Ian Patrick Williams won the Chicago Emmy award for acting in and co-authoring the teleplay Bleacher Bums for PBS-TV; the script was later produced as a TV movie by Showtime. His one-act play Provenance was produced last year at Ensemble Studio Theater in L.A.
Here, he talks about his 2nd Act Players’ festival award-winning play, Normal Shnormal, and his expectations for theater in the pst-Covid world.
1. How do you describe the essence of your play to those who haven’t seen it?
A comic two-hander in which an elderly hypochondriac shows up at an ER expecting to hear the worst about her last check-up. Although her doctor constantly reassures her everything is normal, she refuses to believe it.
2. What was your inspiration to write this script?
It may seem that it was inspired by Covid-19 but I actually wrote it before the outbreak. I think it was just a realization that so many elderly people live alone now and it’s easy to fall into depression about one’s health even when it’s not warranted. I thought it might be a fun and touching look into the lives of these two people as they exasperate each other.
3. How and why did you become a playwright?
I started my career as a stage actor in Chicago. Our theater company took a chance that we could collectively write a play for ourselves and came up with Bleacher Bums, a comedy about die-hard Cubs fans. Its success led me to start writing plays and screenplays on my own.
4. What are your hopes and expectations for theater in a post-Covid world?
I know people are hungry for the shared experience of theater and film. There’s nothing like going into that collective dream state together when we suspend our disbelief and enter into a new world on stage. I look for an explosion of theatrical activity; unfortunately we may be a year away from everyone being inoculated so we can start up again.
5. Have you been writing during the Covid quarantine? If so, what projects do you have underway? If not, how have you been filling your days?
I wrote a 10-minute absurdist comedy called The Will in which Mr. and Mrs. America go to an attorney to see what they might inherit if their mother, Democracy, dies. It was performed online by We the People in an effort to get out the vote. The company Fleas on the Dog have said they want to do my three-person comedy The STD’s about, yes, three sexually transmittable diseases arguing among themselves as to who’s best at infecting people. A little dark maybe but we’re living in dark, infectious times. Stay safe everyone!