Playwright Ruth Wire is a Member of the Board of the Directors of the Ashland Contemporary Theatre. Wire has written numerous plays and screenplays. Her latest full length play, “A Modern Woman” was produced by Oregon Stage Works. She also leads Haywire Writers’ Workshop in Ashland. We met at the Bellview Grange where she was making preparations for the theater to open the new comedy by David Hill, “Larry’s Best Friend”.
EH: What drives people to do theater?
RW: It’s an enhanced kind of living. What the playwright has done is to distill experience into a two-hour or fifteen minute glob, so that it’s all very pure, and it’s all very dramatic. Whereas you can go for years and nothing happens to you, then something big happens like somebody dies or they’re divorced or whatever. But in a play, it happens in two hours. And what I like about it is, if it’s a good play, it leaves you wringing wet; your heart’s pounding and you’re with those characters. You cannot leave them, It’s impossible. You’ve gone through an experience and you’ve learned something.
EH: What makes a good play?
RW: It’s what makes a play jump out at the audience and say, “I’m including you, or you can identify with this.” If you take a play like “Our Town”, it uses everyday situations with a twist that everybody can identify with. And that gets your Middle American crowd. It doesn’t get the fringes, the people that are going to say, “I’ve seen this before, give me something fresh, give me something new.” Middle America wants to be able to go into that kitchen in “Our Town” and snap peas with that lady; they want to be able to feel with the characters.
Now, if you have something that everybody has felt and take it up a notch, like the jealousy of another person in “Amadeus”, that is a compelling theme. You have to have a compelling theme, even though the audience doesn’t know the mode in which it was written, for instance, “Who knows about the music seventeenth century Austria?”
EH: How does politics relate to theater?
RW: The best political plays or screenplays are stories of people, not when they have a political axe to grind. They have to be the stories of people who have somehow done something, like the man in “Hotel Rwanda”. You’ve got to have conflict in drama. You’ve got to have something happening. Language can kill you sometimes.
EH: What has brought you to be so intimately connected to theater?
RH: I think I’m a frustrated actress. I never had the nerve to even expect that. But when it came to the choice of being a writer later, I was so glad I was a writer because I’m writing sex scenes right now. And I’m seventy-nine years old. I couldn’t belong in a sex scene as an actress. It’s fun. You can be a child; you can be a fish; you can be a dog. You can do anything you want.
It’s like talking to yourself. It’s like journaling almost. A lot of my material is based on autobiographical incidents, but it is fiction because I have taken it and morphed it into something else. If I feel depressed, all I have to do is start writing. It makes my life better.
“Larry’s Best Friend” plays Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., through October 10, at the Belleview Grange, 1050 Tolman Creek Rd. near Siskiyou Blvd. For reservations call (541) 646-2971.
Haywire Writers Workshop meets at 4 p.m. every Saturday at the Unitarian Church. For information e-mail: email@example.com.