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Red Hot Rapp

Adam Rapp, whose play Red Light Winter will have its world premiere in the Garage Theatre in May, sat down with Director of New Play Development Ed Sobel and spoke candidly about his play and passion for writing for the theater. Ed Sobel: I thought maybe we’d start by talking about the origins of Red Light Winter. Is it drawn from some kind of personal experience? Adam Rapp: I had an experience in Amsterdam right after the New Year in 1998 when I was living and writing at a writers’ colony in the south of France. I had 10 days off, and one of my best friends from New York joined me in the south of France. We were planning to spend six days in Paris and six days in Amsterdam, and my friend, who – I’ll call him, “my friend”… ES: We need to retain his anonymity… AR: Yeah, well, my friend had not been with a woman for about three and a half years. He had had this relationship with a woman who had left him. And three and a half years later, he had not attempted to get back on the horse, as it were. We’d be at a bar, and a woman would come up to him, and he wouldn’t even register any kind of attraction – he was just sort of dead. When we got to Amsterdam, we were staying in the Red Light District, and I thought that I would get him a prostitute. (laughter) I went out, and I sort of shopped… it sounds really ridiculous… but I shopped the windows. I found this one woman, and I explained the situation to her. See, the deal was that he would only do it if I did it. And so I did it, because I was up for an adventure. But when I was with her, it was actually uneventful, and sort of strange and clinical. Technically, it was sex, but it was really strange, because you’re right behind those windows. They pull a curtain on the other side of the window, and it just feels like a zoo. Then I told her to clear her decks for the next hour because I was going to send my best friend over. When he got back, he had kind of fallen in love with her. It was an irrational, unrequited thing that haunted him for the rest of the trip. He got her number and would call her from New York. I was telling him, “She’s a prostitute. …” She said she was going to medical school, and using her job to pay her tuition. Nothing ever developed between them, as one would guess. So, in a weird way, it was based on that experience. But the play is really about unrequited love and the way we imbue our interactions with complete strangers with an irrational meaning, based on what we don’t have in our life. That was a launching point for me – that personal experience, and to see what it did to my friend and how in love he was, how destroyed he was by this single, random encounter with a prostitute. ES: In addition to being a playwright, you are also a novelist, and you recently wrote and directed a film, as well. Why do you continue to write plays? AR: There’s nothing like going to a great play and forgetting that you are in the theater – like going down the Rabbit Hole. There’s something about witnessing lives that are a few feet away from you that is so powerful. I don’t have the choice to close the book. I don’t have the exuberant luxury of a 20-foot screen with Dolby surround sound. It’s human voices and human bodies and some imagery and some light and sound tricks – and that’s about it. That magic has always been incredibly powerful for me.