An Interview with Colin Thiel

HR: What are you working on for IRL?

CT: We're working on a short film based on the "Casual Encounters" Craigslist category, and boy is that a wild little slice of human sexuality!  It took a while to figure out a way to develop a story from that prompt which wouldn't just be super raw or at least a little bit depressing, so eventually we went back to some familiar territory—a webseries called Real Adult Feelings which we produced for three "seasons" but haven't really touched for a couple of years.  Re-booting Real Adult Feelings for this project afforded us an opportunity to approach the prompt through a creative outlet with which we all still felt very comfortable despite having produced the last episode such a long time ago, and ultimately Jason and I were able to cook up a story in that world which we really liked.  It didn't take very long, either.

HR: Have you been having success finding material on Craigslist? Any particularly notable posts or surprises you've stumbled across?

CT: Finding usable material on the Casual Encounters pages was a bit of a challenge, honestly.  At least for me, it was.  I found plenty of, um... interesting(?) posts without looking very hard at all, but most of that stuff was kind of gnarly and not the sort of thing I had any interest in developing into a film.  Let's just say that the M4W page (and most variations thereof) is pretty difficult to imagine until you see it with your own eyes.  And Craigslist's super spare, stripped-down, almost sterile interface only amplifies that feeling.  But Jason managed to find a post pretty early on that we were able to use as a jumping-off point for our story.  We still found a place in the short for some of the choicest post titles, though, so that's something everyone can look forward to.

HR: Do you personally use Craigslist?

CT: I just found an apartment on Craigslist.  I know that's kind of a rookie move, but it's actually worked out pretty well so far.  I think the trick to using Craigslist is just to be super diligent, wary of all claims, and always expect the worst in order to avoid disappointment/buyer's remorse.  So kind of like life in general, I guess.  Really, though, I think Craigslist is dope.  It's weird and sketchy and you never know for sure what you might be getting or getting yourself into until you're there, but it's still ad-free and it works.  Kind of amazing that anything like that still exists on the internet.  It's absolutely useless for finding work, though.

HR: Is there an internet trend that you couldn’t live without? Are there any trends that you refuse to take part in?

CT: While I sincerely believe that a lot of the stuff on the internet has legitimate value, I don't think there's anything I couldn't live without.  Email, maybe?  I don't know.  I mean, even the good, valuable stuff is mostly filled with dumb or just plain bad content.  I still haven't joined Twitter or Instagram or any major social network outside of Facebook--and I think about killing my Facebook at least once a week.  But hey, I'm an old-fashioned grump who essentially refused to text until it was all but inescapable, so I'm probably the wrong person to ask about the internet.  I'll cop to this, though: Despite my claim that there's nothing on the internet that I couldn't live without, I spend an admittedly absurd amount of my free time online.  It seems like everyone does anymore.  I don't say that to excuse my own habit, I'm just saying... It's an epidemic.

 

An Interview with Alan Marrero

HR: So Alan, what are you working for IRL: Craigslist?

AM: Well I found a collection of grout samples for free from an interior design company that just had a bunch of samples on hand and they were trying to give away as much as they could and so I was able to get a couple different brands of samples and so I took them out of their packaging and arranged them into a visually pleasing pattern.

HR: So you are working with the “Free” section of Craigslist, what was it like hunting around on there for material?

AM: It was interesting. You really get a peek into people’s lives, a lot of transitions of people’s lives, a lot of transitions of sofas. You see a lot of collections of stuff where people are either leaving in a hurry or they’re getting forcibly moved from somewhere or people have already gone from somewhere and left a bunch of stuff behind because people will post “come to this yard starting at 9AM today, all of this stuff will be here until I take this post down” and I actually drove by two of those and they were pretty heavily picked over pretty quickly. There are a lot of stories you can make up for those scenarios.

HR: What the weirdest thing you found in the “Free” section?

AM: I did see two pets which was kind of sad. I don’t know if that’s the weirdest but it’s something worth mentioning.

HR: That’s so sad… what kind of pets were they?

AM: I think it was a cat and a dog.

HR: Sad. So do you use Craigslist a lot?

