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High and Low

Dramatist brings insight, blowjob jokes to town

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Marisa Wegrzyn, a Chicago native, is an author of numerous plays who recently moved to L.A. to pursue screenwriting. City Paper sat down with her at Center Stage the day before Mud Blue Sky’s premiere. (Baynard Woods)

City Paper: So this play has never been done before. Now that you’ve seen previews, is it how you envisioned it as a writer or are you surprised?

Marisa Wegrzyn: It’s both. There are a lot of surprises with production. But that’s what makes it so much fun, is that production makes it fuller and more complete than I could ever imagine. Having actual people—they do things with these characters that I didn’t even think were possible.

CP: Is there a specific example you can think of?

MW: I don’t know if there’s a specific example, but once you get a real person, that person becomes the character for you. After this production, I’ll always have this production in mind if I go back to the script and tweak anything. This is the base point for a human body in the role.

CP: I read that your mom was a flight attendant.

MW: She was in the ’60s and ’70s. She quit before she had kids and so I never knew her as a flight attendant. It was always an important part of her history and she remained friends with some of her fellow co-workers. But as for how the characters developed, this play came from two places. One was an interest in flight attendants in general, wanting to write a character who was a flight attendant. And then the play actually started with what is scene two in the play between Jonathan and Beth, and I’d wanted to write something that was a relationship between an older woman and a younger man that wasn’t a mother/son thing and wasn’t a romantic thing but was this friendship that develops. I don’t see too many stories exploring that dynamic. I wanted the relationship to be plausible, so those story elements came out of the initial relationship, making this feel like it could happen. There’s this teenager and Beth, who are both stuck in this place. That feeling of being between something and toward something and trying to make a choice to do something, it transcends age and transcends gender. Every few years, I’m at a place where I’m like, “What am I doing?” And you get to a place where what you’re doing doesn’t seem like what you should be doing. Sometimes there’s a moment where you make a choice to do something.

CP: You said all of your plays are very different. Is that what motivates that artistic decision—the pushing toward making a break?

MW: It might be that. I don’t want to do the same play over and over again. There’s similarities in all the plays, but they feel very different. I don’t want to get stuck in a rut.

CP: Your play Ten Cent Night is full of all of this Faulknerian incest and Flannery O’Connor mutes and all of this craziness, but with this, the tone and the anonymity of the location and this profession of constantly moving struck me, still in novelistic terms, as very DeLillovian. Was the artistic challenge to make it more minimal and not as carnivalesque?

MW: Yeah. That is one of the things I really wanted to do with Mud Blue Sky. It’s a little more gentle, a little warmer, a little more real, whereas Ten Cent Night, I was at liberty to do whatever. Dimes falling from the sky and stuff. I really wanted to write something that would connect with an audience that is a little older than me, and I didn’t want to go too far over the edge. I can’t keep writing plays about college kids smoking dope and connect with the audience I’m going for.

CP: The great thing is that the older characters come across as plausible, but so does the young kid—there’s still a lot of weed-smoking.

MW: There’s still blowjob jokes. There’s a lot of bathroom humor in the text of the play. Not that bathroom humor is the mark of accessibility. There’s some moments of farce and door-slamming. ■

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