Interview with Travis Snyder-Eaton
A: I am a huge history buff, my favorite section of history has always been World War II. The fact that the entire world came together to defeat the Axis is just marvelous. The reason the play is based in the era of World War II is due to the fact that midway in the play an event needed to happen to change the entire mood, something that can change the chemicals in the air. For the world this was World War II, for the play this was World War II.
Q: These days, playwrights are encouraged to write small-cast plays, the simpler and less ornate the better. Is The Sound of Silence something of a rebellion against that thinking?
A: Whenever I write a play it is something that I would like to see on stage, whether it is big-cast and big-set such as The Sound of Silence or small-cast and small-set like some of my other works. I remember when I was first writing, my high school teacher would tell me that I needed to minimize the amount of characters and scenes. For a while I listened, and I wrote long, drawn-out, one- to three-act plays that seemed to be more dialogue than action. As I started watching more and more Los Angeles theatre I learned that the new experience an audience wants out of a play is an adventure, if pulled off right. I started writing works with a bigger view, but they were only short one-act plays. I eventually decided to experiment with The Sound of Silence: I played around with a no-limit adventurous play just to see where it can take me. So, yes and no: this play does rebel against the thinking that plays should have smaller casts and smaller sets. However, I did not write it to simply rebel, but to embrace the future of theatre.
Q: You're a member of Sacred Fools Theater Company, which is widely admired for the eclecticism, wildness, and unbridled adventure of its programming. Has that ensemble's approach influenced your playwriting to some degree?
A: I have been a member of Sacred Fools for almost two years now and I have been doing work at the company for over two years. I started out as an intern my junior year at the university and made my way up to company member shortly thereafter. The ensemble has taught me more in these two years than I have ever learned in school, simply because of its hands-on attitude and having the right idea when it comes to theatrical values - most importantly providing a fun and entertaining experience not only for the audience, but also for the actors. We are a theatre company run by members, and because of that everyone is doing what they want to do and what they think would be fun. There is also a late-night series called Serial Killers where writers are able to workshop their babies for the greater good in a competition where five plays enter and three plays leave. Through this show, I have been able to see work from every member of the company and how audiences react to certain types of shows. Now to actually answer the question with a yes: Sacred Fools has influenced my writing in a major way. The Sound of Silence would never have been written if it was not for Sacred Fools as a whole, but two members specifically influenced this script. The first would be Vanessa Stewart, who penned last year's hit production, Stoneface: The Rise and Fall and Rise of Buster Keaton. Before I saw Stoneface, I had never watched a Buster Keaton film. I'd heard of Keaton and watched a little Chaplin, but I had never really seen the films. After seeing Stoneface I grew obsessed with them and watched each and every one of them. If not for this obsession with Keaton that grew from Vanessa's play, I would probably never have written the first act of The Sound of SIlence.The second major influence on my work (and probably the most prominent) is Jaime Robledo, a writer and director who most recently directed and penned Watson and the Dark Art of Harry Houdini. The theatrics of his writing and directing taught me one of the most important lessons anybody can learn, and that is that anything can happen on stage - and so I should not limit my writing and directing to anything less than I want it to be.
Q: Your playwriting reflects a remarkable variety of inspirations - commedia dell'arte, Japanese mythos, urban legends, silent movies. Does a particular genre of storytelling inspire you to write a play that fits into it, or does the germ of a new play idea lead you toward a certain genre?
A: I am a funny guy with a deep soul; this being said, I like to keep my writing humorous, but with heart. My education at the University of La Verne put me through a vigorous theatre history program, where I was able to learn about so many different styles of theatre in depth. Since that history was covered so precisely, I was able to notice interesting aspects of certain styles and pick and choose what I liked about them. I look at the genre influence on my writing like toppings on a pizza. If my work is the pizza crust with cheese and sauce already on it, the genre represents the toppings. I'll sprinkle a little bit of everything on it as long as it tastes good.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Currently I am rewriting a screenplay I wrote called Suburban Limbo, which is about living in the suburbs of California, unemployed, with nothing to do but sit around with your high school friends and smoke weed. Along with that I am working on creating a YouTube channel for a sketch comedy company I am starting up called Half-Assed Productions.
Catch Travis Snyder-Eaton's The Sound of Silence August 17 @ 2pm, August 18 @ 7pm, August 24 @ 8pm and August 25 @ 2pm in the Moulton Center Studio Theatre at this year's OC-Centric.