Winners and Losers
November 28, 2012
Winners and Losers is currently at the Gateway Theatre in Richmond. It’s coming to the PuSh Festival in January.
Below is a Q and A post from the Gateway’s website. It’s a great interview and worth the read.
Marcus Youssef, one of Winners and Losers’ two playwrights, answers questions on how he and Jamie wrote the play and what makes it a winner.
Q: In a nutshell, what would you say Winners and Losers is about?
Marcus: How competition is part of everything we do, for better and for worse. And class – about how capitalism and money are defining features of that competition, and how that affects everything, even our closest friendships, whether we like it or not.
Q: What was the inspiration for writing Winners and Losers?
Marcus: A friend of ours got involved in a kind of pyramid scheme that promised money and spiritual satisfaction, which is so hard to find in this culture particularly, I think. It got us thinking about how where we are (late 30s, early 40s), maybe especially for men, is when you really start assessing whether you’re winning or losing, and sometimes taking desperate measures if you’re not sure.
Q: Which one of you came up with the concept for this play? Who wins at playwrighting?
Marcus: I can’t answer that. We were making a different play, about two Russian novelists competing to write the best novel, and also another one about two office workers. To warm up, we would play the winners and losers game (name a person place or thing and debate whether it’s a winner or a loser) and compete about who was better at stuff. We recorded and transcribed those warm-up games and after reading them went, This is way better and closer to what we’re after than the two fictional pieces we we’re working on.
I win at playwrighting. Jamie wins at acting.
Q: To what extent is this play autobiographical or an account of your (Marcus’ and Jamie’s) friendship?
Marcus: It’s all autobiographical. I think it brings to the surface currents that are there in our friendship, but were never explicitly admitted or spoken about. That’s what I like about the piece—it explores competitive questions and dynamics that are present (I believe) in all our relationships but that we rarely admit because it feels dangerous 5pxnd wrong to acknowledge conflict and difference with people we care about. But is it surprising, given the centrality of competition to our entire cultural/economic/global governance system, that we experience it in our personal lives too.
Q: Why should people come see this play? What makes it a winner?
Marcus: It’s funny. It’s doesn’t feel like fake, ordinary theatre. It’s about something. And we’re really, really, really good looking. Jamie in particular. And I don’t look a day over 29.
Q: Why did you see it as important to include the characters’ economic backgrounds (1 vs. 99%) in the play?
Marcus: Because it’s true. Because we hardly ever talk about money in our personal lives or in our political discourse, yet it is the single most important social and political force in the world today. How can we begin to sort the current mess out if we can’t talk about money with our closest friends? But it’s hard to do.
Q: What do you hope audiences take away from seeing this play?
Marcus: Having had a good time, and laughed a fair bit, and also having witnessed something challenging and a bit scary. I also hope it’s something that makes them feel good—because it’s really honest and personal and tries something about how we try to live in the world. I always feel good when I see or read something that tries to do that.