5 Questions with Rich Orloff
The 7th reading in our FORUM “Soundings” series is CHATTING WITH THE TEA PARTY by Rich Orloff. This reading will be begin at 7:00pm 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).
Who is the Tea Party? In this documentary-style play, a playwright travels around the country interviewing leaders of local Tea Party groups, trying to learn “Who are these people?” The answers showed him there’s more to the Tea Party than most folks know. Based on over 63 hours of interviews, and notes from two dozen Tea Party meetings and events around the country. Nothing the interviewees say in the play is made up.
Rich Orloff is the author of 15 full-length plays, including the documentary-style play Vietnam 101: The War on Campus, which has had 30 productions across the United States. His comedy Funny as a Crutch was a New York Times Critic’s Pick, and his comic revue Romantic Fools has had over 60 productions around the world, including a 20-month run in Madrid. His plays have been presented at such theaters as Detroit Rep, Florida Studio Theatre, New Jersey Rep, Phoenix Theatre Company, West Coast Ensemble and three times at the Key West Theatre Festival. Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey co-produced his comedy BIG BOYS, which has since had a half-dozen acclaimed regional theater productions and which had its European premiere this spring in Hamburg, Germany.
Rich’s short plays have been published in the annual anthologies Best American Short Plays (six times) and Best Ten-Minute Plays (three times), plus An Anthology of Contemporary American Short Plays (published in China). His short plays have received over 1100 productions on six continents (and a staged reading in Antarctica).
Rich began his writing career as a reporter, and his articles and essays have appeared in such newspapers and magazines as Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Herald-Examiner,Cosmopolitan, The Dramatist and Adult Video. www.richorloff.com
1. You did over 63 hours of interviews and attended a plethora of meetings and events around the country for this play. What was the weirdest statement you received during this process?
There were so many that it’d be hard to choose. What struck me most was the array of comments I got, ranging from people who wanted to privatize fire departments to people who had a more nuanced view of the positive role government can have in our society. I also got a lot of surprisingly extreme and occasionally weird comments from my liberal friends along the way, too. All are in the play.
2. We co-produced your comedy BIG BOYS and this past spring it had its European premiere in Hamburg, Germany. Was it performed in English or German? If German, did the jokes translate? BIG BOYS was performed in English. There are a number of English-speaking theaters throughout Europe, especially in Germany. According to the reviews I read in the German newspapers, the comedy worked well. Of course, since I can’t read German, that’s mostly me guessing. “Das Handwerk des Pingpong-Dialogs” sounds good, doesn’t it?
3. You began your writing career as a reporter. Have any of your real life stories inspired your fictional ones? As both a reporter and playwright, I look at people with wonder. Over the years, I’ve had plays inspired by things told to me by people with disabilities, drag queens, swingers, sexually active old people, Vietnam era college students, a friend recovering from breast cancer, and more. I like chatting with people about their lives. They’re constantly trumping my imagination in letting me know what’s possible.
4. On your website there is a link called “Inside Rich’s Head”. We clicked on it and it shows an x-ray of your teeth. They look pretty good to us. Did you have braces as a kid or have your teeth always been straight? My dentist was very amused when I explained why I wanted copies of my dental X-rays. I never had braces, which probably explains why none of my characters have ever had braces either.
Wanna see inside Rich’s head? You can if you click here.
5. If we provided you with all the accoutrements, would you prefer to throw a tea party or a coffee bash and why? Oh, this is an easy question. I’d throw a cocktail party. I’d have pitchers of mojitos and fun things for nibbling. I’d invite both the Tea Party folks I’ve met working on this play and my liberal friends. And I’d say, “Mingle. Get to know each as people. For the sake of the country.” And if for some reason they chose to argue and fight, I’d start taking notes.
♦ Playwrights Theatre will present these readings free of charge, with an optional donation of $10
♦ A $25 dollar donation will get you a FORUM pass that covers all of the readings.
♦ A $250 donation will get you a rehearsal pass that allows access to all reading rehearsals.
♦ Reservations can be made online at or call (973) 514-1787 X10
Click here to reserve your seat to see CHATTING WITH THE TEA PARTY.
You can also find additional information on our website about the entire FORUM reading series.