Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Playwright Interview #3 – Sven Bonnichsen October 25, 2010

NAME: Sven Bonnichsen

PROJECT: Death of the Party

I wanted to be Darth Vader when I was six.  I grew up in a university town in Maine, and spent summers in the company of archaeologists.  I moved to Portland in 1990 to go to Reed College…  Partly because people here know how to wear the color purple.  I work in animation, machining tiny metal skeletons for puppets.  Theater’s a nice change of pace, because I don’t have to build my actors from scratch, or move their limbs one frame at a time.


1. A Writer I Admire Is . . . Joss Whedon

2. My Writing Style Can Be Described As . . . Thelonius Monk Meets The Muppet Show

3. The Portland Theatre Company I’d Most Love To See This Show Produced By Is . . . Atomic Arts (Trek in the Park)

4. The Celebrity I Would Most Like To See Star In This Play On Broadway Is . . . Seth Green as Claude

5. A Portland Theatre Artist I Admire Is . . . Matt Zrebski

6. I Am Terrified Of . . . The Tickle Monster

7. I Am Obsessed With . . . Measuring time

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . . The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction (May/June issue)

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Play Are . . . Vivacious, Bawdy, Cruel

10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . . Alan Cumming


1. Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival play.

A frolicky pansexual disco boy goes to despicable lengths trying to unlock his best friend’s untouchable heart.  Claude, who thinks other people’s suffering is the height of comedy, has the power to bed anyone he wants…  Anyone, that is, except Dean: Man of Mystery, and rising musical sensation.  When Claude pursues clues to Dean’s past through a series of one-night-stands, unscrupulous infatuation will be punished with the romance that both monsters deserve.

Death of the Party is presented by PDX Playwrights and will play Saturday, January 22nd at 12:30pm on the mezzanine of the Portland Armory (128 NW 11th Ave).  Tickets are $5.

2. How did this story come about?  What inspired it?

I wanted to write a sensual romance between two men that transcends labels like “straight” and “gay.”  I also wanted to write about a truly despicable, id-driven character…  Villains are usually the most interesting part of a show!

3. Talk about your writing process.  (How do you write?  When do you write?  What gets you writing?)

I don’t want to get caged by the limits of my own imagination.  So, for Death of the Party I collected hundreds of photos of faces off of Google . . . I picked one randomly — and that became Claude.  My foundation for writing is journaling.  At least one page a day, 365 days a year.  For creative writing, I need to understand the whole fictional world first; dialogue comes last of all.  I love pumping out twenty pages of stream-of-consciousness, my pen hand hurting.  The first idea that really sings with poetry is usually on page 19.

4. What is the most exciting/inspiring piece of theatre you’ve seen in Portland?

I love what Atomic Arts is doing with their Trek in the Park shows.  Hundreds and hundreds of people are showing up to see verbatim reenactments of Star Trek episodes.  It’s what open-air Shakespeare is supposed to be:  melodramatic, philosophical, crowd-pleasing.  I also really dug seeing Apollo at Portland Center Stage.  It’s probably as close as Portland will ever get to staging Einstein on the Beach. In my own work, I’d like to blend these two styles: Abstract Art House + Pulp Fantasy.

5. What are you up to these days when you’re not writing?

I’m helping run PDX Playwrights, an open group for writers who want to hear their plays read aloud and share feedback.  And I’m working on an artsy mixed-media animation titled “Let Sleeping Gods Lie.”  It’s about arctic explorers who discover a cave of giant space aliens — which were responsible for creating life on Earth — and whose former slaves still seek vengeance.

One Response to “Playwright Interview #3 – Sven Bonnichsen”

  1. […] exports a fair amount of world class animation. Sven Bonnichsen rectifies that trade imbalance next Saturday night with his BEST OF FEST 2012, which brings the […]

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