AM: Yeah, I have used it quite a bit. I used to use it a lot for free rides and paid rides, so doing a lot of online hitchhiking, now we call it rideshare. I’d find rides around the country to get to and from certain places. And a lot of roommate situations. We found a house that I lived in for four years here in Seattle when I first moved here on Craigslist and that was cool because my friends and I wanted to get this place, and they just posted when their Open House was and we showed up the day before to knock on the door and check it out and then we liked it so we showed up an hour early to when the Open House thing was with our application in hand and we were glad we did because so many other people found it through Craigslist, and just because we were there ahead of it, we ended up getting it. I lived there for four years but at least one of my roommates who I lived with is still there. They’ve cycled through about twenty five roommates through Craigslist and friends of friends.

HR: That’s a lot of people.

AM: Yeah.. Oh, I thought of something I found for free on Craigslist.

HR: Okay..

AM: It was a rug from that house where I used to live. I saw it draped over the porch! And I said hey, I know that rug.

HR: Was it a good rug? I need a rug.

AM: Well, no it was on the “Free” section of Craigslist.

HR: Can you talk a little bit about the pro’s and con’s of accessibility via Craigslist or the internet?

AM: I mean I don’t know what a con is for voluntarily being able to find anything that you want. I guess it creates bad situations for people but not anything that isn’t already in the world. I like what they are doing as far as the people who created the website how they’ve stuck to this very bare bones visual experience that hasn’t changed at all, they’re not constantly trying to update things... I like that I’m not trying to learn a new way to navigate it and I think the way people have used it over the past ten, twelve, fifteen years is the same way. It’s one of the more reliable things because you know what you are doing to get. Or you know that you’re not going to get certain things on it but at least you know what it is.

HR: Are there any other artistics projects you are working on?

AM: Well I did find this free organ on Craigslist and wanted to use something from it for this project but it was a little too inspiring for me, in that I was like “Oh, if I can just use all the keys and have them complete little electrical circuits, it can make all these sounds” but I had no computer or circuitry experience so I spent a lot of time learning it and testing it out but not quite enough to complete a project but I will continue to work on that and play with it. So I’ve been learning a lot of programming and computer stuff so I can make more interactive pieces. So the organ was cool but maybe too much of a distraction for this. And the organ that I found, I got it from a guy from a Ballard and he was like, “Yeah I’m moving to Maine and I got it from a guy I’m in a band with” and I was like, okay whatever and then a week later I was going to go see my friend’s how and he was like “Yeah, it’s for our keyboardist who’s moving to Maine” and I look up and it’s that guy. And my friend was the singer of the band so afterward I went up and talked to them about it and it turns out he had gotten the organ from my friend originally who found it on the side of the road. So my friend was the one who originally got the organ from someone who was dragging it out, an old guy, who was dragging it out of his house. So he got it, had for a couple years, and then gave it to his friend, who then put it on Craigslist, and then I got it back.

Alan Marrero is a designer and visual artist based in Seattle. He is the Production Lead for the design firm Graypants.


 

An Interview with Andrew Creech

HR: What are you working on for IRL: Craigslist?

AC: I am writing a short 10-12 minute play about housing for IRL: Craigslist. With rent and homelessness skyrocketing, many of us have had to deal with some sort of housing fiasco nowadays . My piece looks to explore the race to get the perfect place. How can it bring out the ugliest side of people? Especially when you throw factors of race, class, and privilege into the mix, how does that competition manifest itself? What happens when that need to satisfy a level on Maslow's Hierarchy awakens something deep within us that perhaps, we never realized laid dormant the entire time?

HR: Have you been having success finding material on Craigslist? Any particularly notable posts or surprises you've stumbled across?

AC: Yes, with an entity such as Craigslist that updates hourly, there's a never-ending supply of material and entertainment. One of my favorite's being a cheap room for rent. The description in the post was pretty scarce, with mainly location and a contact by the name of "Moe.' The picture that was attached to the post was a sad, bare, dreary-looking room with a broken mirror leaning against the wall. I feel like there might have been a random extension cord running on the floor as well. I thought to myself, "Well, Moe certainly is quite the salesperson, aren't they?" It was also great because it looked like a place that Moe the bartender from The Simpsons would live in. It gave me a good chuckle.

