Interview with "Left Behind, Waiting" writer, Joshua David Vega
Q: Saul Bellow once commented that "A writer is a reader moved to emulation." Many playwrights are at first readers - or actors - who reach that point where they are moved to create a story for the stage. What "flipped the switch" for you, how were you inspired to start writing plays?
A: I don't quite know, to be honest. I think it started around 2006, when I saw my older brother start to write jukebox musicals, just for fun. I really wanted to do something like that, so I started doing it myself, and we usually emailed the scripts to each other. Eventually I moved out of jukebox musicals (although not completely...) and on to writing straight plays and some attempts at prose.
Q: Photography and music are also passions of yours. Do they influence your playwriting to any degree?
A: I haven't noticed photography play a huge role in my playwriting (yet), but music has always been a huge influence. Because I got my start writing jukebox musicals, I still often find myself putting together playlists - sometimes imaginary, sometimes tangible - of songs that would drive the stories I write. The play I wrote before this one - which I was revising for the Festival when I came up with the idea for "Left Behind, Waiting" - stemmed from listening to Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run," which is where I got that title, "Tramps Like Us."
Q: It looks like you're actually in rehearsals right now for a show that opens just as OC-Centric closes, which is Stage Door Rep's upcoming production of Miss Saigon. Have you ever had any thoughts about writing a musical, with or without a collaborator?
A: I have been preforming in musical theatre for 15 years, writing for 10, and making music for about six, so it was only natural that I would combine all those eventually, I feel. I spent the better part of last year writing my first original musical, an adaptation of "Hamlet." The music and lyrics were very much inspired by rock musical scores like "Spring Awakening," "Next to Normal," and "Rent," so it has that rock edge to it. One of my "Miss Saigon" cast mates and I are actually in the very early stages of writing orchestrations and arrangements for the show! I've also been working VERY on-and-off over the last four years on my first jukebox musical in who knows how long, based on the music of British singer-songwriter MIKA. At this point, even I'm not sure if it will ever be finished!
Q: Among other themes, "Left Behind, Waiting" concerns how time does and does not change who we are. Do you think more playwrights ought to play with time, that time shifts are a characteristic of finer playwriting?
A: I wouldn't say it's necessarily finer playwriting. I would never go that far to call anything I do "finer playwriting" (although I won't object if others do). This was definitely an experiment for me, jumping back and forth in time. I actually wrote an essay on memory plays recently, and how I believe they are not reflections of truth, but personal inner truth through the most intimate lens possible - the protagonist's memory. In my eyes, "Left Behind" is my attempt at writing a memory play, in a similar vein to plays like "The Glass Menagerie" or "Next Fall," which are two of my personal favorites.
Q: "Left Behind, Waiting" is a truly affecting play that exhibits a striking level of playwriting craft - especially since it is, if we're correct, your first produced script. What is the easiest aspect of writing a play for you, and the most challenging aspect?
A: Well first, thank you. That's truly flattering. Yes, this is my first produced play. As to what's easiest and hardest, it changes from play to play, and even then from moment to moment. I usually find it difficult to start, but at a point, I will hit a stride and find it hard to stop, but then I'll hit a wall. And sometimes, all it takes to moves things along is time.
Joshua David Vega's Left Behind, Waiting opens August 20 at OC-centric.
Buy tickets by calling 714-902-5716 or CLICK HERE.