Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

MEET THE ARTIST: Andrew Shanks January 26, 2013

Doing the Cockroach

Written by Andrew Shanks


Part of Ripen: A Feast of New Works at Milepost 5
Dates & Times: 1/28/13 @ 5pm, 1/30/13 @7pm. 2/1/13 @ 5pm
Tickets: $5 door
Contact: andrewshanks7@gmail.com


1. An Artist in My Field I Have a Giant Artist Crush On Is . . .
Rajiv Joseph. Utterly fascinating writer out of New York City. Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo is a devastatingly beautiful play about the Iraq War.  Check out our theatre group’s upcoming production of his play Gruesome Playground Injuries in late April.

2.  A Work That Has Shaped My Artistic Voice Is . . .
Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are. Whimsical yet brutally honest. I’m organizing a wild rumpus as I type this.

3. When I’m Not Creating Art You Can Often Find Me . . .
Selling computers and other adult toys, managing our theatre group, World @ Large Theatre, and butchering The Boss during karaoke nights at The Boiler Room.

4. Five Songs On My Writing Playlist Are . . . 
“Doing the Cockroach” by Modest Mouse
“Hippopotamus” by SHK THT (http://5hk7h7.bandcamp.com/)
“Sabye (My Saba)” by Mulatu Astaqe
“Play with Fire” by The Rolling Stones
“Wake”  by The Antlers

5. A Portland Artist or Company I’d Love To Work With Is . . . 
CoHo Theatre/Productions. My favorite black box theatre in town. Quality productions and engaging season selections.

6. I Am Terrified Of . . .
Sharks, earthquakes, spider women.

7. I Am Obsessed With . . . 
Mythology. Egyptian, Greek, Lovecraft. It’s all so very fascinating and a major artery of inspiration.

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . . 
Daniel Harms – The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Work Are . . . 
Disorienting, Fluid, Absurd.

10. In the Indie Art-House Bio Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . . 
Egotistical Choice: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Realistic Choice: Toby Jones.


1) Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival work. 
No one wants a second chance more than Edmund Carthy. Reincarnated as a cockroach, Edmund seeks out a new life by entering the Office of Religious Relations, the DMV of the afterlife. With the help of his case worker, Sister Ray, Edmund traverses the many levels, policies and iterations of the afterlife in an absurdist farce of existential proportions. But with his checkered past, Edmund is gonna have to go through the karmic wringer to get what he truly desires: an unburdened life.

2) How did this work come about?  What inspired it?
In my sophomore year, I dove into writing. It became clear to me that the open stage, more than any other medium, was a sandbox.  You can literally do anything. We have the suspension of disbelief on our side. The genesis of this project came from that idea. I became obsessed with this image of a suited man with antennae. A cockroach in the guise of a man. A creature who got the raw end of the deal in life. What are the lengths such a creature would go to to change that? With this objective came the formation of the Afterlife in the guise of a glorified DMV. Filtering ideas like the afterlife or reincarnation through a level of banality and bureaucracy allowed me to attach familiarity to otherwise abstract concepts. The world developed from there.

The key to understanding this world is the idea that we, all of us, have existed longer than we realize. That our stories have played out not over a singular lifetime, but across centuries. That our choices carry over from lifetime to lifetime, regardless of religious or social affiliation. Characters pass through many centuries, from Egyptian myths to the Salem witch trials. This play is meant to be a disorientating journey into the redemption of an irredeemable being.

3) Talk about your creative process.  (How do you work?  When do you work?  What gets you inspired?)
Music. Music, music, music. It informs every piece of my creative process. The overall tone of a scene is usually scored by countless playlists I’ve assembled over the course of the project. When stuck on a particular section of script, I try and find a song that get me over the hurdle, so to speak. It’s great to have this audio road map, full of highs and lows, guiding you. It’s never tied to one genre or artist. It’s constantly surprising. That’s what I hope this play does for you. Surprise you.


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