HR: Have you personally ever used Craigslist before?

AC: I've definitely apartment hunted before on Craigslist. I also bought my bed from someone on CL. I haven't hopped on many deals, but I'm constantly looking--that's part of the hunt.

HR: Is there an internet trend that you couldn’t live without? Are there any trends that you refuse to take part in?

AC: I mean, sites like YouTube and Vimeo have become the premiere places for independent artists, musicians, and filmmakers to get their art out to the world. They've also opened up backdoors for producing content that goes against the Hollywood mold of star-powered reboots and sequels. On top of all that, it provides fantastic entertainment and has a gigantic wealth of information. Having said all that...memes. I will NEVER tire of memes. NEVER. The trends I don't get down on though? The Instagrams and your Snapchats. Not for me.

An Interview with Kelleen Conway Blanchard

Next up, we have Kelleen Conway Blanchard! Kelleen is a playwright whose work has been produced at theaters all over Seattle including Annex Theatre, Pony World, Seattle Playwright’s Collective, and the 14/48 Festival. We picked her brain about her experience writing a play based on Craigslist.

NM: What are you working on for IRL: Craigslist?

KCB: I am writing for the Buy/Sell part of craigslist. A section that is filled with heartache, swindles and a lot of free fill dirt. I wrote a play about a ring. A potent item- filled with meaning. This charged transaction leads to greater understanding between two very different women and also some helpful household hints!

NM: Have you been having success finding material on Craigslist?

KCB: Craigslist is a tunnel of need and greed. You can find anything. But, it's mostly broken and over priced. Also, IKEA is not vintage.

NM: Have you personally ever used Craigslist before?

KCB: I don't much do the Craigslist because I don't have endless time to swan around the suburbs overpaying for futons. That said, sometimes there is a treasure. And that's how they get you.

NM: Is there an Internet trend that you couldn’t live without? Are there any trends that you refuse to take part in?

KCB: I enjoy the Internet. I like controlling my interactions with other people while still being the extremely nosy busybody that I am. It's efficient. I use FB and Tumblr and Instagram and whatnot. I don't really dig Twitter. It's not my bag. I try but… why again?

 

An Interview with Amy Escobar

HR: So Amy! What are you working on for IRL: Craigslist?

AE: I am writing a play and my category is Rants and Raves, which I had never been to previously so I have now spent plenty of time on Craigslist.

HR: Have you been finding some good material on Rants and Raves?

AE: Well, I hate it there. I hate it there. I’d never had any reason to go there before so I’d never seen it and what is it, is just like, if there was a comments section for everything and nothing. So what it actually is, is entirely rants and it’s the most hateful, bigoted, racist, sexist, homophobic, just all of the worst parts of humanity just thrown into one.. And mostly what is right now is Clinton, Clinton, Clinton, Trump, Trump, Trump, and why everyone who likes either of those candidates is stupid, or why those candidates are monsters, any number of things. And that, mixed with all kinds of other hate. So I had a really hard time…I thought, my instinct is not to do a political piece, I mean there is going to be politics there, but I wasn’t drawn to what seemed like the same post over and over again about Clinton and Trump. There was so much other hate to choose from! So I gravitated, if you will, more towards the female hate. All the opinions that people, because I don’t know if they are men or women, about how women should present themselves, the way that women are disgusting for various reasons. And then there were a few that stuck out because they seemed really genuine in a way that sad in a different way. In a way that was people reaching for help in a desolate place where nobody is here to help anybody really. But small cries for help that really stuck out amongst all the “Fuck this!” “Fuck that!” “You’re fat and disgusting!” and lot of weird things too that I didn’t know people had issues with, a lot of women with tattoos, especially if they were overweight.

HR: Like shaming them?

AE: Yeah, shaming them. And then how, it was so weird to me, because I’m thinking is it just women? So you don’t like tatoos but you don’t like them on women specifically is offensive to you.. So all kinds of hate that I didn’t even know about. If you ever need to remember how hateful people are just go to the Rants and Raves section of the internet!

