Bruce Walsh: An interview with the playwright/chef serving up Capote, kegs, and eggs

Bruce Walsh. Photo by Neal Santos.
Bruce Walsh. Photo by Neal Santos.

Bruce Walsh—creator of last year’s Fringe home‐hit, Chomsky vs. Buckley, 1969—has sought out fellow playwrights, Chris Davis and Douglas Williams, to stage a collaborative work in their own homes. Awesomely, each playwright will make the audience breakfast as his dialogue is performed. The result—Holly’s Dead Soldiers (A Breakfast Play)—promises a one‐of‐a‐kind interpretation of Truman Capote’s Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

Phindie asked Bruce a few questions about the show that’s getting so much pre-Festival buzz.

Phindie: Are you really cooking everyone breakfast? What’s on the menu?
Bruce Walsh: Yes. Right now we’re thinking quiche and a salad. And beer. (One of the playwrights works at a distributor.) Actually, cooking everyone breakfast is really the heart of the piece. It’s why we decided to do this. That sounds odd, I know, but we see a natural (spiritual?) relationship between cooking for someone and writing for them. So the playwrights—Chris Davis, Douglas Williams, and I—will be in bright cooking aprons. We’ll be introducing the scenes we wrote, letting you know the ingredients, the temperature of the characters, etc.

PhindieAm I correct that you hadn’t read Breakfast at Tiffany’s when you began this project? 
BW: Um. Hmm. Perhaps I shouldn’t have told you that. I’m constantly drunk in public. It’s a problem. But. Yes. Okay. It’s true. None of us read it before we decided to do this. BUT I’M THRILLED TO REPORT THAT WE’VE ALL READ IT SINCE! MULTIPLE TIMES! (Though Doug may have listened on tape. He has a long commute.)

PhindieSo then, what was the inspiration?
BW: So the inspiration, then, was really truly breakfast. Breakfast and writing and making relationships with each other. We playwrights are so often solitary, lonely sad-sacks. And, worse, we’re—underneath an often outward community spirit—seething with contempt for other writers. That’s a problem in my view, both for the hearts of writers and for this community. So? What brings people together? Can you beat breakfast for bringing people together? Shared stories also bring us together, so we wanted to use a great American novel as springboard for the writing. We liked the idea of our guests feeling like they had some ownership over the story, too. It was between Breakfast of Champions and Breakfast at Tiffany’s. Tiffany’s won. I can’t say why, exactly. We had all read Champions, actually. And maybe that made it less daring or fun.

PhindieCapote’s book is way better than the movie, right?
BW: Don’t know. Never seen the movie. I avoided it. Didn’t want to interfere with what I felt like was a pretty good personal connection to the story. I assume the book is way better. It’s pretty great. We do play with some iconic poses/moments from the film. I watched a few clips on YouTube.

PhindieWhat do you look for in collaborators?
BW: People that can stand me.

PhindieHa! How did the three of you come together?

Holly's Dead Soldiers 2013 Fringe Festival
Tiffany’s diamonds: Andrew Carroll as the narrator and Kristen Bailey as Holly Golightly.

BW: Doug and I met at a short play festival; we both had a play in it. We liked each other’s pieces. He was new to town. We grabbed a beer. I told him he should do a Fringe show. Eventually we were doing one together. Our original idea was to write a morning-after love triangle situation, from three different perspectives, each playwright writing one of the sections. But the third playwright had to drop out for personal reasons. So we called Chris Davis, because everybody knows that guy is amazing, and it was short notice, and we knew he would come through with a very playable scene. Plus he’s a great actor. We like great actors. We all hung out and changed the idea to the Breakfast at Tiffany’s thing. How Chris and Doug persuaded the other actors [Andrew Carroll and Kristen Bailey] I’ll never know.

PhindieYou’ve produced a bunch of work in the Fringe before. How many shows is this for you?
BW: Hmm. Here is my sordid history as I remember it:
Fringe shows personally produced: 2
Live Arts shows created with my old company: 3
Fringe shows other people produced of my plays: 1

PhindieWhat do you like about the festival experience?
BW: For some reason—and I’m still not sure how this happened—Fringe is deep in the culture of Philly at this point. It is at this time of year—and absolutely no other—that people come out in droves to see experimental theater. I once saw a line for my play stretching around a corner, and I just had to hug every single person in line. I couldn’t believe it. But that’s just Fringe. People in Philly just love the seasonal spirit of Fringe. They’re ready to try stuff. And, amazingly, the festival just can’t seem to change that, no how many times they change the name. People here love FRINGE.

PhindieIt’s true, it’s true… So, how do you take your eggs?
BW: Scrambled with meth and whiskey.

PhindieScrapple, bacon, or sausage?
BW: I love the attention I get when I eat scrapple. I grew up with it. I like it. But I love it as a conversation starter. People have strong opinions.

PhindieWhite, wheat, or rye?
BW: Rye is the best, right? But why don’t I ever order it? I’ll never know.

PhindieOkay, scrambled with scrapple and rye toast. Can I get you anything else?
BW: 1. A glowing review.
2. A volunteer cleaning crew for my house.
3. A Ralph Nader presidency.
4. A glowing review.
5. Yet another Fleetwood Mac reunion.
6. Less fracking
7. Manny Trillo Night at Citizens Bank Park
8. A glowing review.
9. Ten pie crusts (quiche)
10. Money.

Holly’s Dead Soldiers (A Breakfast Play), September 7, 8, 14, 2013.

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