October 6, 2014
An Interview with Will O’Mahony
By Alex Morris @Nemiwai
|Image by Cameron Etchells|
When Perth-based writer/actor/director Will O’Mahony creates something, he thinks of a quote from American writer David Foster Wallace. Will paraphrased him, “Any exchange in fiction or art, when it’s worthwhile, should disturb those parts of us that are comfortable, and comfort those parts of us that are disturbed.”
Will tries to do this when he’s writing and directing.
“My idea of a good night in the theatre, borrowing this from [American writer] George Saunders, is the audience enters a box. It’s my job as a theater maker to make sure something undeniable and non-trivial happens in that box, and people come out in a different headspace from having been in that box. It should be playful, confronting and a bit bizarre,” he said.
The 28 year old has degrees from WAAPA in both acting and directing, and he’s written four plays.
“I had to decide to train as actor or start the decade-long process of becoming a doctor, and I went ‘I might as well keep mucking around,’ and a few years later it led to writing and directing,” he said.
His latest will be a rehearsed reading, happening Saturday and Sunday at Crack Theatre Festival, supported by their Setting the Stages initiative.
Will said that the play, currently with the working title Tonsils and Tweezers, was inspired by his own 10-year high school reunion which he went to last year.
“In the lead up to the event I was filled with all sorts of terror,” he said. “I wasn’t one of those people who was too cool to go. The group of friends from my year had, quite unusually, stayed good friends. It was being an artist and being unemployed for large chunks of the year; I was a bit scared.”
The play is a revenge fantasy where two boys shoot up everyone at their reunion, but the story shifts substantially from its blunt introduction.
“We’ve all thought of killing someone; we’ve all fantasized about that, I’m not particularly nervous about exposing myself in any way,” Will said of how the idea for the story formed. “When these massacres take place, let’s say with Columbine, Sandy Hook, Aurora or our own Port Arthur, so quickly we label the killers as monsters, but we’re all capable of it given the right circumstance and context.”
“It’s an interior play and the character is having a dialogue with himself. It’s about the limits and responsibilities in friendships, the ghosts of friendships, and the guilt we carry with us we can’t move on from.”
With the reading he hopes to provoke contemplation and also for people to remember his characters.
“If I was ever capable of creating a character remembered 30 years down the line, or even two weeks down the line, that would be fantastic,” he said.
Will is writing five new plays this year, and he doesn’t favour one play over another.
“There’s not the one I’m most proud of, I think [American playwright] Edward Albee says ‘plays are like children, you don’t want to have a favourite’. It’s pretty hard to pick favourites or at least to confess to them in public because the plays would probably get embarrassed and start hating me,” he said.
Will doesn’t give advice to aspiring artists, but he does give honesty.
“I’m just making it up, and I think everyone’s just making it up,” he said. “But if you make it up enough and just show up and make your play visible, you’ll get some opportunities and meet some people who can challenge you. If you want to do it, then just do it. Sink your teeth in and start ripping stuff apart.”
This interview was originally written for Crack Theatre Festival.