Playwright Ruth Wire has written numerous plays and screenplays.
Playwright Ruth Wire is on the board of the Ashland Contemporary Theatre and leads the Haywire Writers' Workshop in Ashland. She has written numerous plays and screenplays, and her full-length play "A Modern Woman" was presented at Oregon Stage Works two years ago. We met at the Bellview Grange, where she was preparing for ACT's opening of a new comedy by board member David Hill called "Larry's Best Friend."
EH: What drives people to do theater?
RW: It's an enhanced kind of living. What the playwright has done is to distill experience into a two-hour or 15-minute glob, so that it's all very pure, and it's all very dramatic. Whereas you can go for years and nothing happens to you, then something big happens like somebody dies or they're divorced or whatever. But in a play, it happens in two hours. And what I like about it is, if it's a good play, it leaves you wringing wet; your heart's pounding and you're with those characters. You cannot leave them, it's impossible. You've gone through an experience and you've learned something.
EH: What makes a good play?
RW: It's what makes a play jump out at the audience and say, "I'm including you, or you can identify with this." If you take a play like "Our Town," it uses everyday situations with a twist that everybody can identify with. And that gets your Middle American crowd. It doesn't get the fringes, the people that are going to say, "I've seen this before, give me something fresh, give me something new." Middle America wants to be able to go into that kitchen in "Our Town" and snap peas with that lady; they want to be able to feel with the characters.
Now, if you have something that everybody has felt and take it up a notch, like the jealousy of another person in "Amadeus," that is a compelling theme. You have to have a compelling theme, even though the audience doesn't know the mode in which it was written, for instance, who knows about the music of 17th century Austria?
EH: How does politics relate to theater?
RW: The best political plays or screenplays are stories of people, not when they have a political ax to grind. They have to be the stories of people who have somehow done something, like the man in "Hotel Rwanda." You've got to have conflict in drama. You've got to have something happening. Language can kill you sometimes.
EH: What has brought you to be so intimately connected to theater?
RH: I think I'm a frustrated actress. I never had the nerve to even expect that. But when it came to the choice of being a writer later, I was so glad I was a writer because I'm writing sex scenes right now. And I'm 79 years old. I couldn't belong in a sex scene as an actress. It's fun. You can be a child; you can be a fish; you can be a dog. You can do anything you want.
It's like talking to yourself. It's like journaling, almost. A lot of my material is based on autobiographical incidents, but it is fiction because I have taken it and morphed it into something else. If I feel depressed, all I have to do is start writing. It makes my life better.
"Larry's Best Friend" plays at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Oct. 10 at the Bellview Grange, 1050 Tolman Creek Road. For reservations, call 541-646-2971.
Haywire Writers Workshop meets at 4 p.m. every Saturday at the Unitarian Church. For information, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
Evalyn Hansen is an Ashland writer and director who directed "Larry's Best Friend." She trained as an actor at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a founding member of San Francisco's Magic Theatre. Reach her at email@example.com.