BPT Talks: a tiny q&a with Daniel C. Blanda

Daniel Blanda

BPT’s 2020-21 season of new plays—thesis plays by our cohort of third-year playwrights—has been postponed until next year due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. In the meantime, all five plays are currently being workshopped in collaboration with our friends at BU’s College of Fine Arts School of Theatre. A series of conversations about these plays, BPT Talks, will be held this fall via the videoconferencing tool Zoom. BPT Talks will convene on Zoom each Tuesday evening at 7:30 p.m. (with the exception of Election Day, Nov. 3) until Nov. 24.

On Nov. 17, we’ll talk about Daniel C. Blanda’s new play Gone Nowhere, which he describes this way:

At an old cabin in rural Minnesota, something is lurking in the corn. In the wake of his father’s death, straight-laced Riley has left his fiancé and the big city behind to search for peace by visiting his old friend. Luckily Hunter knows the cure for grief—old stories, the great outdoors, and plenty of beers. But soon, it becomes clear that Hunter is running from his own demons, and no one will be spared a battle. They spiral through a reckoning of biblical proportions, and neither of them will emerge as the same man…if they make it out at all.

We asked Daniel to share a little bit more about his play and influences on his writing life:

Where did you grow up? Does that place influence/find its way into your writing?

I grew up in Alpharetta, Georgia. I was raised in the South by parents from the North, which was one of a trillion reasons that I never fit in. I rebelled against my surroundings. I talked back a lot. I still do… I challenged just about everything in relation to the South—politics, religions, race, sexuality. Even when I was younger and I didn’t always have a defined opinion of where I stood on a subject, I knew I inherently disagreed with my surroundings, most my teachers and my peers. I still don’t trust any form of organized religion.

To be fair, there’s a lot I liked about growing up in the South and there’s a lot I like about it today, but there’s far more that I disliked.

But, after this election, I couldn’t be more proud of Georgia.

What writing rituals do you have? What is your routine?

Music plays a huge part of my process. I usually build a playlist that drops me into the world of the play. I usually write during the day. I like treating my writing like it’s a 9 to 5. Sometimes I write before 9, sometimes after 5, but treating it like a job takes less pressure off of me for some reason. It helps me get it done.

How do you combat writer’s block? What motivates you to keep going?

To combat writer’s block, I switch projects. I allow myself to leave a play or script and work on something else until I can figure out where to go next with a piece. I know a lot of far more technical writers than me who have an outline in place beforehand, but I can’t seem to trust an outline.

So instead, I switch projects or if there’s a deadline, I go for a run and allow my mind to wander a bit.

What motivates me to keep going is a lot more personal, to be honest. Two weeks after beginning at Boston University, I learned that my mother, Kathryn Decher, was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. A little over a year later, my grandmother, Isabelle Decher, was also diagnosed with Parkinson’s. As a result, I ask, after the interview and reading that you consider making a donation to The Michael J. Fox Foundation. As an artist, I’ve pledged to donate any money I’ve earned through my plays towards finding a cure for this terrible disease.

When I wanted to pursue acting and playwriting, no one supported me more than my mother.

What inspired your thesis play?

My best friend. He and I grew up in the same place, but we opted to go in two very different directions. I moved to New York. He moved to a very beautiful, but isolated part of the mid-west. It was years before we saw each other again, but it was like we hadn’t missed a day.

I went to visit him and my mind wandered.

Are there any new discoveries you’ve made about your play in quarantine? If so, do you feel you would’ve gone that direction/made that choice otherwise (if coronavirus hadn’t happened)?

I think quarantine will help audiences understand the play’s isolation more. I remember in earlier stages of development it was hard for people to imagine a character, let alone a real person, who would willingly choose to live a life so isolated. Since the pandemic, that’s been easier for others to understand and relate to.

If you could go back in time and talk to yourself when you were just starting to work on this play, what would you say to yourself?

Trust that this play will reveal itself in time. It’s not going to be an easy journey, but it will be worth it. Trust your voice.

We hope you’ll join us on Nov. 17 to talk about Daniel’s new play! You’ll need the Zoom app (it’s free!) to participate, and it is recommended you call in a few minutes before “curtain” time. The Zoom link will be available here (scroll down); click here to learn more about the full BPT Talks line-up.