08 Jan RPW IV – Meet playwright Terry Milner
Lee’s dog Jasper was old, but when it appears his girlfriend Melinda may have hastened his death, Lee has no choice but to turn to his estranged family for comfort. But is Lee’s grief really about the loss of a pet, or does the true source of his pain lie deep in the past, buried in the red dirt of his rural southern home?
Read. Play. Write. IV playwright Terry Milner shares his thoughts on collaboration, process and hopes for his new play, Jasper. Reserve your tickets at www.CrashboxTickets.com to see Jasper on January 18th at 8pm.
On Process (writing or preparing for a reading)
My first play (The Jesus Fund), which was produced two years ago, was very “external” in the sense that it was really plot-driven and issue-oriented, but not a particularly deep dive into character. My process for writing Jasper was very different: it was much more internal. It came from me intentionally digging into some of my own dark corners to find material that I’ve tried to shape into something that holds meaning for me and for the audience.
On Collaboration (working with a director and cast to develop a work)
Eddie and I have never worked together before, but he came very highly recommended from another director, Stella Powell-Jones, who had collaborated with both of us separately before. That sort of connectivity among members of the theater community is a huge part of collaboration: building on the trust established in one relationship as you cultivate new ones. And I am happy to say it has paid off, Eddie really gets this play and has provided many helpful insights into it’s development as we prepare for this reading.
Favorite moment for your play . . .
It has to be the image of Dean, Lee’s father, sitting on the sofa in a dog suit. I mean there’s also the scene where Harry smears mud all over Lee’s mostly naked body, which is intended to be sexy of course, but is also a sort of metaphorical re-creation of Lee as a young man, using clay from his (literally) native soil to heal him and free him from his hurtful past.
What excites you about your play . . .
I am excited to see a New York audience’s reaction to this very southern family. They are my family in many meaningful ways: working class southerners whose youngest generation rejects the conservatism, bigotry and limited opportunity still prevalent in the rural and even the suburban south for the excitement of the big city. I am interested in showing the struggle of that younger generation to reconcile and integrate the best of their upbringing into their new lives as urban professionals, while conquering the demons of prejudice and narrowness that many carry with them years after they leave those hometowns.
What do you hope people take away from the reading . . .
I hope people come away moved by the growth they see in Lee, through his changing relationship with his father and with his past. I hope they see the love that exists between this father and son, love that could not happen without the older man’s willingness to change and the younger man’s decision to take responsibility for his own happiness. I hope there are a couple of memorable moments (see above) that people will want to share with others, and that will stick with them for a long time.