Interview with Lydia Oxenham, playwright of "Thump In The Night"
Q: Many people don't really know their neighbors, even with just a thin wall separating them from the people next door. Do you think people still want to be neighborly today, or do you get the sense that being neighborly is a risk?
A: Sitcoms lied to us: next-door neighbors are not our best friends. In my first apartment, my neighbor and I swore we’d get dinner “soon.” Then 18 months went by, and I moved out. She Venmo’d me 20 bucks every month for WiFi, but we couldn’t find 20 minutes to eat a meal in the same room.
It’s not that I don’t want to get to know my neighbors, it just takes a lot of work, and the moments you meet at the mailbox never seem to add up to anything.
Q: Thump in the Night concerns a strange overnight occurrence in an apartment building that brings the neighbors together. It's a comedy in which fear of the unknown seems to play a central role. Is fear funny, sometimes?
A: Fear is hilarious. Speaking my fears out loud helps me find the funny. It usually goes something like this…
Husband: Why are you crying?
Me: I’m worried the mail is piling up at our apartment.
Husband: That’s a very specific worry.
Me: But if it piles up, People of Ill Intent will know we’re gone, and they’ll break into our home to eat all our food, but our food is expired so they’ll succumb to botulism, and then we’ll be murderers or at least manslaughterers, and we won’t get our security deposit back because the place is now haunted… all because I didn’t ask our neighbors to collect the mail.
Husband: But we don’t know our neighbors.
Q: You studied comedy writing at UCLA and with Upright Citizens Brigade, and last year, you taught a humor writing workshop at the 1888 Center, the great literary hub here in Orange. What does comedy offer you, as a writer, that dramatic writing does not?
A: Responses I considered because they’d make me sound writerly...
I’ve just always been drawn to comedy.
In these trying times, we need laughter more than tears.
Comedy is drama dipped in sugar.
Comedy offered me $20 in exchange for a list of movie title puns.
Q: It's been said that true comedy is really about character, rather than situation. What's your perspective on that?
A: True comedy is really about how many innuendos you can cram into a single piece. (The fun is finding them!)
Q: Besides entertaining people, what else should a new play accomplish in 2019? Or does there necessarily have to be an "else"?
A: My goal is for my work to be “time agnostic” -- I would love for someone to read this play in 10 years without being distracted by outdated technology or cultural references. Rather than forcing a play to speak to a particular cultural moment, I want to write things in which truth about human nature is told through a specific character in a peculiar circumstance.
Hey, that’s a better answer to Question 3. Ask me again.
Redo Q: What does comedy offer you, as a writer, that dramatic writing does not?
A: Comedy is a specific character thrust into peculiar truth during emotional circumstances and innuendos. Nailed it.
Lydia Oxenham's new comedy Thump in the Night plays at OC-Centric August 15-25, 2019. For tickets, visit our ONLINE BOX OFFICE or call 714-902-5716.
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