Q&A with Eduardo Machado by Dan Berkowitz

As we drift into summer, I think it’s time for another Q&A, and this time I got to talk with…

Eduardo Machado was born in Cuba, came to the U.S. when he was nine, and grew up in Los Angeles. He’s the author of more than 40 plays – including Mariquitas, Havana is Waiting, Crocodile Eyes, Kissing Fidel, and In the Eye of the Hurricane – which have been produced at Seattle Repertory Theatre, the Goodman Theatre, Hartford Stage, Actors Theatre of Louisville, Repertoria Español, and the Mark Taper Forum, among many others. In addition to writing, Mr. Machado has directed plays at theatres around the country, has worked in film and television, and teaches: he was head of playwriting at Columbia University for ten years, and has been on the faculty of NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts since 2007. His new play, Lysistrata Unbound, is playing at the Odyssey through August 4.

Eduardo Machado

Dan Berkowitz: In thirty seconds, can you tell us what Lysistrata Unbound is about?

Eduardo Machado: The need for people to stand up for what they believe in. That as a society we need to worship the goddess not just the gods. That if we continue on the path of war we will surely destroy ourselves. But most of all that one person can make a difference in the world if they speak up.

Brenda Strong as Lysistrata. Photo: Enci Box

DB: The Greek author Aristophanes wrote the original Lysistrata 2,400 years ago, as a comedy about a woman’s heroic efforts to end a war by persuading the women of Greece to withhold sex from their partners until there was peace. What prompted you to write this new version of the Lysistrata story?

EM: What prompted me to write it was the actress Olympia Dukakis, who wanted me to write a different version of the play for her. Where we saw all the very complicated issues in Greek society both sexually and politically, how the society went from worshiping the goddess and mother earth to worshiping the God of dominance and war. Also, John Farmanesh-Bocca wanted to show how a mother loses her son in a war and then turns her grief into a meaningful anti war movement.

L-R: Cynthia Yelle, Laura Emanuel, Brenda Strong,
Casey Maione, Sierra Fisk, Jo Bateman, and Briana Price. Photo: Enci Box

DB: How does your play differ from Aristophanes? What are the similarities?

EM: My play is both serious and funny but it’s not a farce. Because of all the things I talked about in the previous question.

L-R: Apollo Dukakis, Dash Pepin, Aaron Hendry. Photo: Enci Box

DB: A moment ago, you mentioned John Farmanesh-Bocca. He’s directing the play, but you and he also came up with the idea of the play together. Tell us how that came about. Did the collaboration continue during your writing of the play?

EM: Olympia was working with John on it and she suggested that I be the writer. It was a total collaboration between the three of us. We talked and I rewrote constantly during the writing of the play, taking into consideration both of their ideas.

L-R: Laura Covelli, Briana Price, Sierra Fisk,
Brenda Strong, Cynthia Yelle, Jo Bateman, and Sydney A. Mason. Photo: Enci Box

DB: As a playwright, how do you participate in the rehearsal process? Do you attend all rehearsals? Have regular conferences with the director? How much rewriting do you do during rehearsals?

EM: I usually go to rehearsals for the first week, then leave for a week and then go back to rehearsals. But this time I decided to let John have total freedom. I did not see the play until the last rehearsal. John and I talked once in a while. I did two tiny rewrites. That, of course, is because we had done a workshop at the Getty where I was there every day and rewrote every night.

L-R: Steven Jasso, Dash Pepin, Aaron Hendry,
Jones (Welsh) Talmadge, Casey Maione. Photo: Enci Box

DB: You’re also a noted director, of your own work as well as other authors’. What’s it like to watch someone else direct a play you’ve written?

EM: A great adventure, theatre is not just about the writer’s vision, it’s about everyone’s vision. Actors, designers, producers, and of course directors.

L-R: Sierra Fisk, Brenda Strong, Casey Maione,
Jo Bateman, Aaron Hendry. Photo: Enci Box

DB: Do you ever get the urge to jump up and shout “Wait a minute…!”

EM: I used to when I was young, and at times I did yell wait a minute or “What the fuck are you doing to my play!” I’ve learned that you must only talk in privately to the director. So that means you have to trust the director before you give them control of your play.

DB: What’s a fun thing about you that no one else knows? (And we guarantee not to tell…)

EM: I watch The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and New York.

Lysistrata Unbound
Written by Eduardo Machado
Directed by John Farmanesh-Bocca

Through August 4

Odyssey Theatre
2055 S. Sepulveda Boulevard
Los Angeles, CA 90025
Tickets: 310-477-2055 or www.OdysseyTheatre.com


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