The Iron Mountain Review Vol. XXXII

44 Baker, Bush, Harvey, House, Mitchell, Parson, & Shelby

way that transforms the writer and helps it take flight in a new way. There is something inspiring about being around people who care that deeply about the story and the piece of art. I’ve had three plays produced now; and with each one, I’ve been lucky to work closely with the cast and crew. The other aspect of playwriting that I find profoundly moving is to be in the room with an audience when they’re seeing the play. You’ll sit back as an observer and see the way they react to it, to see where they laughed, where they are moved, and, sometimes, where they get restless or bored. It’s a revolutionary workshopping experience for anybody to go through. I wanted to say just a little bit about that process. For me, the play always grows out of the stage pictures; and I know we’ll get into that. I love imagining what I can put on stage and how it will look. I love thinking about how the director and crew might interpret the stage pictures out of my head. The more plays I write, the less stage direction I write. I love seeing how the director and crew will interpret that on their own just through my dialogue. My first play is absolutely filled with stage direction, and my newest one, which I’m about halfway through, has hardly any at all because I think it’s so much more collaborative and challenging and interesting to give a few hints and let the crew create that world just based on the dialogue. I like the idea of everything growing out of the words that I provide for the actors, and that made the act of creating a dialogue more challenging and interesting. I want the entire world of the play and the lives of the characters to exist within the lines of dialogue, so I think that I approach playwriting much more from a place of poetry than being a fiction writer, which I’m most used to. When writing a play, I’m thinking more like a poet because I’m thinking in imagery, economy, and rhythm. These are the three things I strive hardest to achieve in a piece of playwriting. My second favorite playwright is William Inge. His play Come Back, Little Sheba is one of the most underrated American plays ever. It’s a perfect look at lonesomeness and grief and denial. He’s better known for his plays Bus Stop and Picnic , but Come Back, Little Sheba is a landmark to me. I saw the movie when I was in about eighth grade and then saw the play much later. It just took it to a new place for me. My favorite playwright is Horton Foote, especially The Trip to Bountiful , which would be in my top five favorite pieces of writing ever. I love the way that Foote focuses on the people who are often overlooked: plain folks, rural people, and people that are born in the wrong time period. I identify a lot with that. No other playwright so accurately captures the feeling of longing the way Horton Foote did.

Of modern playwrights, I really admire the work of Naomi Wallace, who’s from Kentucky, but she’s better known in Europe because of the way she focuses so much on the language, making it simultaneously complete poetry while also sounding absolutely natural in the mouths of actors. I think ‘Night Mother by Marsha Norman is a pretty perfect play. And my favorite recent plays are Doubt by John Patrick Shanley and August: Osage County by Tracy Letts. I love Doubt for how intimate it is, and I love August: Osage County for how sprawling it is. My biggest piece of advice for budding playwrights is to go see plays. Go see the ones on Broadway and off-Broadway for sure, but also go see them in smaller theatres; study the way they’re staged just as much as the way they’re written. And read all the plays you can get your hands on, of course. For me, writing plays is the chance to interact with people in a whole new way beyond writing a novel and then only meeting the consumers of the words once I’m on a book tour. For me, the true joy of the play is the moment I see it in a darkened theatre with others: the moment of camaraderie a playwright is sometimes able to achieve with the cast and crew. I think the theatre is so important because it’s a feeling created by people who truly care about art. CB: First of all, I’m probably not a scholar, but thank you for assuming that I was. I feel like a fraud up here as a scholar, and Silas House stole my two favorite playwrights and August: Osage County and Doubt . Doubt is the perfectly crafted play. If you haven’t seen it, it’s wonderful. There’s not one iota of story element missing from it, and the sprawl of August: Osage County is marvelous as well. I never wanted to be a playwright; and I’m not sure I like writing. I’m not from Appalachia, so if y’all want to walk out right now, that’s okay. I was born in Battle Creek, Michigan: Cereal City. At thirteen, my dad moved my whole family, ten brothers and sisters, my mom and dad, to Lexington, which also is not Appalachia. I went to high school there, but I finally, actually met the people from the mountains of Kentucky when I went to college at Eastern Kentucky University. I met my first hillbilly of sorts and went on with my life. My major in college was industrial technology. I didn’t like writing papers. I didn’t like anything about writing. I went and got a job. I worked various jobs. I helped do wiring schematics for thin-seam miners. I was designing tractor cabs through my first job; and I was in Danville, Kentucky, designing vacuum cleaners when I got involved with my local community theatre. I’d seen The Phantom of the Opera and Les Mis , and I’m

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