AN INTERVIEW WITH THE PLAYWRIGHTS BEHIND AUTOPSY AND A HAUNTING IN E FLAT: ALEX MONK AND JOEY OUELLETTE
Interview by Michael K. Potter
POTTER: How would you summarize your play? What's it about, what happens, and what makes it unique and/or interesting?
ALEX MONK: Autopsy is very much about how toxic our surroundings can be on our emotional and physical well-being. Our life choices and career choices, although they may seem like the safe options, can have effects on us – especially if we're not honest with ourselves. In this play we follow Gary, who's lost himself along the path of life, and now it's far too late. When you start talking to dead bodies and seeing yourself in them, the similarities can be quite horrific.
JOEY OUELLETTE: Thomas Nett is a paranormal investigator. When his niece Charmaine assists on a pair of investigations they uncover more than they had expected in a terrifying way. Why do people get
haunted? Why do other people investigate these things? A Haunting in E Flat answers these questions
but mixes the boos with laughs so it's both spooky and fun.
POTTER: What led you started writing this script? Was it an idea that just popped into your head, an
experience that made you reflect, something else entirely? And once you started, what was the
writing process like for you?
MONK: At the time I was working at an animal hospital where we experienced pet death every day. And
it was the safe choice for me, full time with benefits. But it was really wearing on me, and I really drew
parallels between my life and the play. When I started writing it almost flowed from my fingers, but
after re-reading I found it needed a lot of editing. The most important part was getting it all down, then
polishing it to the finished product that it is.
OUELLETTE: I've been haunted. It really freaked me out. Once you open that door, once you know that
door is there, many things are possible, most of them scary. I began to study the paranormal, and how
people – between hunters – confront it and deal with it. I'd written a series of Thomas Nett plays that
were produced years ago and the ideas and themes were still haunting me, so I opened the door again .
POTTER: You both won the first annual Windsor-Essex Playwriting Contest. Tell me about that
experience and how it affected the approach you took to developing your script.
MONK: It was nice writing it within the time constraints that the contest held because I really need a kick in the pants when it comes to writing. I have about 4 unfinished scripts at home that I get halfway
through then have an idea for another that I begin to pursue under the idea that I've got lots of time to
finish the first script.
OUELLETTE: I was very happy to win. Not so that I can brag, but because I love to tell stories and work
in theatre. There's nothing greater than that. The act of creating something – gathering random
meaningless strings of experience and ideas and weaving them into a moving story – is the most
powerful personal experience I've ever felt. Sharing the script— having it produced – is the ultimate
giving and sharing. It's an incredible feeling.
POTTER: Which stories and storytellers – in whatever genre, format, or medium – influence your
writing? What inspired you – and continues to inspire you?
MONK: I couldn't really narrow it down to one medium. I take it many different genres and formats, but
I think my favorite is when, whatever the show or production is, they incorporate improv into the
scripts. Allowing room for flow and new ideas coming in and out of what's written is so much fun for
creators and for audiences.
OUELLETTE: Oh my. I read a lot. I like the work of KJ Parker most of the time. There's really too many
influences to list. I think theatre, for an audience, is to experience things that make them feel. When I
walk down the street I am bombarded by intense experiences. I try to hold onto a few of them and
share them. They're like ghosts that only I can see. Hopefully an audience at one of my plays can
somehow see them too.
POTTER: You're an actor (and/or director, producer ...) as well as a writer. How do the different
positions you've filled over the years in the worlds of theatre and comedy intersect? How do they
inform - or even interfere - with each other?
MONK: Being involved in all those different parts helps a show that I work on in the way that I can see it
from many perspectives. I may think a certain joke is hilarious on paper, but on the stage it isn't very
practical to do. Or when I'm acting, something in the script might bother me, and I'll be able to come up
with effective solutions or see the reason for the trouble spot. When you're only an actor you may have
a hard time seeing the full picture. Just as in comedy if you produce the show, it changes your view on
the overall success of the show and you're more capable of critically evaluating the show, and your own
performance. The diverse roles I've filed have helped me develop into a better comedian/actor/writer.
OUELLETTE: Life is a strange journey. I'm intensely private and shy. In school I'd take a mark of zero
rather than speak in front of a class. From there I became an actor. That's a bit of a jump, I know. As an
actor I was hungry for experience but found many scripts were either not of interest or too expensive.
So I began to write. Not well. It's essential to take ego out of the equation. I began to direct so that
others could interpret what I wrote. Hopefully, over time, I've become better at all three. Theatre is a
team event. For me, writing, acting and directing can all help influence the journey in the best direction.
Copyright © 2017