James Lantz discusses his play, The Bus.
What was your inspiration for this play?
A few years ago there was a spate of heartbreaking suicides of gay teens, and some of them had a connection to a church or religion, and the whole thing just made me profoundly sad and angry at the same time. Then this image of a parked bus came to me, and it wouldn’t leave. And that’s where it started. Writing is such a beautiful and mysterious thing.
What playwrights have inspired you?
Instead, can I tell you a filmmaker that I’m inspired by? Alfred Hitchcock has been my cinematic teacher and idol. As a storyteller, he was brilliant. I love how he was constantly experimenting, pushing against boundaries, and threw plausibility out the window. His masterpiece, ‘Vertigo,’ is one of the least plausible stories ever — and yet, like a brilliant magician, Hitchcock leaves you spellbound so that you never think how unrealistic it all is. I love his sense of humor and innuendo, his artistry, and fearless digging into psychological themes.
What kind of stories excite you?
You can’t Google a feeling. The world is already full of knowledge and it’s right at our fingertips all of the time and there’s something insanely numbing about all this information. But a story that evokes feelings, passion or, what David Foster Wallace once wrote as being ‘an erection of the heart’ — that’s the kind of story that makes me want to be alive and stay alive, and I can’t get enough of.
What projects are you working on now?
I make my living as a filmmaker so I’ve got a few film projects I’m working on including a couple of documentaries. I’m also writing a new play and am working to adapt part of “The Bus” into a short film. I just finished writing the script and have started sending it out to producers and actors.
What advice do you have for playwrights starting out?
Instead of advice, I have admiration, tons of respect, and two lines from a Robert Frost poem that hang above my desk:
“Here are your waters and your watering place.
Drink and be whole again beyond confusion.”