Playwright George Brant discusses his play "Elephant's Graveyard," what he is working on now, and his go-to order at Five Guys Burgers and Fries.
Shane Strawbridge: What was the germ of Elephant's Graveyard?
George Brant:Elephant's Graveyard began with source material ripped from the headlines, albeit the headlines of 1916. I first came across the tale when I stumbled upon the black and white picture of the hanging of Mary the elephant on the Internet, and it haunted me ever since. There was something disturbing about the picture on a primal level, beyond the obvious cruelty. The picture is blurry, cloudy, muddy, misremembered even at its moment of documentation.
SS: What about Elephant's Graveyard do you think makes it important for audiences to see now?
GB: I hope/think the play speaks to a number of current and enduring phenomena: the concept of American exceptionalism, our increasing tribalism, the relationship between justice and violence, the fear of what we don't immediately understand, and the aching desire to be heard and understood, to matter.
SS: Many of your works have had the opportunity to be developed with generous organizations such as The Playwrights' Center, Asolo Rep, WordBRIDGE Playwright's Lab, and the Hangar Theatre among others. How do you feel these sorts of relationships have affected not only your personal theatrical product but also the state of contemporary play development in America?
GB: Development opportunities offered by such places as The Playwrights' Center, WordBRIDGE and New Harmony Project have been instrumental in the life of my plays. Whether refining a play that is nearly finished or giving me a deadline to complete a first draft, I couldn't do without such opportunities. I've had experiences that have been more helpful than others, but as long as you've got your ear to the ground, even the most basic development opportunity will tell you something about your play.
SS: If you were to create your personal playwright family tree, how would you trace your playwright genealogy?
GB: Oh, dear. It would have to be a very big and ancient tree: Euripides, Shakespeare, Chekhov, Caryl Churchill, Harold Pinter, Martin McDonagh, Paula Vogel, Melissa James Gibson, Brendan Jacobs Jenkins. A big family.
SS: Your next big announced project is an adaptation of Mike Stanton's The Prince of Providence for the stage. Can you tell us anything about that or are details still under wraps?
GB: Yes, that's mostly under wraps, but I'm hopeful it may surface at Trinity Repertory next season. It's been a blast to work on - such a fascinating character.
SS: I have it on good authority that your first visit to Five Guys Burgers and Fries was with one of our mutual friends, award-winning playwright, comedian, and teacher Megan Gogerty. So now I obviously have to know: what is your go-to order?
GB: That is true, and what a celebratory meal it was. I'll go with a little cheeseburger, fries and a salted caramel shake. Okay, now I'm hungry.