Qué Pasa with Dolores; Mark Medoff
Okay, Poso with Dolores is made possible in part by Membrace Valley Abstract and Title Company and Western New Mexico Title Company with locations at 507 South gold in dimming and 214 West Broadway, Silver City and by Ugly Duckling Renhacar with locations in Las Cruces, Alamagordo, Dimming and El Paso, America's second car, Coast to Coast. A visit with Tony Award winner Mark Meadow, coming up next on Kate Poso with Dolores. Good evening and welcome to Kate Poso, KRWT's weekly community event show, let you know what's happening in Southern New Mexico. And now your host for this evening, Dolores Lenco.
A man who writes award-winning plays, scripts for the movies, heads up one of the finest university theaters in the Southwest, lives in Southern New Mexico. He was the subject of Mike Ferris, Senior Production Student's Segment for Kate Poso. And we welcome you to Kate Poso and we thank you for doing that segment for us. Tell me something Mike, what's it like to work with a Tony Award winner? Scary. It really is. I mean, the man's written children of lesser gods when Tony Awards produced many plays. And it's scary, you know, when it's your first time out and this is my first time ever producing a show. What was he like? Oh, he was exciting. I mean, the man was just so vibrant and loved life. I mean, the guy is so, I mean, he gets up and goes, he's going after everything. And I just, was it easy to work with him? Oh, yes. It was so easy. I mean, he was, he just, he, he just was able to tell you everything that you ever wanted to know about writing.
And I thought it was great. You know, it seems like most of the students on campus feel that way about him. And I suppose that's why his classes are always filled first. He knows how to relate to, to young people and he seems to genuinely enjoy them. But I think you and I should stop talking about it. I know from watching the work that it was a great experience and we're looking forward to see what you did. So, ladies and gentlemen, it's my pleasure to present Mike Ferris documentary on Mark Meadowff right now. I think I write because if I didn't, I could not function as a human being in any other role. And I think that I have several other very, very important roles. I've been a father and father teacher. I've been writing since I was 15 years old and I've started writing because I had the
good fortune to have a teacher in high school who insisted that his English class write a short story. And much to my surprise, mine turned out to be better than everybody else's. And so, in effect, he wrote a sentence across my life by giving me an A plus on my first story. And for years, I was a closet writer because back in the 50s, it was not deemed really masculine to be artistic when one was supposed to be a jock, but I did write in secret. When I got to college, I, again, had the good fortune to run into a couple of teachers who were really wonderful and supportive and tough. And I started writing very seriously then. And I would say from the age of 18 on, I had been committed to writing. I think it was not really until I was about 27 and I had been here for a year or so before I realized that, though I had been writing in my head seriously since I was 18, that I had not really totally committed myself to the prospect that I might not succeed at
it. And when I fully committed myself to the whole success failure axiom, which I think goes something like this, that you can't succeed until you're willing to fail, then my life changed, and my work changed. And once I realized that every time out I had to commit myself totally to whatever I was doing with the prospect that I might fail abysmally, I was all set to go. I think I write because if I didn't, I could not function as a human being in any other role. And I think that I have several other very, very important roles, husband, father, teacher. And I really don't think that I would work well in any of those roles if I did not write. I know that physically, if I don't write on any given day, I do not feel as well as I do on the days that I do write. I know that writing gives me a high that, unfortunately, many other people have to use drugs to get. And I also tie exercise to my writing.
I exercise every day. If I don't, it has the same effect on me that not writing has. It bothers me physically, therefore, mentally. And as long as I'm writing and as long as I'm exercising, I find that I can function in these other roles, which I dearly love, but that I could not really perform the others without the first, which is the writing. I've had ideas show up from all sorts of places. The first play I had in New York when you come in back, Red Riders started because my wife and I walked into a nine or an Albuquerque one morning, and there were two kids working behind the counter there, and we listened to them for a few minutes, and I whispered to her, whispered to her, these people are a play. Just try to remember everything they say. And on the way home, in fact, she wrote down everything we could both remember, and I immediately started adding stuff to it. And I wrote a one-act play largely about them, and I threw us into it in a different guise, and I brought someone else into it, and a year later I went back and rewrote it
and turned it into essentially what it is now. The second play I had in New York was a play called The Wager, which was really the first play I wrote and was the first thing I ever had done on stage, and that was done here. And that just started from a short story, where I heard four or five pages of dialogue. I kept hearing this one line in a response to that one line over and over in my head, so I just started writing it, and then I wrote the response to the response, and so forth. And I realized one day that it was really nothing but eight, nine pages of dialogue, and that I should turn it into a play. Children of a lesser God started because I met a deaf woman who happened to be an actress, whom I happened to like, and I said to her one night over a few drinks, I'm going to write a play for you. And so then I had to concoct one to fit around her, and I really had no idea whatsoever at that time.