HR: Good to know.

AE: Yeah… I found about two raves I think. And usually it seemed like people who were either drunk or on drugs. There was one that was like “IIIII fucking love cupcakes! My friend gave me a cupcake and it’s sooo good!” so I thought maybe I could do a play about that but I didn’t choose just one and write about it. I sort of sifted through… I really struggled with how to approach it because it’s not the place I would go to for inspiration normally, which is kind of why I wanted to do it too. I am going to have to write about something that I wouldn’t have gone to to inspire me. I picked a couple that stuck with me and went from there... but it was a weird process.

HR: I bet. So it sounds like you’ve used Craigslist before - what do you usually use it for?

AE: All kinds of things! I’ve gotten a lot of jobs, the job I have right now, I found on Craigslist. I have gotten furniture, apartments, done some dealings in the seedier parts of Craigslist… that maybe I shouldn’t mention because maybe my mom will read this. But all over! I’ve gotten free haircuts from Craigslist, I’ve done all kind of things off Craigslist.

HR: Any good stories worth sharing?

AE: Oh boy…

HR: Or anything bizarre where you thought, how did I get here?

AE: Oh sure, but I knew how I got there. If you go to the Casual Encounters part of Craigslist, you’re not looking for, you know, bubblegum. So that was not a great experience, but I put myself in it so I assume when you go into the more devious sections of Craigslist, I should hope people know what they are in for. They are casual encounters. I’ve never been to like, the Opinions page of Craigslist, mostly because I don’t want to read a bunch of people’s opinions. That’s the thing, who are these people? Why are they here? Do they not have friends to talk to? They are so angry. They are so angry. There must be no one around them saying, you seem like you’ve got a lot on your mind, let’s talk about it.

HR: So you’ve gotten furniture, jobs, anything else?

AE: I’ve made money in weird ways. I once made a little over a thousand dollars hanging out with a guy. I just hung out with him and we’d go places.

HR: What did you talk about?

AE: I remember he was into gaming, but maybe I’m just making that up because we were at an arcade place one time. I just remember that he lived in one of those economy apartments that is very small and has a sort of a hotel-like set up and he had a high paying job and he just didn’t spend very much money so he was paying for a girl to hang out with him. But that got weird because it was very clear that he wanted it to evolve and I basically just ran away. I thought okay this sounded like a good bad idea but now it’s just a bad idea. It never got scary but that was an interesting way I made money one time. I hung out with that guy probably three or four times. Looking back on it, it does really stupid of me because anything could have happened when I was at his place or in his car but you live and you learn. Desperate times.

HR: Is there an internet trend that you couldn’t live without?

AE: I could live without any of them but I’d say I’m most dependent on Facebook at this time and by dependent I meant that that’s how I find out that anything is happening.

HR: Is there a trend that you refuse to take part in?

AE: There are some short ism’s that I don’t love, I’ll never write “lol”. I would just rather write “haha!”... I don’t know if that’s better. I use a lot of thumbs up emoji.

Amy is a writer and performer using the topic Rants and Raves from Craigslist. Catch her first full length play produced by Annex Theatre, Scary Mary and the Nightmares Nine, this winter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Ellen Adams

HR: So Ellen, what are you working on for IRL: Craigslist?

EA: I am working on some new music, I am writing a song about the Jobs section of Craigslist.

HR: How’s that going?

EA: It’s really fun, in part because I am not looking for a job right now, so I can just enjoy the content rather than have a very specific aim when I am perusing it.

HR: You’re a musician. Do you sing? Play guitar?

EA: Yeah I play guitar and piano and the composition I am working on for this show is on guitar and voice. In a different project, I make electronic based music with some twangy vocals over it, so that’s one side of my life and then I write fiction and essays.

HR: Having drawn your inspiration for this piece from Craigslist, do you have a lot of experience with Craigslist? Do you use it a lot?

