Interview With Playwright Carlos Murillo


Playwright Carlos Murillo’s ‘dark play or stories for boys’ has been produced all across the country in recent years and is now receiving its Chicago premier at Collaberaction Theatre. The play, which is based on a true story that was featured in the February 2005 issue of Vanity Fair magazine, explores the world of cyber manipulation. Mr. Murillo discusses this adventurous play and how the Vanity Fair article sparked the idea of a story love and betrayal. Tickets are $15 – $25 and can be purchased online at www.collaboraction.org or by calling 312.226.9633. 

MJR (Michael J. Roberts): This is such an interesting story Carlos. How did you get your hands on this topic?

CM (Carlos Murillo) : It was interesting really. Around 2003-4, I was working on a series of plays that focused on how contemporary media is changing story telling. Then I thought it would be really cool to write an Internet play. I was talking to a friend about it and he had mentioned this Vanity Fair article. I read it and seemed like a great template.

MJR: What was your jumping off point character-wise?

CM: In the summer of 2005 I was at a summer theatre lab in Santa Barbara. The Vanity Fair article doesn’t delve into the deeper psychological issues of why someone would get caught up in spinning fictions. I so started focusing on the notion of love and the confusing ideas of love through the eyes of an adolescent. A lot of the early exploration with those actors at the theatre lab helped with the character study and the idea of first love. A lot of it was intimately connected with the actor I was working with at the time, whose name also happened to be Nick. He would tell me real stories about him going on Craigslist and meeting men and having these anonymous encounters in parks, etc. Looking at him, you would never expect that would be something he would pursue. This duality of how I perceived him and what he would do on Craigslist helped emerge how Nick came about in the play.

MJR: I have heard that you want to focus more on the love story aspect of the story then the technology/internet side of the tale?

CM: We have all seen ‘To Catch A Predator’ and all those sort of horror stories they sensationalize on television. So in the play, though it is an important part, it is almost an afterthought. The play is set in 2004 and because technology and the internet changes so fast, there had to be more to the story as a focus then just the cyber intrigue of it all. The game has changed since then, especially with Facebook. More important is what happens when we fall in love and the deceptions of other people. To me the internet aspect is just an accelerate in how things happened. The stuff that connects you emotionally to the play is how this relationship grows and changes.

MJR: When you are working with different directors, how much free reign do you give them?

CM: Anthony (Moseley) has been amazing to work with. There is no set way on how this play should be done and I have ended up doing some re-writes on this I didn’t think I was going to do. So this has really been a great dialogue and collaboration between us. I trust Anthony and the great cast he has assembled.

MJR: How did you get involved in theatre and then as a playwright?

CM: I have been doing theatre since I was a young, young, young guy!! I got involved acting in junior high. I went to Syracuse University for a while in their acting program. I really didn’t like the life of an actor and when I was doing a role, I never could really let myself go into the part. I kind of naturally gravitated to directing and writing.

MJR: Who is your favorite playwright?

CM: Oh, that is a tough one. Carol Churchill and Susan Lori-Parks are fantastic. I am teaching Churchill to my class at DePaul right now.

MJR: What do you want the audience to take out of ‘dark stories’?

CM: Several things. It is a play that will elicit a lot of different emotions. There is a lot of stuff that is very funny in it, especially in the first 1/3. Like all my plays, I like to take the audience on a roller coaster ride to places that may seem scary or dangerous but that they will always feel that they are in good hands with tight and exciting story telling. I would also like them to think about the larger emotional stakes between the characters. I want people to talk about the play when they leave. I think judging by the production history, it will provoke lots of discussion.

Collaboraction, the award-winning theater-based artist collective, presents the Chicago premiere of “dark play or stories for boys,” a play that explores the dangers of venturing into the virtual world at the expense of your real identity. Written by Carlos Murillo and directed by Collaboraction’s Executive Artistic Director Anthony Moseley, “dark play or stories for boys” will run Jan 12 – Feb 26, 2012 at the Flat Iron Arts Building, 1579 N. Milwaukee Ave.

“dark play or stories for boys” is based on a true story of a British teenage boy who ventures down a dark path into the virtual world, as reported in the February 2005 issue of “Vanity Fair.” The play’s central character creates a fictional internet identity which begins as a harmless game, but the game takes on a frightening reality when real emotion overtakes his online relationship. When Nick’s virtual world collides with the real world, his fantasies of love, intimacy, obsession and betrayal spiral into consequences that lead him to the brink of death. “dark play or stories for boys” was first produced as part of the Humana Festival at Actor’s Theatre of Louisville.

The cast of the Chicago premiere includes Clancy McCartney (Nick), Aaron Kirby (Adam), Olivia Dustman (Rachel/Molly), Jane deLaubenfels (Female Netizen) and Sorin Brouwers (Male Netizen). Set design is by Joe Schermoly, sound design is by Stephen Ptacek, lighting design is by Michael Reed and costume design is by Drew Hill.

Carlos Murillo is an internationally produced playwright and director. His play “dark play or stories for boys” premiered at the Humana Festival in 2007, and has since been produced throughout the US, and in translation in Hungary, Germany, Chile, Poland and Slovakia. Other plays include “A Thick Description of Harry Smith,” “Diagram of a Paper Airplane,” “Unfinished American Highwayscape,” “Mimesophobia,” “A Human Interest Story,” “Offspring of the Cold War,” “Schadenfreude,” and others. They have been seen in NY (NYC Summer Play Festival, En Garde Arts, The Public, The Watermill Center), Chicago (The Goodman, Collaboraction, Theatre Seven, Walkabout Theatre, American Theatre Company), Los Angeles (Theatre @ Boston Court, Circle X, Son of Semele), and throughout the US (Sundance, South Coast Rep, Salt Lake Acting Company, Bay Area Playwrights Festival, The Playwrights’ Center and others). Awards include: The Goodman Theatre Ofner Prize, the Otis Guernsey Award from the William Inge Festival, two National Latino Playwriting Awards, the MAP Fund grant and others. He is a resident playwright at Chicago Dramatists and New Dramatists in New York City. He is currently working on commissions for Steppenwolf Theatre and Playwrights Horizons. As a teacher, he has been a visiting artist with the Kennedy Center, the Iowa Playwrights Workshop, and is an Associate Professor at The Theatre School of DePaul University where he heads the playwriting program. He lives in the South Side of Chicago with his wife, the director Lisa Portes, and his two children, Eva Rose and Carlos Pablo.