Award-winning playwright Aaron Posner grew up in Eugene. And since Oregon Contemporary Theatre’s season opens with Posner’s Stupid F@#*ing Bird, it seemed a great excuse to ask this renowned artist about his old paper route.
Chekhov’s The Seagull inspires Stupid F@#*ing Bird. How did you plumb Chekhov’s “Theatre of Mood” for the funny?
I took what I think and know and believe and have carefully observed about how fun and stupid and smart and fucked-up people are and tried to tell the truth about that. There are big feelings and big needs and desires all over the place in Stupid F@#*ing Bird and The Seagull, and plenty of obstacles for them to bump up against in all kinds of interesting, I hope, and fun and painful ways.
A physician first, Chekhov wrote plays on the side. What were some day jobs you held in Eugene while pursuing theater?
I had some wonderfully awful jobs in Eugene at some classic places old-timers may well remember. Cleaning the grills at Jeb’s Good Dogs on campus then, later, waiting tables at Aunt Lucy Devine’s. I had a paper route when I was even younger, which I shared with my friends Clarke and Corby. I worked one summer at Lenny’s Nosh Bar, which was great and fun and a whole education in and of itself.
And how does it feel to make a living now as an artist?
In terms of getting to live my life as a playwright and director … well, I never complain. Ever. I feel so ridiculously lucky and privileged to get to spend the vast majority of my working hours doing things I truly love to do. That is an extraordinary gift and I am grateful every day for it.
Did the Eugene theater community give you a good start?
Doing shows at Oregon Contemporary Theatre [then Lord Leebrick Theatre] was really formative for me. I got to know some great actors and great directors and just got to be around professional theater at a very young age. I suppose my fascination with folks so different from me really began in many ways at OCT … and maybe Lenny’s Nosh Bar!
Tell me about Stupid F@#*ing Bird.
It’s not exactly an adaptation — it’s more “inspired by” or “built upon the bones of” … I worked from the worst online translation I could find. In terms of what the style is, it is hard to say. It is some odd and irreverent combination of things that I have no clue how to accurately define. It is stark and theatrical and transparent. It tries to be honest.
Between you and playwright Christopher Durang, Chekhov is really having a moment. Is there something about atheist, tsarist living-room dramas that make for inherently good comedy?
Chekhov wrote about the big, dark, hard, funny questions of our lives. Who will we get to love us? And are we worthy of that love? What is our life for? Who will remember us in a hundred years? Those kinds of things. And the big questions never go out of style.
Stupid F@#*ing Bird opens Sept. 11 and runs through Oct. 3 at Oregon Contemporary Theatre, 194 W. Broadway. Tickets at octheatre.org or 465-1506.