Interview with Gary Duggan by Frank L
For more information on Run Don’t Run, please click here.
Your first play was set in New York. Why, in this new play, did you use the death of John F. Kennedy junior in Gene’s opening monologue?
I was twenty when I was first in New York in the summer of 1999. There were a couple of key things- memorable milestones- which happened during that summer. John F. Kennedy junior disappeared just after I arrived and that was all over the news- he was missing and there was no sign of the plane initially and that that was the big news story of that month. And the other big one was the hurricane at the end of the summer, hurricane Floyd. I had no experience of being in one of those kind of panics in a big city. It did not turn out to be very extreme. They were calling it a hurricane but by the time actually it had reached New York it had dwindled down quite a bit. Business and trains had stopped but in retrospect it was not as massive as the panic always is in the media.
So when I decided to write this play, I had already written maybe two shorter plays that were set contemporaneously in New York at the time I was writing them. But then I decided to write in this play, a full length play, what I had the most knowledge of was that year, 1999, when I was first in New York. I had that very personal experience of being there. That was a time of big change in my life. So I wanted to use that period, you know the music and the scene, because I think New York has changed considerably since 1999, what is it 16 years ago now.
There is a big distinction of being pre 9/11which was obviously quite different. That obviously changed the city immeasurably. But then also in the nineties there had been massive changes when Mayor Giuliani was in charge of the city and he had cleaned it up considerably. And so the city with which I would have been familiar with from films- sort of seventies and eighties films when the city was a very dark, gritty, dangerous place was really disappearing.
Well talking about that disappearing city does the title of the play come from the traffic lights which used to state “Walk. Do not walk.”?
Exactly. The traffic lights no longer have that. It is now little pictures.
And the mobile phone was far less ubiquitous then than it is now?
Definitely pre the ubiquitous time. So you could disappear off the radar for an evening or a day or a couple of weeks.
And you have set it in an expatriate community which is the essence of New York?
Yes the idea that you can track someone down, when Owen arrives, that he can go to the last place where he saw someone and pick up the pieces. Nowadays you would not have that situation, people have the internet. It is a lot easier to find people. There are a lot of reasons for setting it in that time it gives us different opportunities dramatically. I have worked on the play for almost five years. It has been quite a long process and I workshopped it quite a bit in New York with different actors and directors and I have workshopped it here a good bit previously prior to this production. So it has gone through a lot of development and part of that would have been researching the period so to go beyond the specific experiences which I had to include other things, which were key at that time.
In fact it is now quite a distinct period. There have been massive changes in technology like for instance the internet was not so widely used in ’99. Also when I workshopped it with Americans they said that was probably one of the last times you could believably get an illegal gun as easily as Gene does. There were earlier drafts of the play which explain how Gene came across the gun but we have taken that out.
The key thing for me was that New York was changing in the nineties even before September the eleventh, the last couple of years in the nineties was a very interesting time. As a twenty old going there for the first time I was just glimpsing the tail end of the club scene about which they talk. There were certain types of clubs and bars which would not exist after 9/11. So much of the things of the city that I liked have very much gone, things have moved out into Brooklyn and into Queens.
Getting back to the play itself, the combination of the three characters?
The three characters are outsiders and from each other as well. Gene is a native New Yorker but he is very much classifying himself as an Irish-American and he obviously has a big chip on his shoulder about various things which have happened to him. He is obviously on the run from his debtors- his gambling debts. Perdita as she reveals in her monologue is on the run from her home country. Eoin the young guy from Ireland is literally very much on the run from a crime in Ireland. They are all in a way hiding out from something or escaping something but they form a family with each other. They are all very much adrift and they have to rely on each other but they cannot necessarily rely on each other. It gives it a film noir feel to it, of which I am a big fan. It gives it a bleak dark humour which I set up in Gene’s monologue in which he says there is nobody here for me.
Tour Dates and other information are below.
February – March tour dates –
Riverbank Arts Centre, Newbridge
Wednesday 25th of February
Bookings: Riverbank Arts Centre
The Civic Tallaght
26th – 28th of February
Bookings: The Civic
Hawk’s Well, Sligo
Wednesday 4th of March
Bookings: Hawk’s Well
Linenhall Arts Centre
Thursday 5th of March
The Watergate Theatre, Kilkenny
Saturday 7th of March
Bookings: Riverbank Arts Centre
Project Arts Centre, Temple Bar
Monday 9th – 14th of March (25% off all tickets if you book before Feb 27)
Bookings: Project Arts Centre
Cast and Crew –
Playwright: Gary Duggan
Director: Aoife Spillane-Hinks
Cast: Seán Doyle, Aonghus Óg McAnally, Leah Minto
Producer: Tom Dowling
Lighting Designer: Sarah-Jane Shiels
Costume Designer: Barbara McCarthy
Sound Designer: Denis Clohessy
Graphic Design: Ste Murray