Voices of BTM XXIII: Nick Malakhow

Nick MalakhowTell us a little about your play.

Thrasher is about two close friends—Gabby and Taj—who are arguing about whether or not to go to a party that Gabby was invited to by her “cool” (and totally white) new friends. Taj is trying to convince Gabby that they should just hang out together at Gabby’s house when she reveals that she’s going to the party with a purpose—to be with her crush.

What made you want to tell this story?

I grew up in a diverse suburb in New Jersey close to New York City. It had the perceived “safety” and privileges of a suburb with the diverse demographics of a more urban metro area. It even marketed itself as a “little suburban metropolis” that had the best of both worlds. It was a fascinating experience to grow up in this environment as a multi-racial queer person (who was grappling with those two things mostly internally throughout my adolescence). On the one hand, I was surrounded by a diverse group of peers, and on the other hand, divisions along various identity lines and the reach of cultural white dominance co-existed with each other as well. I wanted to write a story that captured some of that inner conflict I felt growing up—namely, wanting to belong, defining oneself against whiteness, being torn between your affinity groups and some idealized social reality.

What interests you in the ten-minute format?

I tend to write small, subtle, slice-of-life pieces. When I think of ten-minute plays, I think of quick, punchy comedies that rely on one “bit.” I tend to feel like my kind of writing is incongruous with the ten-minute format, so I do love the challenge of honoring my interest in character development and small, seismic character shifts while finding an urgent enough action to highlight. Oftentimes, I do end up adapting my short pieces into full lengths—Thrasher actually became a full length called Off the Palisades Parkway that I ended up setting back in the late 90’s/early 2000’s. I usually get attached to characters and need to continue their stories.

What are the particular challenges to writing for (or adapting to) Zoom? Are there benefits to working in this medium? Were there any surprises along the way?

Zoom provides for an intimacy and subtlety typically reserved for film. Given my penchant for small, character-driven plays, I find that the relationships between my characters tend to work really well in this format. On the other hand, with extremely naturalistic writing comes the inelegant overlaps and irregularities in human speech which, as we all know after a year and change of Zoom readings and productions, are really hard to capture using video conferencing apps.

What’s next for you as a playwright (or producer, actor, student, teacher, etc.)?

A big move across the country, actually! With equal parts excitement and happiness, I’m relocating to Colorado at the end of the summer. Along the way, there are some workshops and development opps for plays folded into the long-term plan. I’m eager to keep up with the arts community in Boston and excited and anxious to get to know my new community when I land.

Don’t miss Thrasher on May 17. Boston Theater Marathon XXIII: Special Zoom Edition continues Monday-Saturday at 12 noon ET through May 28!  More