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Live Active Cultures

Seth Kubersky attends Playfest's keynote talk with playwright Mark Brown

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Brown’s newest show was born of an unsolicited commission from Dramatic Publishing to compose an adaptation of Cervantes’ notoriously unadaptable Don Quixote (“I should have read the book” before agreeing, he says.) With his 6-year-old daughter demanding his attention at home and Facebook games like Mafia Wars as ready distractions, Brown says “the hardest part about writing is actually doing it.” He found himself retreating to the local Starbucks with his notebook to get work done. Thanks to a confabulating journalist, he ended up photographed as the semi-infamous “Pajamas Playwright” in the New York Daily News, though he insists he doesn’t normally wear his PJs in public.

Inspired by that experience, he ended up writing himself and his literary agent into his play Don Quixote – The Reckoning, premiering in workshop form at this week’s Playfest. The show, which is set in a “SuccuBucks Coffee” shop, features a fifth wall-violating playwright protagonist struggling to start an overdue adaptation of Don Quixote. Based on the brief excerpt performed for the keynote audience, the resulting show relies on goofy sound effects, Python-esque coconut horse-hooves and broad Borscht Belt humor. Fortunately, actor Philip Nolen (who enlivened Brown’s China and Trial of Ebenezer Scrooge shows) is on board in a silly beard, proving once again that every comedy could use him as its 
white knight.

Writing new plays may be modern theater’s equivalent of tilting at windmills. The biggest challenge, Brown told his audience, is “finding theaters that will develop new plays in this economy,” as most producers stick with “tried and true” safe bets. Brown’s only advice to fledgling playwrights with eyes on Broadway? Write a “jukebox musical” and “sweet talk Rod Stewart” into licensing 
his music.

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