Melinda Marks is a theatrical force to be reckoned with. One of the founding members of Play On Words, Melinda has served as casting director, playwright, actress and promoter all in one. We’ve been lucky enough to see her work performed, both by herself and a cast of POW regulars. She performed her monologue, “Medes Infinitum,” at our October 2013 show, and her short play “Menage A Un” was a big hit at our February 2014 performance. As we gear up for our May 22 show (we’ll be announcing the lineup soon), we wanted to pick her brain about what it’s like performing for Play On Words.POW: What did it feel like to hear your work performed aloud at Play On Words? MM: It was great. My monologue was a very dramatic piece, and it was very private. It was a very different tone than anything I had attempted before. The fact that it was well-received, and that it was from an organization that I had just started with awesome, competent people, made the experience very supportive and very positive. I’m not the type of person who is naturally self-promoting. I like to promote organizations and I like to endorse things that I’m proud of. The fact that I was artistically part of something that I was collectively a part of made it a very positive experience. I was very surprised at how well it was received and I was also very grateful for the opportunity.I had only had one other place produced before my play was performed, and having it read and performed by friends who got it and got my sense of humor, made it a very supportive experience. Because there was so much trust, and because the people who performed it were prepared to push the humor and the absurdity of it forward as far as it could go–it made the experience very differently supportive, and very differently surprising. I think I’ll be surprised every time.
POW: You have also performed work written by other writers–notably, “Predecessors,” by Ryan Alpers, and an excerpt of Kirstin Chen’s new novel, Soy Sauce for Beginners. What was it like to read for writers who were in the room?MM: Awesome. It was really nice to feel so supported and to be able to support people like that, because I feel like I’m most comfortable showcasing other people and being proud of other people. It’s tough when you’re in a regular show to really show that, because you’re just doing what you’re supposed to do. It’s a show of good faith to be a part of an organization and to help found an organization that is giving that opportunity to people who need it. The highlight of my experiences performing others’ work were being able to read comedic pieces and promote pieces by friends who I think are very funny, and who have done that for me, but who don’t have a lot of outlets for that kind of stuff. There isn’t a lot of room to promote one-acts and theater of the absurd, so Play On Words has been a good opportunity for that. The other highlight was reading Kirstin Chen’s excerpt that she had edited for us [“Platonic Affairs”], because that was something on a scale that I had never done before, and the fact that she was so grateful and impressed, was really humbling. It surprised me in a good way; as a performer you like to be surprised, but it was very validating. Play On Words is not only unique, but we’re doing very well, and it’s an experience and a service that people actually want and don’t get very often. It was really, really nice, and I was really happy to do it. I wouldn’t have thought that I would be in that position, where somebody else on such a large scale was so impressed with that kind of service. It just really changes the way that you think about something, even if it’s an organization that you already believe in, and a medium that you already believe in. That kind of validation really changes your angle on things in a really positive way. Interview concluded. POW: Interview concluded. Thank you, Melinda! If you haven’t seen Melinda perform, be sure to join us at 7:30 pm on Thursday, May 22, at San Jose’s Blackbird Tavern. We’re still on the lookout for performers and actors who might be interested in auditioning for the show. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with a bio, headshot and resume if you’re interested. Stay tuned for the full lineup!