PLAYBILL.COM'S BRIEF ENCOUNTER With David Auburn, on Lost Lake, at the Annual Playwrights Conference

By Sophia Saifi
02 Aug 2013

Question: You have also always explored issues of mental health, most obviously in Proof but then in your corresponding works as well. What draws you to that?

Auburn: Well, people who are in trouble make for interesting characters. People who are on the edge in some sense, whether it is circumstantial or whether it is something happening to them emotionally or psychologically, there is drama in that. You always go where the meat is.

Question: What other projects are you working on it right now that are not in the realm of theatre? 

Auburn: Anna Christie is coming up, which is a confluence of coming from the O'Neill Center and going to direct an O'Neill play. I like being in a rehearsal room, the energy and the collaboration and the experience of that. As a playwright one can only write so fast. In order to get into that room more often, I like to direct. The other thing I really like about directing, aside from that collaborative experience, is really being forced to figure out and get into the mind of another playwright. Why they were making choices that they were working on? 

Question: A year ago you were working on the [movie] script for Deborah Harkness's novel, "A Discovery of Witches." How did that come about?

Auburn: They were assignments that came to me. Warner Brothers approached me about doing the Harkness book and I liked the book.

Question: So what happened with that?

Auburn: We finished the script only three or four months ago. I think they're tying to see how they can make it.

Question: It's something so different from what you yourself create.

Auburn: Yeah. She [Harkness] had built this very, very elaborate world, so I feel like she's the architect and I'm the contractor, and I have to figure out to transform her novel into something that works by a different set of rules. I enjoyed it.

Question: The first screenplay of yours that was produced into a fim was "The Lake House." How was that different from working in theatre?

Auburn: That was an interesting project, because it was very useful for me. I was the principal screenwriter and not the only screenwriter; then the studio decided to do some reshoots and I was brought back to work on some of the postproduction. So I got a nice little crash course in film editing and studio politics and I supervised the looping sessions with Keanu Reeves. I got to do some interesting movie chores, and that really set me up nicely for when I did my own movie.

Question: So apart from directing Anna Christie for the Berkshire Theatre Group and working on Lost Lake and your various film and television projects, is there anything new in the works?

Auburn: Lost Lake has been my focus for the last six months and it is just starting to come into fruition and that’s nice for right now.