AE: Yes, every time I open up the Jobs section of Craigslist, I remember so vividly about two years ago I was so desperately trying to find work after returning to the States unexpectedly and then also remembering looking for housing in Seattle when I was over in eastern Washington greyhounding over midday which is always a hoot, and then back at night which is less of a hoot. I’ve depended on Craigslist for housing, jobs, I sometimes look at it for furniture but I don’t have a car so a lot of the cooler stuff requires a car, so I try to not window shop. And there is so much junk on there. It’s so fascinating how people present themselves or present their company, with jobs for example, sometimes they put the wage really front and center, or the other day there was one that said “Awesome boss!” and I thought that better be true! Especially if the boss is the one writing this. I’ve also, more in the conceptual art form I guess, snooped a lot in Craigslist, there is so much dirt and weird stuff out there, I guess it’s one of the joys of the internet and also it’s challenges, like in the era of last night’s debate, that you are exposed to so many facets of life. I’m sure Reddit was the same way.

HR: Yeah, well with Craigslist, you can look at an individual post, but with Reddit, you could go down rabbit hole after rabbit hole, just one after the other. Do you have any crazy stories or weird experiences with Craigslist?

AE: That’s a good question… once when I was living in New York, and this isn’t that crazy but it definitely comes to mind, one time I posted my bed and my mattress for two hundred dollars which is a steal, but no one emailed me and no one emailed me and I thought what the hell is wrong with everyone? Why don’t they want my bed and mattress? And then I found out that it’s illegal to sell mattresses on Craigslist! They actually censor it because of bed bugs.

HR: So when I think of Craigslist, I think of the vast information that is accessible to us, all that is available at our fingertips. Can you talk a little bit about pro’s and con’s?

AE: I think that I wish that we thought about the internet more than we do especially now that our lives are dependent on it and now that it’s woven into our lives, particularly with social media. I don’t know necessarily, aside from comfort or validation, what is necessarily good about people having access to your personal life, especially when the don’t know you, or when you don’t know them. I’m a bit wary of that. And then also, to give an example, I had an acquaintance come through Seattle and was really obsessed with putting everything we’d done on Facebook, to the point where I didn’t feel like we were walking down the street anymore, I felt like we were working on propaganda, the propaganda of “I’m in Seattle and I’m having a great time” project… But on the other hand, I’m queer, and I know and have heard from so many youth or former youth who grew up in rural areas that the internet saved them by knowing that they weren’t alone or that there were other people who were queer and religious or even knowing that mental health resources are out there for LGBTQ folk or scholarships like that. The internet is a mixed bag! It involves humans!

 

 

 

 

An Interview with Jay Silver

HR: So Jay—what are you working on for IRL: Craigslist?

JS: I am working on a song. My topic was "Gigs" which was cool because I just went through a year of many interesting gigs. I did a lot of performances this year here in Seattle as well as going on my first national tour, just came off of that this past Labor Day weekend in Miami, which was a good time. Gigs can apply to a lot of different things in my genre specifically in music, which when you get a gig, it could be a job, it could be a short stint… it can means many things.

HR: What kind of music do you produce?

JS: I produce a wide range of music. Everyone would want to categorize me as “rap” however, I like to consider myself an artist. I do like to sing as well, I like R&B, I can go country, I have done rock. I just want to put out sonic art. I can’t draw! So just sonic art.

HR: Do you have personal experiences with Craigslist?

JS: Yeah! I purchased a car off there a couple years ago.

HR: How’d that go?

JS: Uh.. it died in a couple months. The heater overheats so the radiator was messed up which was a quick fix but other things too like the transmission and the engine light was popping up and I just thought, you know, I’m going to sell this and I got my money quickly back. Some furniture, other small things, Craigslist, you know, helps out. Would never recommend getting any wooden home pieces of furniture… You should get those new. Don’t use Craigslist for that.

HR: So any crazy stories from Craigslist?

JS: I’ve never tried to meet anyone off Craigslist so my experiences are pretty limited to furniture mostly.

HR: When I think of Craigslist, I think of the laundry list of things that are suddenly accessible to us. Can you talk a little about what you think the pros and cons are of accessibility?

