Playwright Podcast Theater Writers & Process

Episode 7 – Is Dan O’Brien the Greatest Poet/Playwright Of All Time?

Dan O'Brien (L) and Paul Watson (R)

(Pictured above: Dan O’Brien (L) and Paul Watson (R) – Christopher Capozziello for The New York Times)

Dan O’Brien is a poet-playwright, who has a new book poems titled, New Life, that have just been released through Hanging Loose Press. New Life chronicles his relationship with Pulitzer Prize winning photographer Paul Watson, as Watson took photographs in Syria during their civil war, and their quest to sell a TV show in Los Angeles, where Dan lives.  It was recorded in an outdoor café in Santa Monica.

Buy his book straight from his publisher. 

If they’re sold out, you can purchase it from Amazon.

Dan O'Brien
Dan O’Brien

0:00 – Intro to Dan O’Brien, poet/playwright

2:30 – Why does Dan live in L.A.?

3:00 – Dan is married to actress with Jessica St. Clair who, with Lennon Parham, co-created a comedy for the USA Network called “Playing House.” They’re now filming their third season.

PLAYING HOUSE -- Season:2 -- Pictured: (l-r) Lennon Parham as Maggie Caruso, Tatum Conte as Charlotte Caruso, Jessica St. Clair as Emma Crawford -- (Photo by: Robyn Von Swank/USA Network)
PLAYING HOUSE — Season:2 — Pictured: (l-r) Lennon Parham as Maggie Caruso, Tatum Conte as Charlotte Caruso, Jessica St. Clair as Emma Crawford — (Photo by: Robyn Von Swank/USA Network)

3:57 – (Actually improv pays better than playwriting.)

5:00 – Dan met Jessica at Middlebury College in undergrad.

5:30 – Dan and Jessica did improv in college for “Otter Nonsense.” which still exists!

Evidently, my friend Steve Waltien (Don’t Think Twice) was in it, and Jason Mantzoukas (Parks and Rec)

7:30 – Dan was not at all influenced by Doug Henning, magician, who was Dan’s first Broadway show.

8:20 – Dan started winning awards as an undergrad at Kennedy American College Theater Festival

10:30 – Dan attended grad school at Brown when Paula Vogel (“How I Learned to Drive) ran the program, but she was on sabbatical the two years he was there.

11:30 – He learned under experimental playwright, Charles Mee while he was there.

16:00 – Dan describes his process for “Body of an American,” which chronicles Dan’s relationship with Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer, Paul Watson. Click here to see the photographs he won the Pulitzer Prize. Warning: They are graphic images of a dead U.S. Soldier.

17:15 – Dan’s interest in Paul began with his interview on NPR’s “Fresh Air” with Terry Gross in 2007.

21:30 – Dan wrote a book of poetry, “War Reporter,” that filled in some gaps that “Body of an American” left out. He discusses why he wrote “War Reporter” and “New Life” and how they sprung out of “Body of an American,” and his continued friendship with Paul Watson.

28:00 – Dan won the Horton Foote Prize in 2014 with Susan-Lori Parks.

30:00 – Dan discusses why his poetry may have been more responsive to political poetry.

31:00 – We discuss why Chicago doesn’t produced his work as much as other cities?

34:51 – GOATMission!

38:15 – How “New Life” came to be. They are poems about Paul Waton’s time in Syria, and Paul and Dan’s efforts to spin into in a cable series.

40:00 – Dan talks about the process of trying to sell a TV show, and how selling a TV show is related to selling a war to a country.

50:00 – Dan talks the ins and outs of play commissions.

51:25 – How Dan organizes his writing process and projects.

1:00:30 – How Dan deals with revealing personal information in his writing both in his work and personal life.

1:06:00 – How “Body of an American” works as a Ghost Play and poetry.

1:09:45 – The Proust GOAT-tionnaire.

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