Interview with Patrick T. Gorman
Back in 1995, Patrick T. Gorman directed the first workshop production of his play Star Wars Trilogy in 30 Minutes as part of USC's Experimental Theatre program, under the leadership of Professor Emeritus John Edw. Blankenchip. The next year, it had its premiere at the Edinburgh Festival, thanks to Profession Blankenchip's Festival Theatre USC-USA. It was a hit, and returned several times to the Fringe Festival. Now the show comes home to America for a run Upstairs at the Coronet Theatre in West Hollywood. Profits from the show will benefit USC's Edinburgh Fund.
Writer/Director (and sometime Gammorrean Guard) Patrick T. Gorman kindly took some time to answer a few questions for me, about the genesis of this fast-paced production.
Sharon Perlmutter: I understand you're a fan of Tom Stoppard's Fifteen Minute Hamlet. But what made you choose Star Wars?
Patrick T. Gorman: I chose Star Wars as the films had a tremendous impact on me as a child and made me want to be a writer. I realized that what took place in those films wasn't exactly what occurred at NASA, so I figured if I could be part of that make-believe world, I, too, could live a life of adventure. At the time that I came up with the idea for the show, I was deeply infatuated with Stoppard's work, so it was like those old Reese's Peanut Butter Cup commercials, except it was, "Your Lucas is in my Stoppard. No, your Stoppard is in my Lucas."
SP: Everyone and their brother seems to have some sort of Star Wars parody out there. How did you manage to get approval from Lucasfilm to do this?
PTG: It's done with love and respect and, for Lucasfilm, the end result of this venture is that it helps the USC School of Theatre's Festival Theatre program.
SP: You eventually performed the show for Lucasfilm. How did that go?
PTG: The performance for George Lucas and Lucasfilm was an incredible experience for myself and the entire cast. When I came up with the play years ago, it was always a dream that we could do it for Mr. Lucas; to actually have that happen was fairly nerve-racking and disconcerting because we had no idea if he would love us or hate us. Thankfully, he laughed and enjoyed the whole thing, as did the company, and we were all just truly thrilled.
SP: Cramming seven or eight hours of movie into thirty minutes must have been a difficult task. How did you decide what to keep and what to toss? Were there any guidelines for what bits would make it into your version?
PTG: What I wanted to do was to create something that conceivably could work for someone who had never seen the films. I feel that I've created a narrative cohesion that does work on that level ... people have come to the show who have never seen the films and they laugh throughout. Beyond that, what I wanted to keep were the key moments that people remembered and a bare approach that gets across lightsabers and spaceship fights with as little as possible, but as accurately as possible.
SP: Is there anything that you couldn't put in because it simply wouldn't translate to the stage?
PTG: There were times when myself and others have tried things that just didn't work, but thankfully, we'd muddle through and come up with a way of doing it that was funny and had the essence of what transpired in the films. One of the key examples of this was that, with the people we had available when we workshopped the show originally, we had an attractive woman as Jabba the Hutt. We thought counter-casting would be a nice little joke and it was all we had to choose from at the time. It didn't quite work at all. But then we went to Edinburgh and our palette of performers grew and thankfully we had the brilliant Michael Cornacchia just take over the role and give us a laugh that's a mixture of pure rolling in the aisles laughter and "I can't believe they did that" laughter.
SP: I guess the question everyone asks is whether you'll give the same treatment to the prequels. Do you think they'd work as successfully in this format, or is there some other source material you'd like to attack next instead?
PTG: I hope that they'll work as well as what we've done here. They've done so much with these last two films that's much more amazing visually due to the advances in technology than the first three that I don't know how we'll do it. But with this extraordinary cast, I feel we can do almost anything. In regards to other source material, there are some things in the works which hopefully can come to fruition. I love this cast so much that I'd be willing to do anything that they'd want to do with me.
SP: What do you hope is the future of this show?
PTG: I'd love to take it on the road. Right now, I think our focus is to just keep going in Los Angeles as long as people are interested and then hopefully to take it to New York. After that, I'd love to take it anywhere anyone would want us.
SP: What are your future plans as a playwright?
PTG: Right now, I'm working on a few things. I have a couple of plays that I'm talking to producers about, and I'm working on a new one that I hope will use as much of this current cast as possible. I love the whole team mentality in stage productions and this team that we currently have assembled is one that I'd be quite happy to work with forever.