The characters in Wild with Happy go on a road trip, but you don’t reveal the destination till late in the play. Why?
We’re all experiencing the journey together, and we don’t know exactly where we’re going. This play is all about faith, believing in things you can’t see.
Have you ever taken a long road trip?
I haven’t. I think I have an aversion to road trips! Which is why, in a way, I wrote about it. I thought: What is a nightmare for me, personally? The unknown of what is on the road…. I’m such a city person. I grew up in Philadelphia and I’ve always lived in major cities like San Francisco and New York. The idea of all the stuff in between, which I’m sure could be a joy, also could be terrifying.
If you could magically transport yourself anywhere, where would you go?
Collioure, in the south of France. It’s where Matisse used to paint, and André Derain. It’s always about 70 degrees. It’s beautiful and really colorful and the people are so kind.
Wild with Happy opens with an unusual church scene. How did you write it?
I wrote it first as a monologue. It came from the idea of looking from a child’s perspective at religion. Things just seem bigger and more Technicolor from a child’s point of view. Also, a child can hear and see things that maybe others can’t. I think this church experience shatters my character Gil. That’s why I wanted to make it fast and furious and a bit absurdist. A bit? No, it’s fully absurdist.
Did you grow up in a churchgoing family?
I didn’t, actually. I come from a long line of church reverends—my grandfather, many of my uncles. But the way my mother raised me and my siblings was more about enabling us to find our own form of spirituality.
The character of Aunt Glo is very funny, and there’s a lot of affection in the portrait. Do you have a lot of “characters” in your own family?
I do. I’m probably the least funny person in my family. At my family gatherings, people are loud. Everyone speaks over one another to get their point across. You’ve got to be very tough for your voice to be heard. We tease each other a lot. And we’re very direct. There’s a huge economy of language in my family—we go straight to it. The character of Aunt Glo pulls no punches. I’ve always been inspired by the writer Nicky Silver, and I notice it as well with his characters: The stakes are so high, there’s no time for lofty language.
Have you begun talking to Danny Scheie about the new production?
I have. He saw the Public Theater’s production [directed by Robert O’Hara] and loved it. But I wanted to make sure he knew it was every intention of mine to rediscover this play. There’s a whole new design team, a few different actors. The only actors from the Public production that will join this one are myself and Sharon Washington, who played Aunt Glo. And Danny said, “How can we use what we all know already and push this second production forward?”
Have you worked with him before?
He directed my very first play, Up Jumped Springtime, at Theater Rhinoceros in San Francisco back in 1998. I first worked with him on an all-male production of Twelfth Night where he cut the character of Malvolio. I thought he was one of the most brilliant directors I’d met, and I still do. It really is full circle in my playwriting career for this play to come back home, as well. San Francisco has been my theatrical home for years; I spent my twenties there.
What’s the last song you sang in the shower?
Oh my God, just this morning I was singing “Ribbons” by Mariah Carey. (Laughs.)
What is your earliest theatrical memory?
When I was in second grade I was in a play, and I use that term lightly, about the 50 states. I went to an all African-American elementary school. This is crazy, but because I have the last name Domingo, because I have a little bit of Latin descent in me, I was given New Mexico. (Laughs.) All I had to do was go up onstage and say: “New Mexico!” It was nerve-wracking, but then I got applause. Something about it felt good.
What’s the next big item on your artistic to-do list?
I’m going to Hong Kong to shoot a movie called 400 Boys, a sci-fi thriller about a futuristic society where the commerce is exchanging body parts. I play a killer. It’s really cool and sexy, lots of techno music and motorcycles and helicopters.