Sep 27, 2013

Baitz on Film

More than a dozen years ago, when L.A. native Jon Robin Baitz belatedly premiered his L.A.-set play Mizlansky/Zilinsky at the Geffen Playhouse, I had the chance to sit down with him and chat about his career, which for all its New York pedigree and well-made-play reputation, began in part under the fold of the avant-garde Padua Hills gang (Baitz reconnected with this formative influence in this 2012 interview with John Steppling).

We've stayed lightly in touch since, but I didn't have the opportunity for another meaty conversation with him until last year, when Other Desert Cities--another California-set play, among an ouevre not generally set on that coast--was finally bowing at the Mark Taper Forum, a theater Baitz grew up going to, and I talked to him for the program.

Now he's getting his first major New York revival, of a play set in South Africa in 1970. The Film Society had its debut at the Los Angeles Theatre Center in 1987 before opening to some acclaim at the Second Stage the following year, in a production starring a young whippersnapper named Nathan Lane. The Keen Company's production, starring Euan Morton, opens next week, and it was the occasional of this lovely chat for my former employer, TDF. He spoke in part about how, though the play was inspired by some formative years he spent in South Africa at a private school while his dad was working for Carnation company, he felt he had 
"no way of talking about South Africa now. I did go back in the ’90s and went to one of the Truth and Reconciliation hearings, and got a ride back to Johannesburg from Pretoria with Athol Fugard, whom I knew a little bit. There was slightly a menacing vibe, and a few burning cars and tires here and there.” A sense of menace is chief among the things he remembers from his younger years there: “There was a dominant terror of black people, which was just under the surface of the daily discourse there. ‘When is the revolt going to happen?’ ‘Do you have your guns ready?’ It was nothing if not weird."
RTWT here.

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