Interview by Lorraine Wilde
iDiOM: Death, The Final Irony is a collection of scenes and monologues exploring death, dying, and the afterlife in the absurd. As a writer, how did you arrive at this format and genre?
Andy: This is a true story: five or six years ago, I woke up one morning and sat down at the computer. I wrote down three of the main pieces of the play that morning. I did the same the following morning. It was as if I was taking dictation—a great feeling for a writer.
The scenes and monologues that I wrote then have gone through rewrites with the help of Donald [Drummond, director] and the cast, but they remain essentially the same ones that I wrote those two mornings. The format was dictated by those first pieces. Additional pieces were added in the last year or so to make the script more complete.
As for genre, there are some very serious and dramatic pieces in the show. But I believe that laughter has a special power—once we laugh at something we drop our defenses and become open to considering ideas or feelings from new perspectives. There is a quote in the interlude in the play from George Bernard Shaw: “Life does not cease to be funny when people die any more than it ceases to be serious when people laugh.”
Death is a pretty heavy subject, but you’re approaching it with humor and absurdity. What led you to tackle it?
The play is very personal to me. I have survived two heart attacks and thyroid cancer and lived with heart disease for the past thirty years. The ideas and situations are ones that I’ve imagined or seen myself in or are the product of conversations with Rose, my wife of 43 years.
Death is like the elephant we try to identify with eyes closed—so incomprehensible in its totality that it lends itself to the absurd. I try to deal with it humorously and directly and have no idea what happens to “us” after we die. I have only one wish—I want to live until the play completes its run. It would truly be ironic if I were to die before then.
You were the director of Skagit Valley College’s (SVC) Theater Arts Program for 26 years before retiring in 2010. Are there specific parts of that extensive experience that influenced this work?
New plays are the lifeblood of the theatre. From the very beginning, my professional training at Yale involved working with playwrights on new works. While at the College I produced a short play festival for 15 years – these festivals were composed exclusively of new works by SVC students and area playwrights. I worked extensively and learned from two excellent writers—Nicola Pearson, a writer from Concrete who has recently had her first novel published, and David Golden, a Seattle playwright who also writes for film. Working with them helped me to become a better writer. While my training was as a director, I wrote and produced five of my own scripts while at the college.
This is your first work shared at the iDiOM. How did you decide to submit it here?
Director Donald Drummond suggested that we submit the play here. I had heard that iDiOM was committed to producing new plays and thought the space would lend itself very well to the show.
Donald Drummond [and actors] Heather Dyer and Lucas Naylor are all former students of mine at Skagit Valley College. There is no greater satisfaction for a teacher than to work with former students as peers and colleagues.
The show opens Thursday, September 24th, and plays Thu/Fri/Sat for two weekends.
Tickets are $10 advance and $12 at door.