I did an interview with Reign Or Shine Productions about my play Cohesion which is being presented in their Seeing Double reading Series.
ROS: What was the germ of COHESION and would you mind tracing the journey up to this point for us?
NH: COHESION started as a 10 minute play called BREAK UPS AND CRONUTS. I thought it would be funny to show a couple breaking up in public from across the room, while on the phone with each other. Most of my ideas for plays start this way; me finding a particular situation amusing and figuring out which kinds of people might find themselves in those situations. Jake is a culmination of men I’ve dated. I don’t know what that says about me. I think Val has my sarcastic and deadpan sense of humor.
In the short play, Jake and Val are a mess, they are rude and crass, and they are struggling with what they wanted out of life. It started off as a fun exercise and a reason to play with quick banter. After I finished the short play, I just felt that I wasn’t done with Jake and Val’s story. I felt a longing to see what happened to them before they got to screaming at each other in a New York City cafe. The full-length play then became a window into this relationship between two very flawed and imperfect people who could not get out of their own way.
I brought it with me to a week long dramatic writing workshop taught by Halley Feiffer at Lighthouse Writers in Denver last June. It has had some dramaturgical development from casual readings done at my apartment, and there have been elements that have been added or taken away. It even got a new name. The essence of Jake and Val has always been the same. This is the first time the play will be heard by an audience and I’m very excited about that.
ROS: The show very much examines the idea of chemistry between people. How would you define that kind of chemistry and how did you decide to explore it in this story?
NH: The play’s title, COHESION, is a call back to an event that happens in chemistry; it is the action or property of like molecules sticking together, being mutually attractive. I would say that the chemistry depicted in the story between Jake and Val is brought about because they are similar people who also happen find each other attractive. They are each other’s match when it comes to wit. Jake and Val surprise and tease each other through similar, sarcastic humor; they make each other laugh. They have a specific energy when they are around each other. But they are similar in other qualities as well; they avoid certain conversations, they don’t want to appear vulnerable, and they have a fear of abandonment. All of these traits are equally what binds them and what tears them apart.
Cohesion focuses on a very intense long-term connection between Jake and Val. How would you describe their relationship?
My over-arching goal in writing Cohesion was to show what fear can do to a relationship. If these two people had met at a different time in their live’s, when they had worked through their own struggles and insecurities, would it all have worked out? It’s funny, because all through the
play, Jake or Val are reluctant to call what they are participating in as a relationship. Val calls it hooking up at first, Jake calls it a friendship, they both don’t want to call it long-distance when that is definitely what it is. They push and pull at each other all the time. They joke and laugh, they have sex, they let each other in on some things, but not on everything. For some reason neither one can say, “hey, I like you. I want us to be together.” Fear of being rejected, of getting too close, of the other person leaving is underneath all their interactions. They use humor and sex to mask it until things are just not funny or sexy anymore.
ROS: There’s a rapid-fire pace to the dialogue! Is that something you like utilize often? And what makes that such a great fit for this piece?
NH: I like using banter in my plays, especially in ones where things take a dark turn. We use humor to survive through some awful things in life and I use that defense mechanism in my scripts. I also think its fun to write smart and clever characters. For this play, I thought it was important to show how differently Jake and Val talk with each other than with everyone else. They have a special rhythm and they’re on each other’s level. You almost can’t keep up. It shows their unique bond. I describe it as a tennis match; they are playing a game and they only drop the ball when one of them messes up or tries to cover an insecurity.
ROS: What’s next for COHESION and Niki Hatzidis?
NH: I hope COHESION has a full production someday and that I have the opportunity to tell this story again. For now, I have a lot more scripts in my head I want to put on paper. I wrote a one act, SETTING THE SKY ON FIRE, about the wives of the scientists living in Los Alamos during the creation of the atomic bomb. In my research, I found so many stories of women who were a part of the Manhattan Project that the play feels negligently unfinished. I want to write a series of one acts about all the women that I have learned about and their participation in the project. I also have an outline of a feature film inspired from one of my short plays called THE C WORD, about a young woman struggling with the possibility of a cancer diagnosis and the adventures she goes on in order to cope. My goal is to make a dent in that script too, so hopefully there will be a lot more typing in my future.
Come see the first reading of Niki's new play on Friday, October 11th at 7:30pm at The Drama League!