UHS Contributes to the Fringe Festival!

Fringe 2013Every city has its own “main attraction.”  New York has the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty.  San Francisco has the Golden Gate Bridge.  Tucson, on the other hand, has a myriad of little festivals and celebrations to commemorate all sorts of things.  This year, the hot thing is the Tucson Fringe Festival.  Started in Scotland in 1947, the Fringe Festival migrated to warmer weather and was introduced to desert dwellers by Yassi Jahanmir and Sara Habib, UHS grads of ‘01.  It showcases up-and-coming playwrights and gives lesser known talents a chance to shine on stage.  Yassi and Sara were driven to start the festival because of Tucson’s diverse arts culture, which you can read about here. Since its opening in 2011, it has drawn a bigger crowd each year.  This time around, there are two festival contributors who may be familiar to a UHS student: Ms. Maryann Green (RUHS drama teacher) and Bryan Sanders (UHS alum of ‘00).  Both contributed pieces to be showcased in the 2013 Tucson Fringe Festival.


Bryan Sanders (’00), The Ship is Sinking Normally:

What inspired you to write The Ship is Sinking Normally?
Really, it’s impossible to answer this question.  I really don’t know.  My brain just decided that I should write something about David Foster Wallace, who is a very amazing character.  When you read him, you’ll either do one of two things: you’ll either hate him or fall in love with him, and you may not be able to appreciate him properly for a very long time.  Foster Wallace, for me, is the American writer, and there’s nothing like him.  So I guess this was an attempt to coalesce his writing and maybe prompt people to go read one of his books.

What does David Foster Wallace write about?
Foster Wallace really became famous for his book Infinite Jest, which basically is about fatal entertainment.  The people in the book receive a video cartridge and when they put it into the player, it plays until they die.  They end up watching this for their whole lives and can never stop.  He’s a deep, thought-provoking writer.  Whether or not people know about Foster Wallace, they will end up writing like him eventually.

Bryan Sanders (UHS '00)

Bryan Sanders (UHS ’00)

Does the play focus on aspects from David Foster Wallace’s life, scenes from his works, or a combination of both?
The play draws heavily on Foster Wallace’s own writings, but it has nothing to do with who he actually was because it’s a fantasy.  He actually committed suicide five years ago, which is the whole premise of the play.  It basically asks the question “what do you do after you die?”  It sounds incredibly arrogant and pretentious to ask that question, but it really is what’s being asked here.  He’s one of those people that you just get obsessed with, so it’s hard to stop thinking about him a long time after you finish reading him.  It’s not really a play, but it is whatever it is.  Really, it draws from the idea that Foster Wallace is dead, but he has not died.

Would you say that your play is written in his memory?
Absolutely not.  I think he would be insulted by that.  This is not an attempt to make Foster Wallace into some sort of demigod, or anything other than a human being.  What I’m really trying to do is take my perception of David Foster Wallace and put it into a context that hopefully other people can understand.  The really tough thing about this is that you have to be willing to have failure.  It’s not in any way a tribute, but I am very interested in getting other people to see why Foster Wallace is what he is.

Have you written any other scripts?
No, I’ve never written a script before; this is my first one.  I’m a musician, that’s what I do, and I’ve never done anything quite like this before.

What was best thing about UHS that you experienced when you went there?
I went to UHS and I didn’t graduate college, but I wouldn’t trade that for anything.  The really cool thing about UHS is that you’re around smart people.  Other places aren’t like that, and until you leave, you don’t really understand it.  That’s what you’re there for: you want to be around smart people and good teachers and it doesn’t have anything to do with getting into Harvard.  It’s about exposing yourself to really interesting and intelligent people.  The important thing to remember is no matter what you say about the education system, you just can’t get that experience at Sahuaro or Palo Verde.

How did your years at UHS prepare you for what you wanted to do with the rest of your life?
Nothing prepares you for anything else.  There’s no point in life where you’re going to be ready.  What you do is you try to get into a groove or find a moment where you try to become an interesting person.  There is no preparation for the difficulty of life.  It’s hard: there’s tragedy, disappointment, inability to carry out the things you thought you would be able to do when you were in high school.  Nothing can get you ready for when your heart is broken or when someone who is very important to you suddenly dies.  There is nothing, absolutely nothing that’s going to prepare you for that, but you can practice failing.

The one thing you can do is try really hard.  Talent will not save you.  I haven’t really done hard work, but what I do have is persistence.  Not everybody is going to live out their fantasies.  Nothing is ever going to happen the way you think it will, so just go with it.





What is the meaning behind the title Twitterpated?
It’s a love story, an awkward one.  The two characters sort of fumble around one another and it reminded me of when Bambi (yes, Disney Bambi) sees Faline for the first time.  Thumper says he’s Twitterpated.  And then when I showed a friend the first couple scenes, she said their short sort of incomplete thought style of speaking to each other reminded her of tweets.  So then it became a thing.  Until the climactic scene, almost every line of dialogue is less than 140 characters.

What inspired you to write the play?
The first scene came about as part of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind.  I tried to write a scene using only one word lines.  The cast and I really loved the way the scene turned out and it was an audience favorite. So when I heard that the Tucson Fringe Festival was taking submissions for plays, I decided to expand the one scene to a whole short play.  In fact, two Advanced Drama students really encouraged me to work on it – Katie Burke and Trevor Bigelow.  They’re my aides for 3rd period, so I’d have them read various drafts of the script as I was working on it.

How has your teaching experience at RUHS influenced your script ideas?
Well, it’s kind of funny.  Being around people who are younger than I am all day I think definitely influences my writing style.  My friends my age can’t really connect to this script but the high school and college students who have read it or seen it really identify with the characters and the situation.

Are you the director of the play?  How does it feel to see your script come to life?
Directing something you write gives you the freedom to make changes as you go.  There was one part that was really hard for the actors to memorize so we looked at how it was written and made some minor changes to it and it became easier to act out.  But the flip side of that is that I have to let the actors make their own decisions on how to say certain lines or interpret certain scenes.  Giving up control is hard for a director sometimes.

Are there any Cast of Thousands alumni in the cast, and what’s it like working with them outside of the classroom?
The cast is all CoT alumni which is really fun. I love giving them an opportunity to keep theatre in their lives.  And it’s nice working with actors I’ve worked with before – we have a common vocabulary and they already know my “director shorthand” and how I work.

Is this the first one-act you’ve written and/or had showcased?  Do you plan to promote it in other festivals?
I’ve written adaptations of things before, but this is my first original work so I was really fortunate to be able to showcase it as part of this festival.  Once the performance is over, I’m going to make some edits and changes before I send it anywhere else. But yeah, I’d love to see it done elsewhere. I think it’s a really decent piece of theatre.

Do you have any aspirations for future plays/scripts you may write?
I’m working on a full length play, in fits and starts.  I might finish it this summer, or it might take me years.  I have a huge newfound respect for playwrights–it’s really difficult to convey emotion and character’s thoughts and subtext when all you have is dialogue.  You don’t get to narrate and your audience doesn’t get to read what the character is seeing or thinking or feeling.  It all has to come out in the dialogue. I find myself agonizing over every word and punctuation mark.

I hope people come see the show – like I said, it’s a solid piece of theatre.  There’s some “adult language” and some kissing in it, though, so be warned.


Tickets can be purchased at the door on the day of the show (Club Congress – it’s all ages – March 3rd, 3pm) for $7. Or they can be purchased at www.tucsonfringe.org.

Read about more UHS alumni here. If you know of other alumni that are doing interesting things, send an email to uhsperspective@gmail.com and put “Alumni” in the subject line.

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