JS: The pros are that everything is at our fingertips. We as humans in advancement through time, we just want everything now now now, we’re greedy, to be honest. And so it’s made it easier. Accessibility - that’s the key word. Everything is just right there. As long as you have the funds, you order it quickly or you can bargain with the person. But then also it’s dangerous because… I want to relate it to, I guess you can meet people or you can get jobs off of it, however, you have to wary about it because the internet does allow for things to be misleading, because you don’t know who is behind that screen. I guess in terms of meeting people, you should always be cautious, you bring a group of friends or backup, I don’t know. It’s a dangerous world out there so it provides a smoke screen for those who are trying to use it maliciously. Other than that, the internet is great, Craigslist in particular. Amazon too.

HR: Is there an internet fad that you participate in?

JS: Twitter is one of my favorite ones. Twitter is more about free thought and then just more relaxed than Facebook. Facebook I guess you can put your opinion on too, and Instagram, but Twitter I feel like, people care less so I like it. I don’t really get on the internet too much which is interesting working in this field. I have to be on the internet daily to promote and push my online stuff, as I’m on iTunes, Spotify, everything.


Jay Silver is one of two musicians creating an original song for IRL: Craigslist using the topic "Gigs" from Craigslist.  

An Interview with Elizabeth Schiffler

It’s that time again! Let’s meet some more of our fabulous IRL: Craigslist artists. First up, Elizabeth Schiffler! Elizabeth is a graduate from the University of Washington, director of both theatre and film.

HR: So Elizabeth, for IRL: Craigslist, what are you working on?
ES: I am working on a short film inspired by the Craigslist Strictly Platonic postings. I spent probably like a week sitting with Craigslist Strictly Platonic, looking about twice a day, and I would read every post in the Seattle area. And then, I quickly was getting into a really dark hole with that so I had to find a couple things that felt like an inkling and then I told myself I had to stop going on Craigslist.

HR: Do you have any crazy personal stories from Craigslist?
ES: No.. I’ve totally just been like a voyeur on it. I just go and I look and I dream and that’s it. Very guarded. But that’s the point of it, it’s just very safe… it’s like a Tinder without pictures, you get to do it all without any vulnerability.

HR: So is it that you feel like it’s an anonymous place to dig around?
ES: It’s like this safe place full of ideas. You know, cause they’re all individual postings from real people. It’s this sense of maybe this is an actual thing that could happen but you don’t actually have to engage with it, you can just stand over it and say maybe that is my dream home or maybe that is my dream best friend.

HR: So what’s the saddest thing you found looking through Strictly Platonic?
ES: Oh god.. Honestly the whole thing. It was so sad. Because unsurprisingly, Strictly Platonic on Craigslist is not strictly platonic. No part of it is strictly platonic… there’s this weird kind of meta layer of Seattle-passive-relationship behavior where, you’re like, why are you a swinger on Strictly Platonic? There’s another Craigslist list for literally that. There’s a swinger’s forum, go to that one! Like don’t try and kid us.

HR: Is there an internet fad that you refuse to take part in:
ES: No.. I’ll try anything once! I think all of these things are tools of expressing ourselves and ways of connecting with other people and other ideas and is valuable, especially if you can develop a healthy practice around it. There’s nothing that really bothers me.

HR: Cool. Well do you want to tell us about projects you are working on?
ES: Sure, I just had my first short film (Becoming Mermaid) show at Northwest Film Forum’s Local Sightings film festival. And that was a really exciting opportunity to practice visual storytelling and transition into a more digital practice and figuring out when we are using our screens and have this frame of ourselves, how does that translate to stories that aren’t our social media stories.

Elizabeth Schiffler is one of two IRL:Craigslist filmmakers creating an original short film for this event using the topic “Strictly Platonic” from Craigslist. 

 

Photo credit: Julia Canfield

 

An Interview with Benjamin Benne

Benne, photo 11-17-14.jpg

And now we catch up with our next IRL: Craigslist artist, playwright Benjamin Benne!

