PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Amy Herzog, the Playwright of The Great God Pan and Belleville

By Robert Simonson
10 Jan 2013

Keith Nobbs in The Great God Pan.
Photo by Joan Marcus

Are there other plays that have touched on the topic of memory that have affected you?
AH: I'm sure. Not that this play is directly influenced, but I think The Glass Menagerie is the classic memory play. How I Learned to Drive is another play about memory and childhood abuse. For some reason, when you said that, The Designated Mourner by Wallace Shawn popped into my brain. I'm not really sure how that relates.

Well, in that play we're basically relying on the memory of one man who is talking about a milieu he was in but wasn't terribly sympathetic towards. Do you have an overall sense of purpose as to what you want to accomplish as a playwright, what you think a playwright should do, what kind of plays you hope to write?
AH: Hm. That's a tough one. I don't know that I have a singular and well-articulated artistic vision. I want each play I write to be quite different from the last one I wrote. And I think my overall journey over the last several years has been toward character and away from plot machinations. Belleville is not quite like that; it's more of a genre play.

You do seem to write good characters for actors to sink their teeth in.
AH: Thank you. I hope so. I love actors. And I think one of my primary responsibilities is to write plays that they'll care about doing.

The poem that gives The Great God Pan its title — any reason why you decided to include that and make that the play's title?
AH: Well, I'd be a little hesitant to answer that question too explicitly because it's part of the experience of seeing the play. But I will say it's a poem my grandmother used to recite when I was little. The question at the beginning of the poem always sounded ominous to me. It had resonance for me in my childhood, and seems like an open-ended scary question.