If you’re searching online for a playwright with a show running Off-Off Broadway, chances are you’ll have come across Adam Szymkowicz’s blog. Since 2009, Szymkowicz, himself a well-regarded Off and Off-Off Broadway playwright (whose show, Clown Bar, begins an encore engagement next month at Parkside Lounge), has been interviewing his peers in a regular feature called “I Interview Playwrights.” His blog is a simple Blogpost affair that also occasionally includes bits of news about his own work alongside his interviews, but it has amassed more than 800,000 page views.
Jordan G. Teicher: So, how did this get started?
Adam Szymkowicz: It was 2009 and my wife and I were living in Minneapolis. I had a show going up with Flux Theatre and it was the first time I was getting interviewed by publications. I had two or three interviews and I thought they were a lot of fun. When I was in New York I had had this blog about theater and I wasn’t sure if I should shut it down or stop posting or if I should try to do something else. If everyone thinks interviews are as fun as I do, I thought, maybe they’d be into being interviewed. I knew a lot of playwrights to begin with — I went to two playwriting schools, had been in a lot of playwriting groups, and had interned at a few theaters — so I started interviewing people and I haven’t quite stopped.
Jordan G. Teicher: When did you realize that lots of people were reading?
Adam Szymkowicz: Probably the first time I went to a theater party and someone knew me because of the blog instead of my playwriting. That’s become the norm, especially among young playwrights. They’re like, ‘You’re the person who does that blog!’ It’s less likely that they’ll say, ‘Oh, I saw Clown Bar.’ It’s weird — in some circles I’m sort of a celebrity because of it.
Jordan G. Teicher: How do you decide whom to interview?
Adam Szymkowicz: If I’ve never heard of someone before and they’re doing something that sounds interesting I might approach them. At this point, PR people have started to email me when they have someone they think I should interview. When I see plays I like a lot I try to see who wrote them and make contact with the playwright. People also contact me with suggestions. These days I have to try to remember whom I haven’t gotten to or whom I’ve already asked a couple times to interview. Really, the fancier the person, the less likely they’ll want to do an email interview because they already have lots of press.
Jordan G. Teicher: One of your standard questions in your interviews is, “Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.” Why do you like this question?
Adam Szymkowicz: I started asking it kind of facetiously, but then people had such great answers for it that I just kept asking it. I think the thing is that they almost always have an answer for it because it’s something most of them have thought about already. Sometimes it’s the best part of the interview.
Jordan G. Teicher: What do you think playwrights get out of these interviews?
Adam Szymkowicz: People have said to me they’ll read a play and do a Google search because they like the play and the first thing that comes up is the interview I did with the playwright. They’ll read it and get to know this person a bit in a way they wouldn’t by finding them on Facebook, for example. It’s useful in that way, especially if someone has presented himself in an interesting way in the interview. Most people do. They have some passionate things to say about their viewpoints on theater. I think that a lot of people come across really well and thoughtful. They have as much time as they want to figure out what they want to say. People have also told me that the blog feels like a community.
Writing is a lonely thing. To feel there are a bunch of people trying to do it the same way you are — that can be really depressing or really inspiring.
Jordan G. Teicher: How does interviewing all these playwrights inform the way you think about the theater scene in New York?
Adam Szymkowicz: The biggest thing I’ve come away with is that there are a lot of really smart, really engaged, really thoughtful people writing plays right now. I don’t doubt for a second that there are lots of great writers out there doing this thing that I’m trying to do.
Jordan G. Teicher: Any plans to stop interviewing playwrights any time soon?
Adam Szymkowicz: Eventually I’ll have to stop. It can’t go on forever. I’ll run out of playwrights or people who want to do it, or run out people who have something new to say that hasn’t been said a bunch. But sometimes even when I’m less excited about a particular interview there’ll be a whole bunch of people online who are excited about it.
At the end of the day, it’s not for me. It’s for the theater world.