Grote wrote his first draft of “Civilization” in 2008. He insists that “Smash” and “Civilization” aren’t quite as different as they appear.
“Fans of one or the other might be surprised,” said Grote, but, “I have to say, I’m equally proud of both.”
“Smash” is his first television job, and in some ways it actually resembles his gig writing “Civilization.” His early work on the play came out of the Joint Stock Method, in which a group of actors and the playwright do workshops, theater games and interviews, and the playwright crafts a script from the raw material. In “Smash,” Grote first works in the writers’ room, “banging ideas around” with the whole group, before heading off to write individual episodes.
It’s not as though he didn’t have these skills in his arsenal, he said. He’d just never used them before. “My plays are unusual not because I can’t write a family drama or a mainstream play. I’m just doing what interests me.” To get hired on “Smash,” he wrote a pilot based on the publishing world, featuring a menagerie of “colorful characters” and fictionalized accounts of episodes such as the James Frey scandal.
Grote said “Smash” has been a great experience. “I’m very lucky,” he said. “It’s a very smart writers’ room.” Although he can’t tell all the details, he revealed that he wrote a role for Bernadette Peters, who’ll appear in an upcoming episode.
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Jessica Burgess, director of “The Language Archive” at Forum Theatre, hopes the experience of watching the play is “like eating a piece of 80 percent dark chocolate: that it’s deeply satisfying, that it is rich and tasty, but there’s a bitterness to it.”
“The Language Archive” focuses on George, whose mission is the archiving of languages and cultures on the verge of extinction. Yet, paradoxically, his eagerness to understand how strangers communicate doesn’t help him communicate with his wife, who leaves him at the beginning of the play.
George’s motives for keeping dying languages alive, said Mitchell Hebert, who plays the character, stem from his connection to his late grandmother. “She spoke a language he didn’t really care to learn,” Hebert said. “Some of that was the reaction of a young person to an old person, thinking her language was something he wouldn’t be interested in.”