I like to write for my friends. I like to write for the people I work with once and want to work with again and again. So I've written now twice for Phyllis Freelich, and I'm getting ready, as I mentioned earlier to write an adaptation of Christmas Carol for her. We have a movie we want to do together that we're going to try to sell a story idea. I've worked with Bill Frank Fother, who I met when he was in school here. We've worked together on how many times, and I've written another role for him to do, and the new play we're doing in Santa Fe, and I'll be correct you this summer. Sometimes I'll think of a well-known actor just to have a picture in my head, but normally I don't. I often see myself in various guises in what I write when I first start out, and it's kind of cloudy, and the place in which I write, the place I go to to write, is a very mysterious kind of terrain where people are not necessarily totally, clearly delineated. I don't know too many writers who work quite the way I do.
Some of them will spend years and years on one thing only, and I often think, God, it would be wonderful. I would love to just stop writing films and plays for a while, and just write a book, and stay home for four or five years, and not talk to anybody. And I always think that right after I finish the project on stage or film, because I'm so sick of it all, and so disappointed in the ultimate outcome, and then after I've sat around for a while, I think, okay, now I've got to get back, and I've got to write a play, I've got to get with those people again, I've got to get on stage. So I don't know how unusual it is, but I know I'm very comfortable with it, and that it's a way of working that has developed for me over a period of years, and that I feel blessed to be able to leap from one world to another, in the flick of my wrist, or the turning of the imaginary dial in my head. It's really glorious to be able to move from one world, total world to another. I usually write three or four things at one time, not necessarily the same day by any means, but for instance this morning I got up, I'm working on a movie called Last Wish
based on Betty Rowan's book for Goldie Hahn. So I worked on that for a couple of hours, very early this morning, then I took Christmas Carol with me to the gym, because I'm working on a new adaptation of Christmas Carol for Phyllis Freelich to play Scrooge, and then I went to a two-hour rehearsal of the adaptation I'm doing of Shakespeare's Macbeth, and at the same time, the same week I've been working on a new play called The Heart Outrite that goes into rehearsal here in a couple of weeks that will open in Santa Fe and Albuquerque this summer. And I usually work on things in a very tidy rotation, it may be week to week, or it may be day to day, or sometimes I will work on one thing for a few hours and turn my head to another thing, and my head is very, very much like a series of compartments or a television set if you want, and I literally can move myself totally from one world to another in the flick of my wrist, turning from channel 13 to channel 12.
Offbeat is a movie about a young man who works in New York Public Library who is having a very difficult time with his life, he's in his late 20s, and he considers himself a failure, and through the request of a friend, he ends up impersonating a cop, and falls in love with the lady cop, and through his experience with her and with pretending to be a cop, he changes somewhat. Apology is an idea that was brought to me by a former agent of mine who's now a producer and it was something that he read in, I think it was New York magazine, about an artist, a conceptual artist who had an idea to do a conceptual art piece where people would call a number, a phone number, and they would make apologies, apologize for anything, confess anything. No names, he put up flyers all over town, Manhattan saying that I'm not with the police, nobody's going to try to track you down.
I'm just going to use this in a public performance piece. So we took that idea and we turned it into a whole story, turned it into a thriller. There was one guy who actually called, who was very frightening, and said that he had murdered some people, and though they never tracked him down, we then took that idea and exploded it into something where first the artist starts very innocently thinking she's doing this art piece, for the simplest artistic reasons and then finds yourself embroiled in a very complex moral question where first she thinks she has the name of another killer and then this guy starts the other guy, the one who's really killing people starts chasing her because he offended her. So it ends up being, the cop who gets involved becomes involved with the artist and again a hope that will become apparent that they learn something from each other. And now I've just finished another film script based on a novel called Clare's Heart for Warner Brothers, which is about a black woman from Jamaica and a 13 year old boy whose parents
divorce the black woman's living in their house. And I love it and it scares me that I love it and the producers love it and Warner Brothers loves it. And it's going to be one of those very small pictures which, if done well, maybe will develop its audience. And then I'm working on Last Wish for Golding Hunt and I'm working on this new play called The Hard Out Write, which goes in rehearsal on a couple of days, a couple of weeks directing McBathar right now. And on my machine over here on the old Apple Lisa computer, I've got three or four plays in progress and oh, I probably have in my head two or three other things that I'm ready to do. And I've started working on a created piece with a bunch of students in the department and a bunch of faculty. We're going to work on a piece, we want to work on a piece called Children Going Fourth from the Whitman poem, having to do with what's going on in the world we live in and what
hope there is for us and we all feel we have to project some sort of hope for the future of those children who are over there now and the children who live in the house with me and their children and hopefully their children's children. There's very definitely a difference between writing for the theater and writing for the screen. In the theater, the writer is the first word and the last word. He ultimately has control of everything he does. If he's going to go down the tubes, he's going to be the one to make the decisions that will lead him down the tubes. And in film, you're a hired hand and though you're extremely well paid, once you have turned in the material, the studio or the producer owns the material and has the right to do to the material whatever he they want to in exchange for a very fine living. There's also the difference in the theater and film that in the theater you work with the much smaller, more easily intimate group than you do in film.
