We spoke with Anthony J. Piccione about his latest work, WHAT I LEFT BEHIND.
The prolific playwright adds another thought-provoking drama to his eclectic canon of works. WHAT I LEFT BEHIND explores teen suicide, its impact, and repercussions it has on those left behind.
THE PLOT: The play focuses on a young high school student, in severe depression brought on by bullying at the hands of classmates, who shocks everyone by taking his own life. In a unique retelling of the events leading up to the decision, we see what – and who – brought him to make this life-ending move … and how they are forced to deal with it.
SEE IT: January 25th @ 9:00 pm; January 26th @ 6:15 pm; January 28th @ 8:30 pm.
Hudson Guild Theatre, 441 West 26th Street, New York City
Tickets cost $23 and can be purchased up to one month prior to opening night by visiting www.newyorktheaterfestival.com/winterfest-festivals.
Click HERE to go to the Direct ticket Link
Tell us about this latest work?
What I Left Behind is a short drama about a young teenager who has committed suicide, and is now forced to exist in a fictional afterlife and reflect on her decision, and the impact it has had on others who she left in her wake. I wrote it with the purpose of starting a conversation about bullying and youth suicide, and also the role that we can play in doing a better job at helping others who are dealing with mental health issues. It’s my 2nd play that I’ve put up at the NYWinterfest, and my 5th overall production in New York, and it’s quite different from most of the other one-acts I’ve put up so far. I’m working on it with a wonderful director, Sarah Jane Schostack, and a relatively large cast – compared to some of my past productions, anyway – of talented actors. I’m intrigued to see what people think of it, and I hope it proves to be a very thought-provoking experience for the Winterfest audience.
Your plays pack powerful messages. Do you feel compelled to write on such topics?
I think it just comes naturally, for me. Early on, when I start work on a play, if it’s dealing with a specific issue or debate topic, then of course, I’m writing about it because it’s something that I feel very strongly about. That said, I will say that I don’t necessarily see it as my role, as a playwright, to lecture or preach. Rather, it’s to start conversations and possibly provide different perspectives about an issue – whether it’s mental health or the environment or media consumption or even the existence of God – that deserves more attention than it may be getting from politicians, pop culture, or the broader society. Many people will have their own strong views on certain subjects, and I don’t pretend that my plays will always be able to get every single person to agree with my own personal views. But if I can get just a small handful of those theatergoers to start thinking seriously about something that they weren’t thinking about before, or maybe even to at least consider a viewpoint other than their own, then I’ll have considered my work a success.
Give us your thoughts on the importance of Indie Theatre and Film?
For starters, it feels like there’s a certain level of creative and artistic freedom that flourishes in independent theatre and film. Unfortunately, that isn’t always available for artists who may be working with a big Broadway producer or a big Hollywood studio. Especially in the case of theatre, the indie scene is where some of the most original and thought-provoking writing is thriving, and I’m not just saying that because I myself am a playwright working in independent theatre. If you look at most commercial art today, either in theatre or film, there’s some good work being put out there, sure. But there’s also a lot of shows and films that are completely unoriginal, and are often made for the purpose of making profits over great storytelling. Furthermore, when there is commercial art that turns out to be great, it’s often when there is a certain level of creative freedom that is granted to the artists. With commercial film, one example I like to use is with the Batman movies, where studio interference on the part of Warner Bros. was a big part of what led to the monstrosity that is Batman and Robin, but after that, they pretty much let Christopher Nolan do whatever he wanted with the franchise, and we got the masterpiece that is The Dark Knight Trilogy. I could throw out other examples, too, but that’s one good example of how allowing artists to have creative freedom – which is far more common in independent art than with commercial art – can make a huge difference, and I think that’s just as true for theatre as it is for film. I hope maybe we’ll eventually get to a point where that’ll change, but for now, even if I am ever lucky enough to have a play produced on Broadway or adapted into a blockbuster movie, I’ll still be putting up new plays in venues and festivals like where my work is being produced today, for those exact reasons.