Playwright David Robson on Football, Bravado, and "Playing the Assassin"

It’s not often that the Delaware Theatre Company presents a drama that focuses on sport, much less football. But playwright David Robson’s “Playing the Assassin,” is not just a play about the violence inherent with American’s favorite pastime. It is in fact a story about bravado, the ruthless nature of the game, and what happens when 20 years pass after a life-altering injury, giving players a chance to reflect, agitate, and consider their legacy. Filled with powerful dialog and strong performances, “Playing the Assassin” is also based on a true story. Show runs Oct 21 – Nov 8.

Delaware Theatre Company's 2015 production of Playing The Assassin - Written by David Robson and Directed by Joe Brancato. Photo by Matt Urban.

Delaware Theatre Company’s 2015 production of Playing The Assassin – Written by David Robson and Directed by Joe Brancato. Photo by Matt Urban.


Q: Director Joe Brancato mentions he was drawn to the play because of its “truthful smart dialogue.” How did you develop the characters of Frank and Lewis and their interactions?

A: I wrote the first draft very quickly, almost without conscious thought. I put two men in a room and had them talk. That first draft helped me discover their voices and the story itself. For Frank’s voice, I drew on a lifetime of sports-watching and conversations with athletes. In Frank’s case, he’s a trash-talker and uses all the tools in his arsenal–verbal and physical–to hamper his opponents. He’s cagey, smart, and relentless. Lewis came more slowly because at first I didn’t quite know who he was or what part he played in the whole thing. Through rewrites and then the rehearsal process, their voices came into even sharper focus. Smart actors like Garrett and Ezra enable a playwright to hone the characters’ voices. What’s great, too, is that the actors begin feeling possessive of these characters. Their investment in this story helps make it a reality.

Q: PLAYING THE ASSASSIN captures the more aggressive side of America’s most popular sport. What other themes are present in this production? How do they relate to the long-term effects of violence on the football field?

A: I didn’t set out to write a football play; I set out to write a play about two men fighting for their lives. Football, because of the event that inspired the play, just happened to be the context. I hope the play is about redemption and regret and pride and what legacy we leave behind us. But honestly, if I’ve done my job, audiences will take away so many ideas. But the play doesn’t profess to have the answers. The best plays ask questions and allow the rest of us to figure out the answers. 

Q: Did anything surprise you when you were developing this play? 

A: I am always amazed at what invested actors and a dedicated director can do for a play. They take it to the next level. Ezra, Garrett, and Joe have honored the play, and me, with their talents. But I guess what most surprises me is how something I dreamed up in my room alone can resonate with so many people. 

Delaware Theatre Company's 2015 production of Playing The Assassin - Written by David Robson and Directed by Joe Brancato. Photo by Matt Urban.

Delaware Theatre Company’s “Playing The Assassin” – Photo by Matt Urban.

Q: How has writing PLAYING THE ASSASSIN impacted you and your playwrighting? How have you been changed by this play?

A: My plays have been produced in a number of theaters across the country and throughout the world, but PLAYING THE ASSASSIN is now my most produced and successful play. It’s inspired me to keep writing and keep moving and keep building. All of my plays begin with me asking “what if” questions of myself. This play is no different. It’s a true thrill to have it produced in my home state–icing on the cake!

Q: What do you hope audiences take away from this production?

A: I want them to be surprised, excited, and blown away by the play. I’ve seen, in its other productions, how people are left gasping for air as these two men take the stage, size each other up, and fight for their lives. The audience watches the play, but the playwright watches the audience as it grapples with the play’s twists and turns. By the end, I want them to be wide-eyed and wrung out!

Q: In one word, how would you describe PLAYING THE ASSASSIN?

A: Visceral.

 

 

PLAYING THE ASSASSIN runs October 21 – November 8 at Delaware Theatre Company. Click the button below or call our Box Office at 302-594-1100 to get your tickets today!

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