In film, I can walk on to a set and there will be 150 people standing there and I'll know five of them. And yet you can be sure that as in the theater, everybody's got a suggestion for you about how to make the work better. From a writer's point of view, there's no question but that the theater is a writer's medium whereas film is a director or a producer's medium and many screenwriters start out screenwriting with the best of intentions but find out along the way that the only way they're going to be able to maintain any kind of control over their work is to become successful, add it enough that they can then become producers and or directors also. Whereas in the theater, you're protected by everyone around you because everyone assumes that it is your right to change everything if you want to and to change nothing if they can't convince you to do it. I don't think you ever get used to rejection.
I remember as a very young writer hearing Scott Fitzgerald's notion that a writer is going to have to paper the walls of his bedroom with rejection slips before he should expect to have anything accepted for publication. When I went through a long period like most young writers do of having my work shipped back just about as fast as I shipped it out, it never gets easier. I can say that that even where I am now, where I know my work's going to be done, I still suffer when anyone from a friend or my wife to the New York Times critics says, I don't like this for whatever reason or I don't like this little bitty part of it. It still hurts the same. The major difference is in the recovery rate. Whereas when I was younger, I could be devastated by a Xerox form rejection slip for weeks. Now I'm under 24 hours.
So that if a play opens and I get bad notices 24 hours later, I will rebound and I'll be back to work on something else. But I do think as much as I would like for there to be a way for there to be no critics that they're really part of the game. Obviously for someone writing film and theater, an audience is crucial to me. So if an audience leaps to its feet and screams, that's marvelous beyond words. If they're lethargic or you get walkouts or you can tell that the reception is tepid, God it hurts. It's just terrible. But I do. I rebound. The best advice I've gotten about movies is from a producer I'm working with right now. And he said, because I was talking to him about a movie that I have coming out, which is not going to be as good as I imagined it would be. And he said two things. They never are and he said forget it and get on to the next thing so that when it's released, no matter how it's received, all of your energy will be with something else, which is what
I do in the theater all the time. By the time a play of mine opens, my brain is already deeply immersed in the next thing I'm going to write. That's a form of protection, though, down. When I was very young, I got involved in acting and my mother put me on stage at about age six as a teddy bear, I believe, in a Christmas page and I was hooked. And I acted for a long time until I got into high school and in high school, it just was not appropriate, it seemed, for the jocks to also be on stage. It was considered somehow a feat. So I tended to shy away from it, college, I didn't pay any attention, I just literally forgot about it in college. And in graduate school, I was immersed in trying to write and I was also trying very hard to become a total lunatic. Then when I got here, I got involved with people in the theater who initially said why don't you write something and we'll do it.
And then someone coaxed me into a play because I said, well, I used to do a lot of acting. And to finally answer the question, yeah, I do consider myself an actor. I know there's no question that if I wanted to work as an actor, I could work as an actor. When I first got here, first of all, I thought this was northern Utah in the geographic morass of my brain. And I thought, my God, I can't stay here, I can't stand this place. Look at their cows all around the place and I came from Miami Beach and I went to graduate school at Stanford and I was used to the ocean and lots of greenery. And the first two years I was here, I intended to retire, I not retire, resign in the spring and go somewhere else. And I turned down the job in Oregon and to in Florida and I couldn't figure out why I accepted it in the third year I decided it must have something to do with the place. I was very surprised when I first came here thinking as I was at that time that I was only coming here because the job paid enough and was structured such that I would have
plenty of time to learn to be a writer. And the first day I walked into a class and started interrelating with my students, I was shocked to discover that I was hooked on something that I'm still hooked on, which is the classroom exchange, the teaching of the students and the students teaching of the teacher. And I've never, never lost interest in going into the classroom. What's happened over the years is that because of my success as a writer I'm able to go into the classroom less and less, which I find frustrating. I've had a fixation with the Old West since I was a kid so I'm sure that that's part of it, living in what remains of the Old West. And I began to realize that a great deal of it had to do with the university and with the people in Las Cruces. And as I've gotten older, I know that's what it has to do with, that this is a great place to raise children, it's a very civilized place to live, people are very, very nice here and you have only to go just about anywhere else to realize that, that there's a level
of civility here, I don't know how we've managed to hang onto it but we're still hanging on to it. There's also now the added fact that I've gotten so much support from people over the years in Las Cruces and El Paso, they've supported me personally, I mean I feel they're support behind me, I feel they're interest in what I do, I feel that there is perhaps more respect than envy so that I'm still comfortable living here. And in terms of developing a theater, which I'm very interested in doing for these two communities this area, the support that's been building the last four or five years suggests that I would be foolish and disloyal to leave. And in fact, we've really only been tempted a couple of times to even think about leaving. I think the most important thing my family has done for me in terms of its influence is that I was noted in my early career as a playwright for being a very cynical playwright
and I was, I was one of the angry young men of my generation and the birth of our children I think began to change all that. And certainly when I wrote children of a lesser god I went through an enormous change, there were a couple of things that, the root of the change, I was about to turn 40. We had three daughters, so I was surrounded by women. I think that I had much of my life worked at being almost self-consciously, traditionally male. And like many heterosexual male writers, I focused my characters, the predominant characters in the male gender, and tended to slight women, or to say as I tried to in Red Rider, look how badly we treat women, but not to gift them large parts.
