Tuesday, July 10, 2018

a conversation with playwright Alex Tuchi, author of POLYPHEMUS, which premiers at B3 Productions this week

Alex Tuchi

by Gil Benbrook

Actor and playwright Alex Tuchi is having a pretty good July.

His play Polyphemus opens this week at B3 Productions and the following week his short play Wandering, Whistling premiers at Space 55 in their Summertime 7 evening of seven short plays.

Tuchi has had several other short pieces presented in the Valley but this is his first full length play.

The fact that Tuchi is just 19 and is not only having his plays produced but that he's also acted in numerous plays at several theatres across the Valley shows not only his dedication to theatre and the arts but also to his range of abilities.

Tuchi is about to start his Sophomore year at Boston University, where he is studying Film and Television, Arts Leadership and Public Relations.

As he prepares for the premiere of Polyphemus this Friday, Tuchi sat down to answer some questions about the play.

How would you describe the plot of Polyphemus in once sentence?

"It’s a play about what happens when you leave people together in a place for long enough.

What was your inspiration for writing it?

"I was inspired by Soren Kierkegaard.

Truth is what makes the kind of theatre I’m really inspired by too. Annie Baker really influenced how I tackled this process.

I’m just constantly just trying to write the truest play I know how to. This is the most current version of that play."

How did you decide to set the play at a mental healing facility?

"It was all about one character.  They never found their way out of the script, and the healing facility always provided a reason for them to be there.

I also constantly struggle with my mental health. Part of what made writing this really important to me was that I don’t think that the mental healing facility provided anything but a structure for these people. I think it could have taken place in any confined space with any number of people. They’re not defined by the things they’ve been diagnosed with. This isn’t a play about people in a mental healing facility, it’s just a play about people."

Crystal Pearl Inzunza and Caitlin Mayr in Polyphemus
photo courtesy B3 Productions
The play focuses on a group of teenage residents at the facility and whether or not the stories they tell of their past are true or not. Did you plan the show to align to the current world we live in of "fake news," and stories and images that are quickly spread on the internet that aren't true?  

"Kierkegaard said that truth is a power. I think the information about a character (or lack thereof) gives each of them something over the others. They use personal truth a currency for their own gain with each other.

I don’t necessarily know if that translates to fake news, but I think it makes a good point about truth. Perception of truth creates a perception of power, but as soon as that truth is revealed to be falsehood, it should fail to have power. That doesn’t seem to be true in today’s world. But it’s also important to remember how truth only has the power lent to it. And anything but the real truth will eventually fall away, according to Kierkegaard. I trust him."

I heard that the play evolved from a scene you wrote for a writer's circle. What was that scene and is the scene still intact, or present, in the piece? 

"That first scene is still fully intact somewhere in that mess. I don’t think I have the original file I wrote that scene in, but I could probably point out a nice 20 minutes that it could be."

Were there any scenes in the piece that you found difficult to write, or any scenes that you have continually found yourself rewriting?

"The ending was really hard to nail. I wrote a lot of this play in January 2017, but I didn’t finish the last scene until October that same year. It never really sit well with me. I sat on it for α few months and then rewrote the hell of it for a few more until it finally felt like it fit."

As a very young writer what kind of obstacles have you encountered in being taken seriously?

"A perception of myself, in a sense. It makes me antsy to look at myself that way because I’d rather just be a writer. It’s something that messes with my truth, in a sense."

What do you hope audiences will take away from seeing  Polyphemus?

"I hope they take away something for themselves. Something they need. From one of the characters, from someone else there, from themselves.

Telling stories is the only way I know how to make the world better right now. And sometimes that feels like it’s not enough. And I’m sure everyone feels that way sometimes, too. But telling these stories is the best thing I can do. Bringing people together. Actors, friends, audiences. Theatre is a safe place for a lot of people, and creating places for people to go nowadays is really important to me. That’s why I am so thankful to have the B3 team on board for this production. Everyone has worked so tirelessly to bring this project to life. They took my script and ran to places I could never even imagine. So I hope people will take away how incredibly generous and honest everyone on this team is.

And I guess I just hope everyone keeps flying toward their moon."

CLICK HERE for more information on Polyphemus, at B3 Productions, which runs July 13 - July 21

CLICK HERE for more information on Summertime 7 at Space 55, which runs July 20-29

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