for New York laurels, The Violet Hour, recently debuted at the dramatist's favorite regional haunt, South Coast Repertory in California. It's enough to make a writer long for a vacation. But first there's that rewrite for the Broadway version of Take Me Out, and the opening, and the interviews—like the one he recently gave to Playbill On-Line's Robert Simonson.

Playbill On-Line: This is your first original play to go to Broadway since Eastern Standard. Is that important to you, or do you view it as just another production?
Richard Greenberg: Actually, I'm looking forward to it. By the time I started writing plays, Broadway was never an expectation, so it's never been central. But I'm looking forward to seeing this one there.

PBOL: Will we see any changes in the Broadway version, revisions or recasting?
RG: Well, not recasting, knock wood. We've been making cuts all along, since opening. I've relooked at the third act. That will go in after the Public production. My usual route is, I do a play at South Coast Rep, then there's time between and I revise it, and then I take it to New York. This time, we started rehearsing at the Public, then went to the Donmar Warehouse and came straight to New York, so I didn't have that chance [to rewrite]. This gives me the opportunity to do that.

PBOL: Will it have the same running time?
RG: It will be shorter. Actually, it already is shorter than it was opening night. We've sheared off six or seven minutes.

PBOL: Are you going to keep the now famous shower scenes? I think the producers might insist...
RG: [Laughs] I think we'd better! I believe the shower scene, the big one, is already shorter now, because I trimmed some dialogue. PBOL: I think it's safe to say that Take Me Out has perhaps won more attention than any play you've written? Were you surprised by its reception?
RG: I guess that's true. I was very excited when I wrote the play, largely, because of this new gigantic fact in my life [becoming a baseball fan] and it was about that. I don't know if the excitement I felt had any kind of predictive quality or was even a response to the play itself as much as the subject matter. Curiously, I think the pairing of baseball and the idea of a gay player just coincidentally became a little more noteworthy as we were in rehearsal, because of that non-story that was so big. [Last summer, New York Mets player Mike Piazza called a press conference to announce he was not gay.] There was no predicting that.

PBOL: In the last couple years, you've sent New York a play roughly every six months. Have you been experiencing a particularly fecund period lately?
RG: It's a coincidence of production. It's not that I've been writing them that fast. For a while, I started to think I was in a slump because I hadn't written a play in a year and a half. But then it occurred to me it was because I had been in rehearsal all that time, so I forgave myself. These plays are a lot of work that goes back six or seven years now and, by accident, it's all getting done at the same time.

PBOL: It seems that your palette of subject matter has expanded with these recent plays—Everett Beekin, about a family across two coasts and 50 years; The Dazzle, a fictional account of the eccentric Collyer brothers' lives; and Take Me Out. Do you see linking considerations between them?
RG: I do when I look back on them, but from a distance. I don't set out to repeat myself. Ultimately, you look back and, as different as they may seem on the surface, you realize you're harping on that again.

PBOL: Tell me something about The Violet Hour.
RG: The Violet Hour takes place on April 1, 1919. There's a very young self-starting publisher who has to decide what it is he's going to publish as his first work. What it's really about is realizing you live in history, which is something that we don't realize anymore than we realize we're going to die. We know it abstractly. The play is about the process of learning that.

PBOL: This is something that continues to interest you. In plays like Beekin and Three Days of Rain, you've examined the tangential, often invisible connections that link people to each other, often across the years.
RG: I'm always trying to construct time. I do it even casually over the course of the day. For some reason, 1968 is a touchstone year for me. I think it was the first year I felt fully conscious. So I'm always thinking, "Well, when as much time passes as has passed since 1968, I will be..." and then I name the age. I'm constantly looking for frames and approaches and ingresses on time. My plays have become about that more and more.

PBOL: Surely you have other plays already complete and lined up for production.
RG: You know what. I'm finally tapped out for a while.

PBOL: You were once connected to the musical version of The Royal Family of Broadway.
RG: The Royal Family of Broadway always has the power to return. I think of it as a sort of—well, no, I'm not going to say that. But, for all I know, it will come back tomorrow. You can't ever count that one out right now.

PBOL: Any other musicals?
RG: No. Not right now. I'm tired. I sort of need a vacation. I don't have any words left. I want to sit on a porch somewhere. I don't want a strenuous vacation. I want something utterly passive. I could make it as far as Westchester, I think, and then I'll just have to sit on a lawn chair.

—By Robert Simonson