HR: Ben, for IRL: Craigslist, what are you working on?
BB: So my guilty confession is that I have never actually used Craigslist! I’ve perused but I’ve never purchased anything, I’ve never engaged with anyone on Craigslist before so this was kind of interesting, and of course the topic that I got was Politics which is the hardest topic I think I could have gotten. 
As an artist, I think I tend to not approach work from that standpoint initially. I mean, everything is always political so that is always going to be a part of it but I never start from the political. 
And of course, when I first started looking at what people were posting for Politics on Craigslist, it was all Hillary, Hillary, Hillary, Trump, Trump, Hillary, Trump and I just thought oh god, what am I going to write about? But I’ve been checking it every now and again just to see what pops up. The other thing I’ve noticed is that people love to post about conspiracy theories on Craigslist, so there’s been a few interesting things that have caught my eye. 
I haven’t started writing the piece yet but I’ve been coming across articles about these other worldly sounds that are occurring all across the world, and it’s this conspiracy theory that it’s like the heralds of the apocalypse and there are these sounds that are often described as a garbage or dump truck but it’s coming from the sky and there are no vehicles around when this is happening.
HR: And this is under the political section?
BB: Yeah! So I just thought that was kind of hilarious and it caught my attention and I definitely watched some of the videos just to see what people captured. So that’s got my eye at the moment. I have no idea how that’s going to turn into a play but right now, that’s what I am digging into. 
HR: So conspiracy theories, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton are basically your three topics to choose from…
BB: Yeah, basically. And I already wrote a Donald Trump play so I have no interest in continuing to explore my feelings in that area. Plus I think when I am writing something like this, I need it to be something really specific and the last thing I want to write is very generic presidential election-oriented piece, I think that is a little passé at this point.
HR: Given the technological world that we find ourselves in, I think about how we can get anything from a couch to sex off Craigslist because it’s so accessible. What do you think are some pro’s and con’s?
BB: For the most part, I’ve heard really good stories about people who connect via Craigslist, on multiple levels, whatever it is that they are searching for, it sounds like they make really nice connections. But then you know there are the downsides, I had a friend who posted recently that someone was going to come get a piece of furniture from her and never showed up. So I think on one hand, the amazing thing about technology is that people who can use it responsibly can make really wonderful connections and it can be incredibly beneficial. But on the flip side, because things are so accessible, it’s kind of like getting a free ticket, in the sense that oh you know, it’s free so it’s not the end of the world if I don’t go. So I think it does promote a sense of sloth, laziness, things aren’t as valuable because we can get them so easily in so many ways, whether it be a piece of furniture or sex or whatever. Those things almost become so accessible via technology that we just don’t value it in the same way. 
HR: Is there an internet fad that you refuse to take part in? Or that you are morally opposed to?
BB: I feel like I am always behind the curve on every technology front, I am always really suspicious. So I am not on Snapchat, I am not on Twitter. I just got on Instagram! I do like it as a document, it’s a visual diary in a sense. So I would say that I pretty much object to every form of social media and technology. 
HR: Is there one that you can’t live without?
BB: Facebook, for sure. Which is funny, because that was one thing that I was actually ahead of the curve on. I remember you had to have a college email to get an account so I remember that it was still a little exclusive at the time but now everyone has it and it’s a part of everyone’s daily life. I am very rooted in the world of Facebook. 
HR: Can you tell us a little about what you are working on outside of IRL?
BB: Absolutely! So right now, I am on fellowship at the Playwright’s Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota, so I am here doing a one-year residency as a One-Year Fellow and I basically get to work on whatever projects interest me throughout the year. So I am working on five different plays over the course of this next year and then just doing various workshops. One of my plays just got selected for a workshop as part of Playwright’s Week at the Lark so I am being flown out to New York next month to do work for one week with the cast and then we will get to do a really cool showcase of the play in New York City which is amazing, that will be the first time I’ll have a full length play featured at a major institution in New York so that feels pretty wonderful. 

Benjamin Benne is one of four IRL: Craigslist playwrights creating an original piece for this event using the topic “Politics” from Craigslist. 

