Here’s much of what I love about Greg Kotis.
He grew up doing “poor theater”. He did storefront theater in Chicago, where you have to rely on theatricality, charm and energy to create a show – because you have no money for sets, costumes or even marketing. Even now that he’s all grown up and award winning, his writing still reflects this. With almost nothing but wave after wave of creativity, he takes you all over the map; from microscopic locations inside your refrigerator to inside the minds of panicked actors to the oval office year 2045 – all with no sets, no props, just language and a smirk. He is never constrained by the idea of “what we can afford”.
Greg Kotis is also a man of consequence. He worries about progress and the effect it has on us. He worries about sustainability and how long can any one person/culture/nation be on top. I was on a panel with him once and a young artist asked “how would you describe your style of writing”, Greg responded “All my writing reflects that I’m on a backward retreat from progress”, everyone laughed thinking he was joking and then got silent and introspective when they realized he wasn’t.
Greg and I spend a lot of time talking about comedy. To be a creator of comedy, you have to be an amazingly generous artist – you have to want to create moments that the audience loves. You have to love the audience itself. You can’t hide behind the usual shields of “they didn’t get it” or “my work is misunderstood” or “bad house tonight”, you have to start every night with the hope that you’re making new friends in the audience.
The danger in that? “Dying is easy, comedy is hard,” goes the old adage. You never explain to an audience afterwards that they found a show funny. Usually if an audience stops finding something funny, they don’t come back to you at the end of the show, more often they actually get angry as the show progresses. The even tougher part? If the audience says it isn’t funny? They’re right…at least for that night.
What I adore about him is that he wants to tackle issues, large in scope, but do it thru the lens of comedy. He wants to write and create comedy with the same rigor and thought you would put into a more “weighty drama”. The math of how jokes work. When you feel uncomfortable, because he’s gotten too close to the truth, he then has someone fall over a couch or break into song to let you off the hook….or perhaps drive his point home even more – it’s up to you to decide. This is full on court jester comedy.
He is the Andy Kaufman of the American Theatre.
Writing comedy for the theater is a dying art form. If you write a good comedy, usually TV scoops you up right away. Those that love the comedy that can only be created in this art form. .,well, when you find those people you have to scoop them up, encourage them, and most importantly: produce them.
So, 8 months ago, I approached my friend Greg and said “let’s tackle all these things, how about we collect your best short plays that you and I have done together, you write some more great short plays, we add in a bunch of songs and see if we can’t put together an evening that tackles, well everything.” Greg responded, “yes, we’ll do an evening that answers ALL the questions” – and a show, and a title was born.
I’m thrilled that we’re doing a world premiere of a new Greg Kotis play. I can’t wait until it’s done everywhere and we get to say “oh, yeah, that show, it was our idea and it started here”. I love that our audiences will see it first and our town will play a major role in birthing a new comedy to the stage.
Not just any comedy, a smart, subversive, hilarious piece from the most serious guy I know when it comes to being funny. Seriously.