Wednesday, July 22, 2015

2015 Interview with Playwright Martin Sherman

Playwright Martin Sherman, most famous for his Pulitzer-nominated play Bent is in town for the Mark Taper Forum's revival of  the classic directed by Moises Kaufman. We sat down at Vespaio at the after party Sunday July 26 and chatted briefly about the play and this production.

A writer friend of mine wants to know what research you did originally on the persecution of gays in Nazi Germany?

I went to a library called the Wiener Library in London. There was hardly anything written about it. I asked the librarian and she showed me a book that had a footnote and another that had a line and another that had three sentences. I pieced it all together from that. There was also a brilliant book written by Bruno Bettelheim called The Informed Heart which was about the psychology of both the prisoners and the guards at Dachau when it was a detention camp, not an extermination camp. That was very helpful about the psychology of everybody.

When you wrote the play and it first appeared on Broadway in 1979 with Richard Gere and David Dukes and David Marshall Grant - which I saw by the way - what did you hope audiences would take away with them? And now, has that changed?

I wanted them to learn what happened to gays in Nazi, Germany. But beyond that I wanted...I'm sure I wanted... a message about love, which I always want in all my plays. It doesn't matter what time.

Well, as I was watching Act II tonight, you certainly achieved that.

This is a wonderful production. Wonderful director and company of actors!

So this production holds up to other past productions?

Oh, yes. This is so special, brilliantly directed and every part is wonderfully acted. It's a very, very special production. I couldn't be happier.

Is Bent your favorite play?

That's like asking a parent to choose a favorite child.

I love A Madhouse in Goa. It suits my craziness. All of the characters are such losers, and again in need of love.

Yeah, I love that play. It ranks right up there with Bent and other plays. Vanessa Redgrave played Mrs. Honey in London.

You should have won the Pulitzer for Bent. It's so powerful.

I don't know if that's true. In those days, nominations were not announced; now they are. Only the winner was announced. Years later when the Internet came into being, it started to say that I was nominated for a Pulitzer. Maybe I was. I honestly don't know. (he laughs) I have no idea where it comes from or whether it's true or not.

Thank you for your time, Martin.

Thank you.

A very humble, gracious human being and brilliant writer! Go see Bent while it plays at the Mark Taper Forum through August 23 only.

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