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Please Don't Beat Me Up: Stories and Artifacts from Adolescence

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Adam Ruben
September 19, 2012

What is your job on this show?
Playwright and Performer.

Do you consider yourself a writer who also performs, an actor who also writes, or something else?
For me, the writing is the most important part of any show, whether it's storytelling, stand-up comedy, or a straight play. I find it difficult to convincingly say lines on stage that other people have written (also known as "acting"), and I find it frustrating to write things and then watch as they're not performed exactly as I'd envisioned. The nice thing about performing a solo show is that there's no disconnect between actor and playwright.

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one in United Solo that...?
...includes a reading from an actual fifth-grade diary, excerpts from a junior high cassette tape audio journal, and embarrassing video clips from adolescence that make the Star Wars Kid look like the Old Spice man.

Has this show been presented in other cities before New York? Was there a place where the response to this piece surprised you, and why?
I've performed this show in DC, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maine, but the most interesting response was at my former high school in Delaware. As I talked about my experiences with bullying, I watched in amazement as the ninth graders in the audience reacted the same way most adult audiences react. They, too, wanted to see an end to social isolation and pettiness.

Groucho, Chico, Harpo, or Zeppo?
Really? Does anyone say Zeppo? Ever? Well, not Harpo. By its nature, a non-mime solo show is filled with words, and Harpo wasn't a big fan of those. So that leaves Chico and Groucho, and I have to go with the obvious here and say Groucho, the one who tries directly, but successfully (I hope), to make people laugh. Outside of Groucho, I can't name a Marx brother more appropriate. And inside Groucho, it's too dark to read.

How important is diversity to you in the theater you see/make?
Diversity is incredibly important, but not just in the conventional sense of ethnic diversity. In my full-time job, I'm a scientist, and I consider scientists an underrepresented minority in the theater. In this show, I try to add another underrepresented voice, the voice of an adolescent, but not one whose lines are written by an adult trying to sound like a kid. Instead, I use the lines I already wrote twenty years ago and both ridicule and reenact them.