Playwright and Director, Michael Boyd, took some time from his final week of rehearsal to answer some questions from Associate Artistic Director, David Stallings, about his upcoming production SOLDIERS AND OTHER LIVING THINGS, playing September 27 – October 7 at the Theater at the 14th Street Y.
David: Soldiers and Other Living Things takes place during and after the Vietnam War. What drew you to the time period and subject matter of soldiers understanding their friendships and sexuality through wartime?
Michael: My infatuation/obsession with the Vietnam war can be traced back to the mid-1960’s when an older cousin—who was actually more like a big brother—was drafted and sent to Vietnam.
Watching the nightly news coverage of the War on TV, versus the very personal reactions I was seeing in my own family, left a lasting impression. Most of the time, I would be allowed to read the letters he sent home, but on more than a few occasions I was told that his letters were too upsetting to be shared with me; that I was too young. Of course, my young mind began filling in the blanks. As I grew older, “filling in the blanks” expanded to include issues of friendships and sexuality; things that I was beginning to confront in my own life.
David: You’ve been working on this play for quite some time. How has it grown and changed over time?
Michael: The current version of this play is almost unrecognizable from the play that I wrote 25 years ago. The biggest difference is that the early drafts were monologue driven. My original intention was to write a piece that highlighted the atrocities of war through the eyes of soldiers from a variety of different backgrounds. Black, white, old, young, gay and straight. While there was overlap in some of the situations and stories, there was very little interaction between the characters. Over the years the play has evolved to a place where all of the characters are connected in some way to each other, and the love story between two soldiers has become the central theme through which all the other issues are addressed.
David: In your view, how has LGBT identity changed since the 1970’s. What is different for young gay men today and how do you think we can learn from the battles of the past? What do you hope our audiences learn from Soldier and Other Living Things? What have you learned in this new production?
Michael: The obvious answer to the first part of the question is that “being gay” is no longer foreign to most people, and that coming out is not the traumatic ordeal that it once was. However, it’s important to understand that mainstream acceptance of any issue does not translate to true acceptance. There are always going to be certain individuals—or groups of individuals—who do not share the same mindset of the world at large. And, if we in the LGBT community are to function in this society, we need to stay aware of this fact. Additionally, knowing and appreciating one’s history of oppression is crucial in preventing it from recurring. History does repeat itself – if we allow it. Our current political environment is living proof of this. I’ve always believed that respect from others is only given to those who respect themselves. It’s a lesson that I’m reminded of with each production of SOLDIERS AND OTHER LIVING THINGS that I mount. And one of the many messages that I hope audiences take with them after seeing the play.
This is the last weekend to see Soldiers and Other Living Things!
Get 20% off tickets using code: SOLDIERSAVETICKETS