What does it feel like when Daryl Roth, the brilliant theatrical producer and performing arts doyenne, decides you are going to be the recipient of her annual Creative Spirit Award? Ask actor-playwright Scott Hudson. He’s been a member of the LAByrinth Theatre Company since 2003 and includes productions at Playwrights Horizons (BFE), MCC Theater (The Glory of Living), P.S. 122 (Hot Keys) and Primary Stages (Wild Echinacea) on his resume. He began writing a play called Sweet Storm in 2004 as part of a LAB lab (how often in life can one plant those words side by side?) and now the Alchemy Theatre Company is mounting it for an Off-Broadway, naturally in association with LAByrinth. Directed by Padraic Lillis, Sweet Storm opened June 17 (here’s Variety’s review); the run has been extended through July 12. For tickets, call 212-279-4200 or visit www.ticketcentral.com.
Here’s the plot synopsis of Sweet Storm provided with the press materials:
In 1960 Florida during a ferocious approaching storm, Ruthie and Bo, two newlyweds, enter their honeymoon suite in the sky, a treehouse which is a romantic gesture from the young groom to his bride. Yet Bo’s expectations of living happily ever after in the sky are soon grounded by Ruthie’s realization that marriage comes with many unforeseen – and frightening – challenges. The two lovers struggle to fortify themselves against forces both inside and outside.
And now, five questions Scott Hudson has never been asked. And a bonus question.
1) What’s the most perceptive question about your work anyone has ever asked you?
Perceptive questions…perhaps for now those questions have come from people who know me very well and ask me if what they heard or saw in the play was crafted from a particular event, person or thing in my life. I like when others ask about my world view or faith. That rings excitement and meaning to me.
2) What’s the most idiotic question about your work anyone has ever asked you?
Idiotic questions…? I can’t say that I’ve had that…I have had idiotic comments and they were idiotic because they made no sense. It seemed as though they were critiquing the play in a way that at the same time was not allowing them to pay attention. So they were rather odd comments…again, not really making much sense. Others have made some criticisms that were very constructive and actually gave way to some tweaks to the script.
3) What’s the weirdest question about your work anyone has ever asked you?
As for a weird question about my work…I can’t say that there has been a weird question asked…yet.
Jamie Dunn, Eric T. Miller
in Sweet Storm
4) Sweet Storm involves newlyweds in a treehouse as a ferocious storm approaches. A bit of symbolism there? Why not, you know, put them at the Ritz Carlton and have them order room service?
The idea of the story began with the treehouse. It was by no means a metaphorical thing but rather a place that I enjoyed daydreaming about. The play had its very beginnings from a venue we use for my company’s retreats. We leave the city during the summer to a place for a period, and we hear the new works of our members and friends. In the middle of the retreat we hold a special venue for works that have been inspired therein from the time recently spent. The work calls for 10 minutes of anything. It was at the retreat of 2004 that I heard a slight twang from a new young intern — that was Jamie Dunn, the actress who plays Ruthie in my play. When I first heard her, I got the idea that I might be able to catch the language of my own family. I had no idea what to write…I had never written dramatically before. As an actor I knew that the “What If…?” question opened up the imagination. And so, of all the questions, I somehow asked myself, “What if you could act on any set — what would that set be?” Long story short, a treehouse came to mind. I’m sure there is some psychological reason why I liked the idea, but I wasn’t thinking symbolically. I just thought that would be a cool set.
I wanted Jamie’s character to be matched with a young man. I threw in a bed, an icebox, an old trunk and chair and then randomly filled up the room with gardenias. I figured then something romantic was happening. And so I added rain. So from there it was about justification. Who are they? How did they get there? What are they doing there? And the hardest part for me: Why? So, why not the Ritz for a honeymoon? I hope the play answers that question. As for a “ferocious storm approaching”…it’s raining…hard… and windy. However, “ferocious storm” is like telling the audience the butler did it just before the mystery play. I had asked that all press blurbs and advertisement descriptions of the play use only the word “storm” for the title alone and not focus too much on the, well, “butler.” In some ways the play is about surprise. I believe you got a description of my play that is somewhat of a spoiler.
5) How does being an actor inform your work as a playwright? Does it ever interfere?
When I sat down to write the play, the only way I knew to think about it was as an actor. I believe I saw in my mind’s eye the last moment of the play. And so, as an actor, the last action and it’s meaning is where I assure that all actions and meanings align to that point. In other words, I work backwards. As an actor, I have to have a knowing of the characters through lines. I know that it’s made up of a point of view and emotional response and a clarity of action to objective. I also pay attention to cause and effect. So as for Sweet Storm, the play was very much informed from my actors’ sensibility. If having an actor’s approach to the process interferes, I’m unaware…simply because I don’t know another way.
6) You won the Daryl Roth 2009 Creative Spirit Award. Other than a check for a nifty amount, what did Daryl say to you? How did you find out you had won? Most important, what do you plan to do with the money?
I had not spoken face to face with Ms. Daryl Roth. Most certainly I wrote a letter of much gratitude. (We met on the opening night of Sweet Storm.) The award was made known to me via a phone call from a member of LAByrinth’s staff. Of course, I was deeply touched. I cried…it was a lot to process. I am still processing the weight of its meaning. The money will be used to honor the spirit of the award, so it will be used to help further and support ways that will allow me to write. I am in the process of a new work and it will have a workout with a few of my company members this summer. Over the next year and perhaps beyond, the award will afford me time less spent stressing about things that may otherwise hinder the process. It is truly a gracious gift and I am very much honored.