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Interview with Mark Murray about CODA

Interview with Mark Murray about CODA

: Photo by Mark Murray.

Interview with Mark Murray about CODA

: Photo by Mark Murray.

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In response to the September premier of CODA, an original play by Mark Murray, student Jenisa Ubben asked Murray for an interview about the inspirations behind his work.

The play was shown from September 12th-15th 2012, featuring one ASL translated performance, and was widely lauded by the Cornish community (see earlier post for more information). Murray gave this written interview in October 2012:

Ubben: How did you write CODA? Was it part of a Cornish class or program, and were there any prompts that brought you to create it? Inspirations?

Murray: I started writing this version of CODA last Spring in my playwriting class when we were asked to write a solo show. In truth, I attempted to write a different version my Sophomore year when I decided that I wanted to audition for the Original works program, but the style and my lack of ability made it difficult for me to excute. It also came down to “how many actors do I know that know sign language?”, the answer being “just me”. When presented with the prompt to write a solo show, I thought it was the perfect framing device to tell this story without being weighed down with finding actors who were fluent in sign language. People are/were always telling me how cool it is that I grew up with Deaf parents, and that it must have been so different, so I wanted to write a play exploring that idea of “different.”

The play started out as just a collection of different scenes that I had written around the idea of having Deaf parents and the character Tim, and I had no clue how they were connected to the arc of the story, or for that matter, what the story I was trying to tell was. Through the course of the show, many scenes have been added and many have been subtracted from what was presented at Cornish for my Senior Project [The September performances of CODA] and there will continue to be additions and subtractions as I continue work on it. I didn’t even find what the story was, or why I was telling it until four weeks into my rehearsal process and six months into writing. I finally figured it was about coming of age, and the realities we create around our experiences growing up.

Ubben: How was your experience of letting another person in on your work (Director Lindsey Leonard)? How did that expand/modify your idea of the work (if it did)?

Murray: It was extremely important for me to bring in another set of eyes, and more importantly another set of eyes that I trusted and also didn’t know much about the world that I was exploring. Lindsey helped to shape the piece, allowed me to play comfortably within the text and the form, and guided me through the creation of each of the characters. She was also very good about discussing with me what was and wasn’t working in the piece so that I didn’t lose the audience or have unnecessary material.

Ubben: You’re in the Original Works [Theater] program, what is that like? How do people’s diverse histories and personalities come out through their plays, and how are they drawn out?

Murray: (This is a mammoth of a question, hah). For me the program is simply exploring characters and stories through different mediums such as clown, directing and playwriting. All of our history shows up in our work and the best stories come from when we write what we know.

Ubben: How do you feel the community responded to the play? Did you get comments from students, Seattle people, others?

Murray: It seemed that the Cornish community, the Deaf community (the few that came), and the random stranger community all responded extremely well to the show. It was more than the feeling of obligation to say “good show,” people had detailed responses about what they liked and how it affected them. I had so many conversations after the show, heard so many conversations sparked because of the show, and continue to have conversations two weeks afterwards. And isn’t that why we create art? To spark conversation? For me that is a big reason.


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