Nick Flynn

The new play from the author of Another Bullshit Night in Suck City.
Nick Flynn
Photograph by Matt Valentine

The play Alice Invents a Little Game and Alice Always Wins represents a chance for the award-winning poet and memoirist (Another Bullshit Night in Suck City ) to “work a muscle [he] hadn’t before.” He currently teaches creative writing at the University of Houston.

Is Alice your first play?

In my memoir there are fragments of writing that look like plays. It’s interesting to build whole worlds out of what people say and to line that up against what they are doing, which can create another level of tension, especially if the two don’t line up perfectly.

How many productions of Alice have been staged?

Alice started as a commission for the Vineyard Theatre in New York—they asked four poets to each write a one-act play, then connected us with actors and directors, and we had a week or so to rehearse before a two-night run.

What have you learned from the directors and actors who have staged it?

One thing I’ve learned is that actors want to know the backstory to a character. There’s a guy in Alice named Ivan, and it is unclear whether he is a businessman or homeless, and the actor really needed to know. The problem was, I didn’t know, and still don’t—he’s a slippery character.

How do you approach a play differently, from a poem or memoir, knowing that live persons will have to act out your words?

From the work I did with the actors, my respect for the craft of acting really deepened, to see how seriously each word was weighed, considered, attempted in various ways—how they could find aspects of the characters that even surprised me, through intonation, inflection, pauses, gesture. It really feels very collaborative, but then even writing a memoir feels collaborative, in a way, in

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