AAPEX Interview: St. Louis based playwright Mario Farwell — Mario Farwell — AAPEX

Monday, September 7, 2009

AAPEX Interview: St. Louis based playwright Mario Farwell

Mario Farwell

What role did theater and the arts play in your childhood and upbringing?
My early childhood was spent in a poor Afro-American neighborhood of St. Louis. I remember my mother would read to me and my brothers wonderful children stories that stimulated our imagination. My father had a tremendous collection of Jazz and blues that I enjoyed listening to. My first real introduction to theatre came when my mother took us to the Muny, a large outdoor theater, which presented musicals. I saw such musicals as “Meet Me in St. Louis,” “My Fair Lady,” “Cabaret,” and my favorite was seeing Pearl Baily in “Hello Dolly.” I eventually took the initiative and started to explore the world of the arts on my own.

Tell us about your own evolution as an artist.
Even as a child, I had an interest in the arts especially in the performing arts. I remember on a trip to Tijuana my mother purchased a set of puppets. I fell in love with these puppets and would present puppet shows with stories I created to anyone who would care to watch. I think my life long love for the theatre began at this point. I went on to produce little plays with my friends in the neighborhood. I eventually majored in theatre at the University of Missouri in Kansas City where my knowledge of theatre was expanded a great deal. After I graduated from UMKC, I move to New York City with aspiration of becoming an actor/dancer. The best laid plans often go astray, and I ended up drifting into writing. I had written a play in college, but hadn’t taking the idea of writing very seriously. My next effort at writing was a musical. I had no idea of how to write musical, and fortunately, I found a composer that knew great deal about the subject. I learned a great deal from him about the art of writing and especially writing musicals.

Why do you write plays and what do you write about?
I write plays as a sort of a therapy. Much of my work has been loosely based on events in my life. I usually take an emotion or dilemma that I’ve been trying to work through and put it on paper. I’m always surprised that the problems I consider to be so personal and unique to me have universal appeal. My life has been more affected by the interracial experience rather than just the black experience. Most of my plays deal with the complexities of white and black relationships. I create characters that make an effort to bridge racial stereotypes in order to gain an understanding of the person on a human level. I usually write dramatic comedies. The main thrust of the play is drama laced with a lot of humor. Last year, I wrote my first full-length comedy You Know I Can’t Eat Buffalo Meat When There’s a Terrorist on the Loose. It was produced here in St. Louis and was well received. I think I’ve got the comedy bug, and I’m working on ideas for a couple more comedic plays. Good part of my writing career has been spent in the creation of musicals. I’m currently finishing up an opera based on the life of Joan of Arc. I’m also working on revising the book and lyrics for my musical Starfest. Starfest is a musical comedy rooted in the sci-fi genre of the old serials of Flash Gordon. It’s campy, it’s irreverent and it’s raucous romp across the universe. The musical uses a blend of R&B, gospel and rock music to create the sound. The musical has an Afro-American cast with a blend sci-fi elements and Afro-American culture mixed in to make and interesting brew.

What is your take on St. Louis as a theater town?
St. Louis has a very large theatre community. There are lots of community, semi-professional and professional theatres in the city. Many of them are doing very good work. My biggest frustration with the St. Louis theatre scene is there isn’t very much original theatre that goes on in the town. Living in New York City for so many years, I grew accustomed to having lots of new theatre happening all around. One of things that I did to encourage new theatre was to start a playwriting group, The St. Louis Writers’ Group, to help writers develop their work. We meet twice a month and have had hundreds of plays go through the developmental process. I’m also on the board of directors of First Run Theatre in St. Louis the only theatre company in the area that exclusively produces original theatre.

Click the post's title to visit Mario Farwell's website.

No comments:

Post a Comment