Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Playwright Interview #8 – Mark Saunders January 6, 2011

NAME: Mark Saunders

PROJECT: Spoused

Spoused is presented by Nameless Playwrights in partnership with Bump In the Road Theatre and plays at 7 pm on Monday, January 24th at the Someday Lounge (125 NW 5th).  Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the door. More info here.


Mark, a playwright, screenwriter, and cartoonist, writes short plays befitting his attention span. His plays have appeared in more than 20 theatres across America, from Portland to New York City, as well as several stops in-between. He once owned a Yugo.


1. A Writer I Admire Is . . . Mark Twain

2. My Writing Style Can Be Described As . . . Mad Magazine Meets Moliere

3. The Portland Theatre Company I’d Most Love To See This Show Produced By Is . . . Portland Playhouse

4. The Celebrity I Would Most Like To See Star In This Play On Broadway Is . . . Anne Hathaway as Nancy

5. A Portland Theatre Artist I Admire Is . . . Scott Palmer (Artistic Director at Bag & Baggage in Hillsboro)

6. I Am Terrified Of . . . Right-wing gun nuts waving flags, Bibles, and birth certificates

7. I Am Obsessed With . . . My wife’s Spaghetti Carbonara

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . . Moneyball by Michael Lewis

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Play Are . . . Funny, Romantic, Short

10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . . Anyone who is tall, dark, and handsome since I am none of those things.



1. Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival play.

First, I’d like to mention that I am a proud member of Nameless Playwrights Group, a new gathering of eight writers dedicated to creating original plays for all ages. You could say we’re Portland’s “newest-oldest” playwrights group since all members are 60 or older and we held our first meeting in 2010. Collectively our lives span more than half a millennium. Nameless Playwrights will be running a showcase of new plays over three consecutive nights (Jan. 22-24, 2011) during Fertile Ground.

My play, “Spoused,”  is a three-character play about a young telemarketer for a small theatre company who gets a quick lesson in the pitfalls of love, divorce and pitching the new theatre season. It’s a whimsical play for theatre lovers and lovers in general. If you’ve ever been pitched over the phone to buy a season ticket, you already know the experience from your side of the conversation. This is what happens on the other side.

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

I worked for a few months as a telemarketer for Portland Center Stage. Although I had been in software marketing for several years, I was always more of a word and picture guy and knew very little about telemarketing. First, let me just say it’s not easy. Second, let me add that I was never good at it. But I did gain a new appreciation for what it takes for a theatre company to stay in business, and how creative such companies must be these days to attract an audience. I also came to appreciate why “Coffee is for closers.”  One evening, while working the phones, I overheard one of the employees tell another employee he had been “spoused.” I loved the name and concept and filed it away on the hard drive of my mind for future use. I have a mind like a steel sieve, so it’s lucky I remembered my telemarketing experience some two years later.

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

I follow a production process, of sorts: I usually first create a high-level outline of where I want to go and what I want to say. I’ll email myself bits of dialogue or story notes or thoughts about a character during the background processing stage, when I’m chewing on an idea. I generally know when I’m ready, and when I am I sit at my computer and try to complete a first draft as quickly as possible. Then, I rewrite and rewrite again. I feel most productive in the morning and late evening hours. I’m so torpid in the afternoon I might as well be in a coma. Once I came up with a title first (“Oedipus and Hamlet Walk into a Bar”) and then crafted a play around the title. In every other case, however, the idea for a play, including plot and characters, always comes first, as it should. Initially, I focused on writing short plays to fit my worker bee schedule, short attention span and juvenile need for instant gratification. Then, I started writing full-length screenplays and continued creating the short stage plays on the side. I’m now working on a couple of full-length plays, instead of screenplays, and I find the transition very rewarding. Pretty soon I hope to be able to sit at the grown-up’s table. What gets me writing? For whatever reason, I always seem to need a deadline, either self-imposed or otherwise.

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

Artists Rep’s 2009 production of The Seafarer; it made me regret that I didn’t have more Irish and alcohol in me.

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

When I’m not writing plays or screenplays, I try to work on my non-fiction humor book about living in the middle of Mexico for two years (We’ll Always Have Parasites: The good, the bad, and the not so pretty about dropping out and moving to Mexico). Somewhere between finding your spiritual self and getting your head shot off by narcos there exists a huge pool of expat experiences, and that’s where you’ll find my book. To help buy food and pay bills and generally stay alive, I also develop marketing copy for a small number of supportive and generous clients. Most recently, however, my primary purpose in life seems to be walking the dog, a male Standard Poodle who, when he stands upright, is almost as tall as I am and easily twice as smart.


One Response to “Playwright Interview #8 – Mark Saunders”

  1. Mary Says:

    Love your work! I’m a total fan. And, you know the dog is taller than you when he stands on his hind legs!!

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