Along with “Jersey Boys” and “Westside Story,” theatergoers in New York City had the opportunity to see the premiere of “Can’t You See?,” a play by Jason Sebacher, ’08 alumnus. It was shown as part of the Harvest One-Act Play Festival on Nov. 12. Sebacher took time after the opening weekend to discuss his experiences with The Pleiad.
How did you become interested in playwriting?
I actually don’t know how I started writing, but it was in between my second and third year (of college), during the summer. I didn’t get FURSCA—I’d done it the summer previous—and was screwed out of the summer tour guide position. I’m from a very small town, without many employment opportunities, so I had to depend on Albion, which didn’t work out. I was very bored. So, I began writing, and a play was the first thing that popped out. I organized a reading with actors when I returned and have wanted to be a playwright since.
How did you get involved with this particular festival?
I applied online at this theatre company’s website. At first they wanted me to pay them money, which struck me. This company must be very new, because it’s foolish to ask artists to pay to see their own work. So I told the artistic director that I wouldn’t pay him, but if he still liked the script he could use it for his festival. Apparently he did, because a few weeks later I heard back from him and he accepted my offer. My very good friend Keith Medelis wants to be a professional director, for which you also need NYC credits, so I called him up with the offer and he accepted.
Tell me a little about “Can’t You See?”
(The play) is really fucked up. There’s a man, Mr. Benjamin Zero, who has a wife, Mrs. Marjorie Zero, who is a man in very bad drag who also wants a divorce. They have a sort of voluntary sex slave butler, named Buttler who makes everyone drinks. The first half sets up this absurd world with confusing rules. It’s funny. These people are ridiculous and frightening, but you laugh anyway. Then a normal person, Jerome Crook—a heterosexual—enters the house and he gets sucked into their world.
What did you hope to accomplish with “Can’t You See?”
“Can’t You See?” formally plays on how an audience allies itself with certain characters. (It) is a queer play. You have this bizarre world that’s frankly very scary and upsetting, and a normal person enters and is just as confused as you are. The play doesn’t really say anything. I don’t think a play should have a thesis; it should pick apart a question. But its nonsensical-ness does get the audience thinking. I consider myself a queer playwright; most of my plays are about queer people and current queer issues. As a writer, I believe the dramatic form of a play must serve its content.
Is “Can’t You See?” different from plays you’ve written in the past?
It’s similar to the plays I’ve done (previously). My plays are usually sexually explicit, which is not just because I like seeing these young actors in their underwear. Sex is a big issue right now; for some reason in this country, it’s something that’s controlled and suppressed. For some reason, it’s private. So, because the sex act is at the center of many contemporary queer debates and because I feel joy each time prudish straight people cringe when they see two men hold hands in public, I usually write my plays as somehow sexually explicit.
Any advice for those students who have an interest in becoming playwrights?
You’re not writing poetry or a novel. You’re writing a physical event, and it must be thought of as such. But no matter what the form, your characters must end up doing something inevitable but completely surprising.