Tracy's New York Life | A Blog About Life in New York City: Playwright Mac Rogers: Offbeat but Always Entertaining

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Playwright Mac Rogers: Offbeat but Always Entertaining


METROPOLITAN LIVES
by Amanda Halkiotis

Mac Rogers is a Brooklyn-based playwright known for zany comedies and twisted dramas. --photo by Ben Vanderboom

New York City can at times feel like a parallel universe, where something strange and surreal can happen at random to anyone, anytime. For Mac Rogers, a playwright known for zany comedies and twisted dramas, living in New York can’t even compare to the kooky worlds he creates onstage for his audiences.

A North Carolina native, Rogers told me recently that he was a “pretty nerdy kid," actually reading Doctor Who books as he walked down the street. "Needless to say, I got my ass kicked a bit, but I was also funny enough to make friends.” 


Rogers in action.

Along with his comic timing, Rogers has some knockout creative genes, as his mother is a poet and an academic, and as a teaching physician his father also does plenty of writing. As a child, Rogers wrote plays that his church’s youth group then performed, and also attended auditions and rehearsals at the local children’s theater.

Since moving to New York City, Rogers has written and produced full-length plays that tackle topics ranging from robots to Satan to euthanasia and voyeurism. 

He got his start in the NYC indie theater scene by starting the theater company Gideon Productions with two of his colleagues shortly after moving here. Rogers then went on to join Manhattan Theatre Source, a nonprofit arts production agency that links contacts and resources within the theater community. Up until last January, Manhattan Theatre Source had a West Village performance space which helped shape Rogers’ career.


Rogers with his ensemble during a reading

 “When that organization still had space on MacDougal Street, they made many opportunities for me to present short and full-length pieces and build a slow awareness of my stuff among a number of artists over a period of time,” he said recently.

With favorite authors such as Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler, and Arthur C. Clarke, Rogers has always loved science fiction. “A big part of it is sheer geekiness: I think aliens, robots, and spaceships are cool,” he admits. Rogers appreciates how science fiction studies human nature "by placing it in a series of strange crucibles: the end of the world, the invention that changes everything, the responsibility for a new kind of life, an encounter with an utterly foreign culture." He feels science fiction is a way to learn about people.

If he seeks to further his independent study on the human species, then Rogers made an excellent decision to make Brooklyn his home. “I’ve always loved living in New York, taking the train, walking down bustling streets through rapidly changing neighborhoods. I’ve loved it since my father brought me here as a small child.”  Excursions for Rogers include going to Chimu in Williamsburg with his wife and exploring Manhattan al fresco.  Places like Washington Square Park, Battery Park, the West Village and Dumbo, are where you'll find him when the weather suits. "I really like summer best.”


Rogers likes to hang out in the Dumbo area of Brooklyn.--by kaitlin. marie via Flickr

Rogers' favorite part is his collaborations with the other artists.  "I just can’t believe it, I get drunk with the level of talent and insight I get to interact with at every rehearsal, every reading, every show. I used to regard playwriting as a highly private act, but I’ve 180’d on that because of the directors, performers, and designers I get to work with."

As for his next delightfully dark drama, Rogers has an upcoming piece called Frankenstein Upstairs, which is a sci-fi/horror thriller about a Brooklyn couple running a social media business out of their home. "Their upstairs neighbor is a lonely, socially awkward woman named Frankenstein, he said.  "Whatever she’s up to upstairs, it keeps making the power go out." At first the couple is annoyed by the woman, but gradually befriend her. "And then all of a sudden they need her specific services very badly, at which point things begin to go south," he continued. "It’s pretty messed up. It should be a good time.” 

Rogers may appear to be offbeat, but he likes to write about things that worry him, or those he's afraid of. He strives to share the questions he can't answer. He aims to explore those complex, unexplainable human sides. "I find it so distressing that what we mean to do, what we intend to do, is so often meaningless in the face of what we actually end up doing."


Rogers' most recent work, Sovereign--photo by Deborah Alexander

Make no mistake though, first and foremost Rogers thinks of himself as an entertainer. "I make the creation of a satisfying evening my top priority. I think playwrights go through periods of being sympatico with the audience, and periods of falling out of step with them. It’s an ongoing struggle."

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