Monday, November 28, 2011

5 Questions with Richard Reiss

The 10th reading in the FORUM reading series is DESPERATE LOVE by Richard Reiss.

This reading will be held at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Dreyfuss Theatre, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ on Wednesday, December 7 at 7:00pm. Click here for directions. Click here for a printable map of the campus (the Dreyfuss Theatre is located in Building 9).

Richard Reiss is the Senior Vice President for University Advancement at Fairleigh Dickinson University. His writing has been published in the New York Times, ADDitude Magazine, Perigee Literary Journal, and in the anthology, Upstart Crows II: True Stories, published by Wide Array Press. In 2008 Reiss collaborated with director and lyricist, Martin Charnin, to create the musical revue Love is Love. In the 1990’s his column, Reiss’s Pieces, for Forbes Newspapers, was recognized by the New Jersey Press Association. Desperate Love, the play, is based on the memoir of the same name and will be published by Serving House Books in fall 2011.

1. What inspired you to write Desperate Love?
I wanted to tell my story so that people could understand what it was like to live with an oppositionally defiant child. And I wanted the parents of a child like mine to know that they are not alone. As parents we struggle as much as our children. We confront love and faith and God, and there isn’t always an answer or even resolution. It’s a subject that’s not really talked about a lot, and I wanted to confront it head on.

2. You collaborated with director and lyricist, Martin, Charnin, to create the musical review Love is Love, can you tell us a little about how that collaboration process worked?
Martin had seen a piece I had written in the Modern Love column of the New York Times about my son called Sending a Lost Boy to the Wilderness to Find Himself. He approached several writers of his favorite Modern Love columns and asked some of us to write new pieces for a new musical revue he was creating. I was in the middle of working on my memoir and sent him some chapters that I thought might work once he described the concept of the show to me, which was a combination of songs and soliloquies about different aspects of love. So we edited one of the chapters I had written from the memoir and it became a very moving soliloquy in the show, paired with a very beautiful song.

3. What compelled you to become a playwright?
It was actually Martin Charnin, who had read an early draft of my memoir of the same name, that suggested I write a play. I told him I knew nothing about play writing, and he told me that I should just start writing and he would help me with the structure. I floated a lot by Martin once I conceptualized the play in my head. I really enjoyed writing the play. Everything in the book is 100% true, but the play is a fictionalized version of events so I could play with the characters and the dialogue. And, of course, I learned that prose does not always or easily translate into interesting dialog. I’m still learning.

4. What was your column about in the Piscataway Dunellen Review?
The Piscataway Dunellen Review was a small town newspaper owned by Forbes. At the time, Forbes owned more than twenty local newspapers in New Jersey. I don’t believe that’s still the case. I wrote a humor column called Reiss’s Pieces. It often appeared in all of the papers so after a while I had a nice following in Central New Jersey. It was a great experience and taught me how to be disciplined as a writer. It not so easy writing a 750 word humor column every week.

5. What is the best play or musical you have ever seen?
I still love West Side Story. I think I was ten when I first saw it. If only all gangs could sing and dance?

Click here to purchase a ticket to see DESPERATE LOVE at at FDU.

You can also find additional information on our website about the entire FORUM reading series.

$10 per reading
$25 for a FORUM pass (attend all 23 readings in the series)

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