Interview with Anton Dudley, Writer of Slag Heap by Corine Cohen

When did you realize your passion for theater?

I'm sure it was before I can remember. The first time you pretend to be something or do something and someone takes notice and has an honest reaction - that is your first experience with theatre - the first time you use your imagination to communicate - I sort of hope I did this pre-natally, but I doubt it. I like to think I wore my diaper as wings and threw a puff of baby powder in the air as a cloud and pretended I was an angel - if this wasn't the case, however, I performed my first play when I was five - it was a puppet play about a woman made of toilet paper roles. From then on, I was hooked.

I read that Tony Kushner is a mentor. He is brilliant. What is he like?

He is one of the most genuine, generous, open-hearted, intelligent people I have ever met. You practically see both his heart and his mind glow around him like some fabulous human aura, it's infectious and you can't help feel like a better, brighter person when you meet him. He taught me the most simple, most effective lesson I have ever received -theatre is about relationships - if you write the relationship, everything else (your themes, political ideas, etc.) will naturally be present, because these are things that define a person, but we only really communicate through inter-personal relationships, this is the action of speaking and making human connections. I worked with him only briefly, but he changed the way I write and, I feel, my life in general.

What inspired you to write Slag Heap?

I'm fascinated with how beauty survives in extreme circumstances and examining those things which get us through life: mainly, humor and friendship. Like how a flower grows out from the mud. I also love the accent of Manchester, UK. It's where my family is from. There is a musicality and richness in the language, not only in its words but also in its rhythms. So much of what a character communicates - his pain and his pleasure - comes through his diction and the sound of his voice - it's like music. I also like plays with multiple protagonists - rarely are we the constant protagonist of our own story, sometimes we'll get sucked into someone else's story as a supporting character for a while, and then find our way back into our own - people also come in and out of our lives at certain points - It's fascinating to me how and why this happens, literally the collection of experiences that make up the history of friendship. Laughing and crying are also good - we're at our most human states when we are feeling these emotions - I wanted to put all of that in a play and see what happens - a play should be like an amusement park - an incredible collection of journeys and rides over the course of which you can experience the prism of human emotion.

Whom do you admire most?

My Mum. Also, people who remain true to their hearts, no matter what. People who appreciate and understand their connection to the human web. People who respect and don't judge others. People who think with their heart. And waiters - anyone in the service industry actually, I admire them greatly.

Do you have a favorite show other than yours?

AVENUE Q, Anton Chekhov's THE SEAGULL, Craig Lucas' SMALL TRAGEDY, Caryl Churchill and David Lan's A MOUTHFUL OF BIRDS, Suzan-Lori Parks' VENUS, and Eugene Ionesco's THE CHAIRS.

What do you want to do next?

I have a romantic comedy I just completed called GETTING HOME. It mixes Indian fairy tales with the stories of three young New Yorkers on the path to find true love in the most bizarre places - it's funny, theatrical, and totally different from SLAG HEAP - all of my plays are very different from each other in tone and setting, I'd like to get this one produced next just to show my versatility - I also have a crush on the play's three characters - is that healthy, do you think? To fall in love with someone you've created in your own mind - sure, why not.
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