You are here: Home / Features / A Conversation with Rose Cottages Playwright Bill Bozzone
A Conversation with Rose Cottages Playwright Bill Bozzone
August 25, 2011 - By Millicent Borges-Accardi
For the west coast premier of Rose Cottages, Bill Bozzone adapted his original play to fit the site and the cast at the Theatricum Botanicum. What follows below is an interview with the playwright as to his craft and how he adapted the play for audiences in Topanga.
Originally, Rose Cottages featured an older black man in the part of Rose and Lydell was an AWOL soldier 18 years of age. In the recent production in Topanga, the part of Rose has been changed to a female and Lydell is now a 14-year-old skateboarder.
Q: How much input did you have during rehearsals of Rose Cottages at the Theatricum?
A: I wasnt in attendance for any of the rehearsals, but director Heidi Helen Davis and myself were in pretty constant contact either by phone or email. Heidi had numerous suggestions and notes for a rewrite of the play, most of which were excellent. I rewrote entire scenes; not a word was changed without my consent. It was a process playwrights often only wish for.
Q: I read that in 1986 the set was decorated with pink flamingos and peeling wallpaper, which do you prefer, a sparse monochromatic stage a more decorative set?
A: The original production took place in a theater that was once a warehouse, so the contrast between the bleak surroundings and the loud Florida set was a striking and humorous in itself. The Theatricum production was more minimal and worked, I think, perfectly with the outdoor surroundings. I cant really say which set I liked more. Its as if they both served different plays, and served them ideally.
Q: What first inspired you to write Rose Cottages?
A: I almost always write based on character, but Rose Cottages was based on a story I read about a married couple who could no longer care for the aging mother of one of them. So they took her to one of the horse racing tracks in Florida and left her, wheelchair bound, for someone to find.
Q: What message did you hope to convey with this play in the late 80s? Is the message the same now? If the message differs, how has the message changed?
A: The message remains constant: our lives are a constant struggle to be part of a perfect family. Since most of us find fault with our own families, we do what we have to to form new ones.
Q: How did you transform Rose from an older man to a woman?
A: It was tough. The one thing I knew, is that I wanted the play to remain a love story. It became, for me, the tale of great friendship love among three people. In the original production, there was always a sexual tension between the man and woman. In the new production, the tension seems to be connected to the question of which of these two strong women will win in the end. A big change in the play centered around the fact that Rose, as a man, felt betrayed by his wife and by women in general. In the current production, Rose and Jessie have both been victims of their husbands neglect, so the bond that forms is that much stronger.
Q: What difficulties did you have transforming a soldier to a skateboarding punk?
A: Lydell has always been a skateboarder. Previously he was an AWOL. Now he's a runaway.
Q: Do you think there are parallels between your play and Bagdad Café?
A: If there are, other than the physical landscape, I dont see them. But Ive been asked this question more than once, so maybe I dont have enough distance from my own work to see the similarities.
Q: Do you think Lydell as a soldier makes a different impact than Lydell as a skateboarder?
A: Great question. I think that Lydell as a soldier makes a huge statement in that he is saved not only from his father, but from the military where he would have been a misfit as well. But Lydell at 14 has a different impact. His escape has been more immediate and, in a way, a bit more dangerous. The AWOL soldier, if caught, probably goes to a military prison. The runaway is usually sent home.
Q: Lydell does not skateboard during the play. Was that a directing choice? Or part of the playscript?
A: Actually, it was a mutual decision made in the interest of safety. The other consideration is the fact that not all actors are skateboarders, and to have someone who can actually perform cuts down your casting choices.
Q: Which version of your play do you prefer?
A: A Sophies Choice question. However I answer, at least one excellent director and a lot of great actors are going to get very pissed off at me. Let me say this: I prefer whichever version Im working on at the time.
Q: Do you have a favorite play and/or playwright?
A: So many plays. Our Town continues to have a terrific impact on me; I cant see a good production of the play and not be weeping at the end. Death of a Salesman is a wonderful play. Streetcar is genius. I am inspired by a lot of Edward Albees stuff. And August Wilson Fences, may be one of the best plays written in the English language. I have never read a Tina Howe play I didnt like. As far as anything on Broadway right now, I would beg everyone to see the current, magnificent production of Memphis.
Q: 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?
A: I have to start out with a smooth writing pen on unlined paper. (Lines, I feel, restrict me.) And I spend a good amount of time thinking about what Im going to write before putting pen to page. I find the bathtub a good place to think. I try not to put anything on computer until the very end of the process. If I see it on the screen, I figure it must be finished.
Q: What ability would you like to steal from another writer?
A: I would love to have Sam Shepards ability to tell a long story and make it totally compelling, and Keith Reddins wonderful sense of comic timing.
Q: Does writing matter? Do you feel writing makes a difference in the world?
A: Lets just say writing and reading and being audiences is what makes us human. Without it, were like dogs minus the loyalty. Writing (and reading) allows us the ability to escape from a world we may not be crazy about and enter one thats hopefully a better fit. As a teen, I spent more time with Twain and Hawthorne and Poe than I did with my own parents. I wrote out the entire novel, Catcher In the Rye, in longhand just to see what it would feel like to write a masterpiece.