We've seen what some of the cast has had to say about their experience working on A BRIGHT NEW BOISE, and now we're checking in with the playwright, Sam Hunter. Outside of performances, director Davis McCallum found time to ask Sam a few questions about the play and its origins. Sam and Davis have a strong working relationship; this is their second collaboration this year, including this summer's FIVE GENOCIDES with Clubbed Thumb. It's no surprise that from this connection, a critically acclaimed production has emerged!
DAVIS MCCALLUM: How did this play start? Where did it come from?
SAM HUNTER: The play includes a lot of themes and ideas that are in my other plays—people’s relationship to religion, big box stores, etc. But the real starting point for this play was the idea of the Rapture as it relates to middle America. I saw a really surprising statistic somewhere about the percentage of Americans who believe that Christ will come again in their lifetimes, and at first it really confused me—the idea that people would want the world to end. But, when you consider the lives that a lot of these people lead—lives filled with poverty and soul-killing jobs—it’s not that hard to understand.
DM: What drew you to the setting of a Hobby Lobby breakroom?
SH:I grew up in a small town in northern Idaho, and my first job was at the local Walmart. The breakroom was always this weird, surreal place. A place that wasn’t public but didn’t feel at all private, that was away from the stress of work but didn’t feel relaxing at all. In that way, it’s pretty flexible as a setting for a play. Also I was attracted to the idea that this breakroom could be any breakroom of any retail store across the country, that it wasn’t specific to Idaho or the Hobby Lobby. Hopefully that makes the play feel a bit more universal.
DM: Many of your plays are set in Idaho. What's up with that? How does your background inform your work as a writer?
SH: At first when I started writing plays in college, they had nothing to do with Idaho. And in fact, like most 18 year olds, I wanted nothing more than to distance myself from where I grew up. I spent my first few years at NYU working on a lot of plays that didn’t really have anything new or interesting to say; a historical drama about Robert Schumann, an absurdist redux of the Adam and Eve story, etc. Then I wrote a play that was set in my home town, and since then, Idaho has completely taken over my writing, marching in and occupying it like Genghis Khan. When I sit down to write a play, I don’t necessarily think to myself: okay, time to write about Idaho again! They just all sort of fall there. Maybe it’s my way of examining where I came from, maybe it’s my subconscious aversion to plays about hip New Yorkers. Probably a combination of both.
DM: Have you ever seen the movie THE GOOD GIRL, starring Jennifer Aniston, from TV's Friends? I like that movie.
SH: NO I HAVEN’T SEEN THAT MOVIE.
DM: What's it like writing a play that you know is going to be performed by a particular company? How did the PCP commission affect your work as a writer on A BRIGHT NEW BOISE?
SH: It was incredibly liberating, actually. Knowing that I was writing a play for specific actors in a specific space gave me some really wonderful guidelines to work within. It also just forced you to be practical—when you’re writing something that you know is going to be produced in a few months, you’re not going to waste your time messing with huge theatrical conceits or structural gymnastics. You just try to tell a story, tell it well, and make it playable.
Sam Hunter's A BRIGHT NEW BOISE, directed by Davis McCallum. This week, Tuesday - Saturday at 8, and Saturday at 2pm at The Wild Project (195 E. 3rd Street between Avenues A and B)