And with children of a lesser god, for the first time began to write a woman's role that was equivalent to the lead male role. And what I finally came to grips with there was the need to deal with the female side of myself. I had talked for years about the fact that I knew that writers had to be as androgynous as possible. You have to be male and female. But I wasn't good at it. I was afraid of trying to be a good writer of female roles, really deal with the female part of my character. And I know that the three very young ladies that I live with, and Stephanie, my wife, had an enormous effect on my growth in that realm, and having begun to write, I think, very well for women. I do not feel diminished in the least as a man. And in fact, just recently, one of the people on my staff, one of my staff directors, said about this new play I've written. She said, you've gotten to the point now where you write better women than you do men.
And I said, well, good. Now I can go back to writing those horribly cynical macho male characters with the clear conscience, but I'm sure I want. I really do want to write well for women. Back in 73 or 4, when Red Rider opened in New York, and I ended up playing in it in Chicago and New York, and I then had the opportunity to direct in New York, I started thinking, oh, boy, I'm going to be Peter Oostenoff or Woody Allen. And Stephanie and I were married, and we just had Debbie at the time. And she said, very wisely, you're going to have to make a choice, probably not very far down the road, whether you want to commit yourself to being married and having a family or whether you want to commit yourself to doing all those other things. And I think I have never really regretted the decision, which was do not try to be Peter Oostenoff or Woody Allen, and to do all those things, because I don't think I could have, I know I couldn't be living here and I couldn't be teaching and trying to run a theater.
But I doubt that I could be married and have three children either. I would much rather be with them than without them, much, much. I mean, there's no question. Stephanie used to kid me that in effect, she roped me into marriage and children and all that. And that's simply not true, that I went willingly, though, with in a great deal of confusion about what sort of a father I was going to be, because I didn't think I really wanted to be. So I was in a room in my very self-absorbed way of life for a whole family. How would I write? And in fact, I've been more prolific. I've had to regiment my day differently, but I've been more prolific and certainly much, much happier. If I had to give up anything in life, I would give up the writing before I would want to give up the family. That every day I write is a form of exorcism for me, that I'm so full of anger and hostility
and energy and various emotions, frustrations, that the writing gives me an outlet for them that I think, unfortunately, many people don't have. So I consider myself enormously lucky to be able to do what I do and to enjoy it as much as I do and to also get a great deal of psychological satisfaction from the act of doing it. Thank you very much. Okay, Paso with Dolores is made possible in part by Membrace Valley Abstract and Title
Company and Western New Mexico Title Company with locations at 507 Southgold in Dimming and 214 West Broadway, Silver City and by Ugly Duckling Renhacar with locations in Las Cruces, Alamogordo, Dimming and El Paso. Erica's second car, Coast to Coast.
- Qué Pasa with Dolores
- Mark Medoff
- Producing Organization
- Contributing Organization
- KRWG (Las Cruces, New Mexico)
- AAPB ID
- Episode Description
- This episode features a documentary about tony award-winner Mark Medoff, created by KRWG senior production student Michael Farris.
- Created Date
- Asset type
- Media type
- Moving Image
Interviewee: Medoff, Mark
Interviewer: Farris, Michael
Producer: Lenko, Dolores
Producing Organization: KRWG
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
KRWG Public Media
Identifier: cpb-aacip-5dc04c34775 (Filename)
Format: 1 inch videotape
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
- Chicago: “Qué Pasa with Dolores; Mark Medoff,” 1985-04-29, KRWG, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed March 2, 2024, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-5d25b5d6644.
- MLA: “Qué Pasa with Dolores; Mark Medoff.” 1985-04-29. KRWG, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. March 2, 2024. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-5d25b5d6644>.
- APA: Qué Pasa with Dolores; Mark Medoff. Boston, MA: KRWG, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-5d25b5d6644