5 Questions with David Wiltse

The 2nd reading in our FORUM “Soundings” series is STONE by David Wiltse. This reading will be begin at 7:00pm on January 13, 2015 and will be held at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Dreyfuss Theatre, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ. Click here for directions. Click here for a printable map of the campus (the Dreyfuss Theatre is located in Building 9).

Benjamin, an accomplished sculptor, is called to a luxurious apartment by the sister-in-law of a wealthy scion to ostensibly give her lessons in sculpting.  Despite his wary and somewhat cynical worldview, he finds himself caught up in a manage a trois that calls into question his creativity and artistic integrity.

David Wiltse is the winner of a Drama Desk Award for “Most Promising Playwright” for his first produced play, Suggs, which was done at Lincoln Center. His second play was the comedy, Doubles, which ran for the l985-86 season on Broadway. Four other plays, A Grand Romance, A Dance Lesson, Temporary Help, and Crazy Horse And Three Stars have been produced at the Long Wharf Theater in New Haven, Connecticut, and elsewhere. Triangles for Two was first produced at the Westport Country Playhouse in 2000, The Good German was introduced at the Westport Country Playhouse in 2003, A Marriage Minuet was given its premier performance at Florida Stage in 2005 and a farce, Hatchetman, premiered at the same theatre in December 2006.

In January, 2006, David Wiltse was appointed to the position of Playwright-in-Residence at the Westport Country Playhouse, Westport, Connecticut.

As a novelist, Mr. Wiltse has had twelve books published. Into the Fire, was made a main selection by the Literary Guild. His first novel, The Wedding Guest, was picked as one of the 100 Notable Books of the Year by The New York Times. Prayer For The Dead was similarly chosen as a book of the year by Time Out Magazine in London.

Other works by Mr. Wiltse include more than 50 theatrical screenplays, television screenplays and television pilots. A comedy series created by Mr. Wiltse, Ladies Man, ran for a season on CBS-TV.

Mr. Wiltse is the recipient of an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for a television movie, The Revenge of the Stepford Wives.

Other awards include the Nebraska Sower Award for Lifetime Achievement in the Arts and the Westport Arts Achievement Award for Literature. His most recent play, A Marriage Minuet, has been nominated for a Carbonell Award as Best New Work.

Mr. Wiltse has also been awarded three grants from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts for his work for the theater.

1) Where did you get the idea for STONE?
The STONE of the reading has followed a tortuous (and often torturous) path from conception to its current form. In short, a long, long time ago I was briefly entangled with a young woman who kept insisting that I must love her since she loved me. I did not love her and very honestly told her so. She continued to tell me that I did. This play began as a reaction to that brief relationship in the form of a dialogue between the girl and the man she loved who didn’t love her back. It was overwritten and boring and very one-sided.. So I tried casting it as a more conventional play and soon found out that I didn’t have enough material to sustain more than a few minutes. A third character would allow me to open things up and develop some sort of plot; enter the sister. After that I began to seed the story with thoughts and characters and details picked up over the years, as every writer does. A couple of dozen drafts later we have the play to be read tonight–with a few dozen more to come, I have no doubt.

2) One of your characters, Benjamin, is an accomplished sculptor. Do you sculpt? If not, what type of research did you do for this character’s interest?
I do not sculpt but I find sculpture, particularly but not exclusively classical sculpture, to come closer to life than any other visual art form. Certain works have startled me with their beauty and craftsmanship and human grandeur. A modern master is Danielle Anjou whose work and history are fascinating…As for research, I did very little other than look up the Italian names of the tools involved.

3) In addition to being a playwright, you are also a novelist and have written more than 50 theatrical screenplays, television screenplays and television pilots. Does your method for writing change with each genre or do you approach them in a similar fashion?
My method in all genres is to start before I should, to hurl myself into the thing and trust to luck and experience that I’ll emerge with something worthwhile. It’s a stupid way to proceed but I don’t have the patience or the wit to do it properly and think the whole thing through ahead of time. On the other hand, this method allows me to follow my imagination as I go along because I have nothing written in stone, to coin an appropriate phrase.

4) You are the recipient of an Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America for a television movie, The Revenge of the Stepford Wives which is set in Stepford, Connecticut. You have a strong connection to Connecticut as you held the position of Playwright-in-Residence at the Westport Country Playhouse, Westport, Connecticut and have been awarded three grants from the Connecticut Commission on the Arts for your work for in theater. So, go ahead, you can tell us. Does Connecticut really have a crazy Stepford Wives-like community and do they give tours?
Yes, and no tours permitted because of zoning regulations.

5) We saw a picture of your bungee jumping. What other dare devil activities have you done or would you like to do?
I went bungee jumping on a visit to my daughter who was living in New Zealand at the time. During that visit I also jumped out of an airplane–I don’t recommend it for the claustrophobic, not to mention those with acrophobia. After that I did some anti-climactic paragliding. After the experience of free fall from the plane, paragliding was a piece of cake. I can think of very little reason to have done all of this in the first place and no reason whatsoever to do any of it again.