Category Archives: technique

Playwright Interview: Arthur French III

I have the honor of introducing you to a dear friend and playwright, Arthur W. French III. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing him since high school. I had the opportunity of  working on one of his short film projects which was a lot of fun. This was back when I was pursuing acting as a career. It’s wonderful that we maintained our friendship since then as we both share  much in common.

Without further ado, Arthur W. French III.

********

1) When was the first time you wanted to write?

Probably as a kid, I used to make up stories when I read nursery rhymes.

The first time I really wanted to write, was when I was in high school, and a lot of the usual High School drama was going on at the time, that I didn’t have an outlet to channel it to.

Writing became an outlet for me. I picked up a pen and paper, and started writing how I felt about things.

Within a year, I had written “Teens Today” at sixteen years old, and that was the beginning of my writing career.

2) Who are you influences?

I have quite a few. Woody Allen. I love his early slapstick movies, and he writes about human behavior.

Richard Pryor, because he was an amazing storyteller.

Director Stanley Kubrick, who always directed fascinating works about humanity (Paths of Glory), and then could direct biting satire (Dr. Strangelove). He ran the gamut, that you couldn’t put him in a box.

3) Who are your favorite authors, playwrights and why?

David Mamet playwright is one. Mamet has a way with dialogue that is so real, that you feel you are intruding on a conversation that’s going on, and the fact that he reels you in with his characters.

August Wilson, Playwright. For me, August Wilson is a great storyteller who weaves spirituality and poetry, and it works.

Neil Labute because he shows characters that are messy and unapologetic, and flawed. He shows people at their worst which isn’t bad, but the fact that they make you so uncomfortable is great.

Charles Bukowski is my favorite fiction writer. His book Hollywood was about his experiences when the film studios made his film “Barfly”, and his insider’s look at how the film got made, and the politics, is hysterical. He wrote about Los Angeles in all it’s gritty reality. He’s my favorite fiction writer. he’s also a great poet, and prose writer.

William Shakesphere, because all of his plays are timeless.

4) What inspires you?

I’d say first and foremost it’s anger. If something really bothers me, I’ll jot it down, look at it, and then work on the play.

Nowadays, it’s really anything. If it’s something that’s affected me personally good or bad, or something I’ll see on the street, or on the subway, or if I’m on vacation, I will say to myself. “Hey, I gotta get home and write this down.”.

There is no such thing as a bad idea.

5) What is your writing process?

What I’ll do, I’ll get an idea, jot it down in my writing journal. Once I get home, write out the characters, and then type them out, look at it, and if the idea still flows, I’ll continue with it until the play is finished.

6) When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?

It was Fall 2001. The story on how that happened was for years my father and friends had told me I needed to take a writing class (which I never did.)

Finally, one day I decided I was going to take a writing class.

Then 9/11 happened, and I was shaken. I didn’t know if I wanted to write. I thought about going in another direction. My father told me “look, just go to the orientation. If you still don’t want to writer, okay.”

So, I went up to Frederick Douglass Creative Arts Center, and heard my future teacher, Leslie Lee say “Don’t let 9/11 stop you from finding your voice. Now is the time to write.” After he said that, I pulled out my checkbook, paid for the eight weeks, I haven’t looked back since.

7) Can you explain the differences between a playwright and a screenwriter?

For screenwriting, you have to add the interior and exteriors of the scene, and then have a shot sheet. It’s more technical stuff you have to put in.

Where with a play, it’s basically the words, dialogue, and action.

Screenwriting, is adding more technical things to the script that needs to be done.

8) If you were to name one play you love, which one would it be?

It would be “Blues For Mister Charlie” by James Baldwin.

It was the first play I studied when I started taking play writing seriously.

I loved how the play deals with racism, and how those themes still resonate in our society today.

9) What has shaped you to be the successful and prolific playwright that you are today?

For me, success is doing what I love which is writing plays, and when you love something, it’s all great.

What I wanted to do, even when I was a teenager, was to create great work for African American Actors, and tell universal stories, and I am definitely achieving that.

10) Last, but not least, what advice would you give to aspiring writers and playwrights?

If you come up with any idea, write it down quick!

I would say if you really want to be a playwright/writer is to definitely take a playwriting class, so you know the basics of character, plot, story.

To see a lot of plays, and get a sense of them, and see why they are good, or bad.

Love what you do, and enjoy what you do.

********

Thank you so much, Mr. French.

Biography

Arthur W. French III has been writing plays since he was a teenager. His first play “Teens Today” was produced at Maxwell Glanville’s American Community Theater in Harlem at age 16.

The play then was a winner at the New York Annual Young Playwrights Festival at Circle Repertory Company.

Mr. French’s play “Circuit Breakers” produced by RCL Writer’s Workshop was a winner in the Annual Samuel French One-Act play competition, and was published.

Mr. French’s other play “Bitter Apples” was a winner in the Annual Strawberry one act festival in New York City, and also was published.

His short one act play “He Gives Good Fonts” was a winner at John Chatterton’s short play lab.

Mr. French’s other plays this year have been part of in the Los Angeles NAACP Theater Festival, The Hollywood Fringe Festival, Legros Cultural Arts Festival, and Love Creek Productions.

Mr. French recently competed in this years 31 plays in 31 days series.

He has a new play “I Read Your Facebook Post” coming up at the short play lab in New York City.

Mr. French has studied with Leslie Lee, Steve Carter, and Henry Miller, and is a founding member of the Fusion Gumbo Writers Workshop (which has been held in NY and LA).