FOR BETTER... by Eric Coble
Q & A with the Playwright
Do you have or what is your Florida connection?
I've been commissioned by and developed new plays for Florida Repertory in Fort Myers and Eckerd Theatre Company in Clearwater, and have visited the state many times. Another connection is that I found the kernel of an idea for my play Natural Selection about a theme park gone very wrong (which premiered at the Humana Festival) while visiting Orlando with my children. I've never worked in the Miami area, though, and am thrilled to become part of the New Theatre family.
How many plays have you written?
I've now written just over 100 scripts (including screenplays, radio plays, and short stories), and have been fortunate enough to have 70 of them produced or published. I think I consume far too much sugar and caffeine
Did anyone you know inspire the characters?
All the characters in For Better have traits of my friends and relatives, though only one character is modeled directly on an individual. I won't say which character, but it's a personality I've wanted to see on stage for a long time.
What inspired the plotline?
I was struck within my own neighborhood of how few of us were around at any given point, how many of us were on the road somewhere, and how our emotional lives were really coming to depend on our cell phones and emails to keep us connected and sane as we became new hunter/gatherers. And I wanted to write a sweet romantic comedy, to counteract some of the darker comedies I'd been writing lately, and voila - For Better popped into being.
Please tell me about some of the symbolism in the play.
Hopefully the play will work on several levels, literal and symbolic, which I don't want to give away too much before audiences have had a chance to explore it for themselves, but one aspect we've been discussing is the set, and the possibility that only the father, Wally, has a stable piece of furniture in an otherwise constantly shifting universe. He's the old world, a construction worker who dealt in concrete and grew up assuming that everyone he saw had always been there and would always be there, unlike all the younger folks in the show, who are neck-deep in transiency.
What is/are the dominant theme(s)?
Trying to connect, trying to figure out what love is (especially at great distances), trying to work out how our extended families can survive without killing one another.
What do you hope is the "takeaway" for the audience?
A lot of laughs, some recognition of people and situations they know. Perhaps a slightly new look at their cell phone as they check for messages at intermission.
Who did you work with in Miami (if any)?
I met Ricky Martinez at a National New Play Network conference in Denver, and he fell in love with the play there, and I knew from our conversations that it would have a great home at New Theatre. We've been in touch over the summer about the script and production questions - very rewarding from my end, hopefully from his as well.
Is there anything autobiographical in the play?
Of course. Every piece has some autobiography in it. The simultaneous love/fascination/frustration/hatred of our technological age is very much part of me and my daily life. The need to connect, to be in the same room at the same time with loved ones, is a vital part of my life.
What are you working on now?
Two new commissions, a comedy about life and mass migration in Cleveland, and a comedy based on a true story of one local government's attempts to close down a theatre based on objectionable subject matter. And a children's novel. And a screenplay about the holidays. And at some point I'm going to have to make dinner for my children. And paint my porch.
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