Escape Artists

Being introduced to how the Horse in Motion company works has been a complete joy. Our work thus far has been heavily based on the Viewpoints, with some improv here and there, and even some yoga. The majority of my personal experience with the Viewpoints however, comes from my time in Vancouver (the American one) before I even came to the University of Washington. The process, therefore, has been an interesting mix of new learning and previous knowledge that I am bringing with me into the rehearsal room.

The whole endeavor so far has felt, from an acting standpoint, very, very good. The tools I was given before coming to Seattle have been invaluable in freeing me up to focus on creating and contributing, rather than trying to get out of my head. And the continued learning from the Horse in Motion company has only strengthened those instincts. If I may share something a little tragic: I never thought before that I could be creative. I used to think that as an actor I was just a tool for playwrights and more “creative” people to tell their stories; that I wasn’t capable of bringing anything new into the world. But over the past several weeks of compositions, I have been inspired to create things that I am truly proud of both for …And Hilarity Ensues…, and my own personal artistic pursuits. It is a wonderful thing to enact the words of a great playwright before an audience, but it is a truly magical thing to discover those words with a group of like­minded artists, and make a story that is new and special.

See, every story has a message, a seed, an argument that it has to present to the world. If you’re watching Fury Road (a personal favorite of mine), then you may see strong themes of hope, of survival and empowerment. If you’re reading Macbeth (also a favorite), themes of ambition, tyranny and sacrifice will emerge. Escapism is the theme that the Horse in Motion company has taken on for their newest play in ­production: …And Hilarity Ensues…. And what a fascinating theme it is!

Escapism may not immediately appear as glamorous as an epic post­ Apocalyptic chase through the Australian outback, and believe me, neither are most of the plays we are dealing with (I’m looking at you Trelawney of the Wells). Just in case you were not aware of the details, we are composing a completely new work using eight of the plays produced by the UW School of Drama in its first season. These plays include Trelawney of the Wells, Star Wagon, The Tavern, Perfect Alibi, Outward Bound, Hay Fever, Right You Are, and The Tempest. But whilst some of these plays may seem antiquated to us now, we are working tirelessly to draw out the most relevant and engaging parts to create an experience that will resonate with people, young and old, right now. This in itself is a splendid challenge, but not as difficult as the things we must constantly stop to ask ourselves in the quest to explore escapism.

The questions being asked right now aren’t new; they are integral to our craft. They are the same things we must face as actors whenever we say to ourselves, “Why am I doing this?” What is the purpose of acting, of the theatre, and of art and culture in general? There are a multiplicity of answers to that question, but escapism is one of them. Art is inherently escapist, but what exactly does that mean? If escapism is a bad thing, is art, by association, also a bad thing?

One thing becomes abundantly clear as we move on through these plays: We are all escape artists. The amount of retreating that we all do on a daily, even hourly basis is appalling Escapism runs the gamut from playing on your phone to alcoholism, from collecting stamps to making love.

I should note for you here my bias, which colors my vocabulary somewhat. Because escapism for me personally has always had a negative connotation, I tend to use such terms as “appalling” to describe escapist behavior. We have set out to study escapism as objectively as possible, with the explicit aim to not portray it either negatively or positively. However, inevitably in rehearsals we do see examples of escapism that we may agree with or disapprove of, and that is all part of the wonderful discussion we are having!

Before embarking on …And Hilarity Ensues…, I thought of escapism as a coping mechanism, irresponsible, even cowardly. But I am working hard to break myself of this notion, because our work is constantly proving to me that escapism is a broad, complex idea. Which brings me back around to art. When you step into the theatre, whether you are seeing Fury Road or Macbeth, you can expect to see real people in extraordinary circumstances. Stories raise us up, inspire us, and sometimes caution us. This is why we still tell stories to one another: Because great art imitates life. Escapism is a truly intricate thing, but possibly a vital component of human civilization. Therefore can something which seemingly removes us from reality actually serve to enrich our lives.

A bold claim, indeed! What possible evidence could I have to support it? Well I could spend another 2000 pages talking about that, but I would like to offer a much more attractive alternative: Come see …And Hilarity Ensues… and experience the answer for yourself.