Interview with HUMANITAS Winner Bill Cain
From 1975-1982, playwright Bill Cain directed the Boston Shakespeare Company and has written a number of plays, including Stand Up Tragedy and Nine Circles. He was also a writer on the television series "Nothing Sacred" (1997-98), about modern life in a Catholic parish, as well as the writer for a recent episode of the Netflix series “House of Cards.”
In an interview for Religion & Politics, Cain states, “I am a Jesuit priest who is supposed to find the presence of God everywhere.”
Cain, an award-winning playwright, Jesuit, and author of the play Equivocation currently on stage at the Theatricum Botanicum kindly agreed to answer a few question for the Topanga Messenger from his office phone at the Fordham Jesuit Community in New York City.
Equivocation has been said to be about telling the truth in difficult times—how might this apply to our society today? We are living in a time where our entertainment is commercial and tied to the bottom line. Theater should be creating and prophetic. We have to look for the writers who do that, who are writing prophetic theater.
What message do you hope to convey? Equivocation is a play about whether an artist should confront his conscience. Was it better to be a prisoner or to be paid to write plays for the King (like Shakespeare)?
Do you have a favorite playwright? Shakespeare, of course. George Bernard Shaw. On television I look for shows that ask questions and confront issues instead of being purely for entertainment [such as] “Friday Night Lights” and “The Wire.”
Like athletes, writers often have rituals (a favorite pen or type of notebook). Hemingway wrote standing up. Faulkner wrote lying down. Do you have any rituals? I took five extended trips to London to write Equivocation. I wrote it in the Tower of London, on the streets, at The Globe. Every day I would walk around London and then see a play in the evening. I learned where everyone involved in the Gunpowder Plot lived, both inside and outside London and I had a strong geographical knowledge of the landscape of the history and players in the Gunpowder Plot before I wrote the play.
What ability would you like to steal from another writer? Athol Fugard (South African playwright). He can fit the whole world into three characters. I would like to be able to do that.
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