Robert Askins, The Margarita-Making Broadway Playwright of Hand to God, Has a Few Words for You

News   Robert Askins, The Margarita-Making Broadway Playwright of Hand to God, Has a Few Words for You Robert Askins, whose play Hand to God will open on Broadway April 7, bringing the foul-mouthed sock puppet Tyrone to the Booth Theatre, writes about making his Broadway playwriting debut, the day job that pays his rent and the inspiration that feeds his soul.

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I write this on a Sunday. It is very cold outside, but the snow has stopped falling. I've walked 30 minutes through the snow after working 10 AM to 5 PM at a bar. This is the job that pays my bills. That job is not writing plays.

Soon the 12th play I have written, the second to be produced, will take possession of the Booth Theatre for technical rehearsals. It was in the Booth ten years ago this summer [that] I saw my first play in New York City. It was the second professional production I had seen. I did not grow up seeing plays. I grew up watching movies and going to church. That's what there was in Cypress, Texas.

I was in high school before I read the script for a play. It was in an English class. I do not remember what play it was, but do I remember being in an auditorium several months later watching a rehearsal for a student production. A boy I knew touched a girl I knew and they said some words, written by someone I did not know. I don't remember what they said, but I remember that moment.

Robert Askins and Tyrone
Robert Askins and Tyrone Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

It was like church, but a church in which I could change the liturgy. It was like the movies, but with people I knew. It was very, very big and very, very small at the same time. I was struck. I have been living in the wake of that moment my entire life. There was a man who grew up not far from me. He won an acting award in high school for playing a drug addict in a student production. His father wanted him to be a businessman, but he convinced his father to let him go to Los Angeles to study acting. After he finished his training he moved to New York City. He took a job operating an elevator at night so he could audition during the day. His auditioning did not go well. So he wrote a play. He wrote a play about his hometown. He wrote the play for himself and his friends to perform in. The play was called Wharton Dance. His name was Horton Foote. He wrote plays. Some of them appeared on Broadway. One of them won a Pulitzer Prize.

I do not flatter myself. He was a great man. I'm just trying.

I didn't know how hard this life is when I set out to live it. How many no's there would be. How many different jobs I would need to be able to do, but here I am. A week away from something that seems very much like a dream.

All I can think about is Horton. Sitting in an elevator all night with a pencil and a piece of paper. Writing about his hometown. Writing about where he came from. Writing about people he hated and people he loved and people he knew. Writing for his friends. It is nice that while so much has changed, in the theatre and in New York, that a person from nowhere, writing while they work, a very, very lucky person, still has a chance to make something people want to see. As long as they do their best to tell the truth. As long as they write for their friends. As long as they do not give up. As long as when they finish their job, the job that pays the bills, they walk home through the snow and write.

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