One of the Workshop’s most prolific and widely produced playwrights, Rich Orloff knows how to take an audience on an incredible emotional ride. Be it a “rip-roaringly funny” and “wildly imaginative” comedy (New York Times), or more dramatic “theater with a brain and theater with a heart” (Los Angeles Times), Rich’s writing will always engage. His impressive body of work includes more than fifteen full-length plays and over 80 one-act and short plays. These plays have enjoyed more than 1,800 productions, entertaining audiences at every level – from professional theaters to high schools, colleges and community-theater – both here in the U.S., and abroad.
Playwright Rich Orloff
The Workshop Theater is excited to debut Rich Orloff’s newest piece, IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND. The 3-Day concert read, directed by Richard Kent Green, will be September 27, 28 and 29 at 7 PM in the Jewel Box Theater. And … this solo piece will be performed by the playwright, himself! We got a chance to talk to Rich, to find out more.
WS: So what’s the inspiration behind IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND?
RO: The inspiration is the experience itself. For the last few years, I’ve been involved in underground therapy using MDMA (a.k.a. Ecstasy) and psilocybin mushrooms, inspired by cutting-edge experiments designed to help people heal from deep emotional wounds. It’s been an extraordinary adventure, and although there have been articles and books about the subject, they’re usually from the point of view of researchers and academics. I wanted to convey what it was like to go through the experience.
WS: What would you like audiences to take away after seeing IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND?
RO: My goal for IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND is that it captures what psychedelic-assisted therapy is like (or at least one person’s experience of it) in a way that’s honest, vivid and compelling. I tested the piece in several readings in my apartment last spring, attended by a variety of people, including many who had also engaged in psychedelic-assisted therapy. Of the many compliments I got, the one I appreciate the most is that the piece felt authentic.
I was also pleased that people with no personal experience with MDMA or psychedelics were moved by the piece, as I hope it will connect with anyone who carries around trauma (which is almost everyone!). I want the piece to be entertaining, of course, but for many it also seems to be healing.
WS: Did you know from the start you would be cast as the actor? Is this the first time you performed one of your pieces?
RO: Given the nature of the piece, yes I knew I wanted to be the one presenting the piece. Ironically, when I began as a writer, I wrote an autobiographical monologue called MY NICARAGUAN HOLIDAY, about an adventure I had in Nicaragua (with, among others, the monologist Spalding Gray!). But at the time I felt I needed to choose between developing as a playwright and developing as a monologist. I chose the former. So IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND actually returns me to that fork in the road, with me choosing the path not taken.
WS: You are working with company artist Richard Kent Green, who is directing you. How does the collaboration affect the piece?
RO: Fourteen years ago, Richard acted in FOREIGN AFFAIRS, my first produced play on the Workshop’s Mainstage, and two years ago, ago, he acted in CHATTING WITH THE TEA PARTY, my most recently produced play in New York. Over the years I’ve directed him in countless readings of my work at the Workshop, and we’ve developed quite a trust in each other. He attended one of the early test readings of IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND last spring, and it was clear he really got what I wanted the piece to be. It’s been a joy to get his perspective and input; I’ve had a lot of questions as a writer and even more as a performer, and I feel supported by Richard without being indulged.
WS: What’s your favorite thing about writing?
RO: That I’m constantly surprised. On my best days as a writer, I go deeper than my rational thinking and tap into thoughts and ideas that I didn’t know I had. Characters say things that I would never say and make jokes that I would never think of. That’s kinda cool.
WS: How does writing compare to acting?
RO: As a writer, I get to sit in the back row of the theater, listen to one of my plays (and to the audience’s response to it), reflect in anonymity, and blame the actor if I don’t like how a role is performed. Now that I’m the actor, I don’t have that luxury!
Of course, I assure that there are still many times as I’ve developed IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND when a moment hasn’t worked as well as I hoped and I blame the actor – me! But since I’m busy acting, I don’t get to dwell on it. Acting isn’t just about getting a moment right; it’s also about constantly letting go so you can be present in the next moment. I love the challenge of performing IT’S A BEAUTIFUL WOUND, and it’s only deepened my appreciation of what actors do.
Rich Orloff, on break in rehearsal