by Alex Rubin
(Post written by Dennis Corsi)
I attended a reading of Alex Rubin's play First Love several weeks ago and was incredibly impressed by her courage as a writer. Too often I see writing that is safe and doesn't say much of anything new, always leaving me wondering "what's even the point of producing this?" Rubin's play on the other hand said a lot. It explored ideas that most people are afraid to even talk about. In fact, I wouldn't have been surprised if someone flat out left halfway through...and to me, that's a sign of a good play. It challenged me to think and pushed me to re-evaluate my morals and my views on love. Weeks later, I'm still thinking about it, trying to wrap my mind around the challenges she presented. Rubin takes an issue that is seemlingly black and white, and explodes it out to reveal all of the shades of gray in between.
It's impossible to fully discuss the issues brought up in the play without giving away some of the meaty plot twists. So you'll just have to go see it for yourself. Rubin gives the following description for the play, keeping hidden those sizzling twists:
In 1976 Oregon, Kathryn and Jake, Jr. are falling in love. Painfully earnest and wiser than her age, Kathryn is an unlikely match for the boyish and haughty Jake, but the attraction is undeniable despite a looming threat the couple cannot bring themselves to name.
Over thirty years later and across the country Dan and Mandy are living a picture perfect life. They teach at their children’s high school and are still very much in love after years of marriage. But when a phone call sends them on the run, they find out it is impossible to hide from their past.
Across space and time, the couples’ lives become more and more entwined through this story of love and fiercely guarded secrets.
I sat down with Rubin to ask her about this play and her process as a playwright.
Corsi: What was your reason for writing this play?
Rubin: It's one of those situations where something is working around in your brain for a while, sometimes without you knowing it. Most of the time when I write it's to figure something out and how I feel about something. This was a very controversial issue and I didn’t know how I felt about it. I still may not know.
Corsi: Is there something you want audience members to walk away thinking about?
Rubin: I mostly want people to walk away thinking. I don’t want to tell anyone how to feel about this. I want them to have conversations about it because it opens up a lot of other conversations about how we view relationships in our society, conversations that need to be had.
Corsi: Tell me a bit about your process as a playwright.
Rubin: It's always different, it totally depends on the show. In every instance my first draft is very short. I want to get to the point where I’m with a director and I’m with actors, so I get to the end very quickly. I have the bare bones of a story and will start to build the muscle around it as the show develops. This tends to be the opposite of most writers, who start very long and have to cut down. Collaboration is the most important part of my process by far. I want to hear people's interpretations of things. I want to know what people think. I know there are things going on in my plays that I don’t know about until someone else sees them.
Corsi: Is there any throughline in your work? Any recurring themes?
Rubin: Understanding. In all of my plays I am trying to help people understand each other more. My mission statement as an artist is to write about people on the outside of society in a way that is accessible to everyone.
Corsi: If you could give one piece of advice to playwrights, what would it be?
Rubin: Know about more than playwriting, both in and out of the business. Learn how everybody in the business works, what their job is, and what their perspective is. It will make you a better theatre professional and a better collaborator. Also spend time outside of theatre. There are a very small percentage of plays that are about theatre, and even then they aren’t really. So you have to experience life beyond this business.