David Simpatico: Ten Questions
David Simpatico. Photo by Charles Chessler

1What was your most memorable theatrical experience as a child?

In the eleventh grade, I watched ACT’s commedia dell’arte production of Taming of the Shrew, directed by William Ball, on PBS. It was a stunning combination of brilliant language, masterful craft, boundless athleticism, and unbridled, theatrical possibilities. It starred a young, well-thewed Marc Singer as Petruchio, spouting iambic pentameter and gorilla-pressing Kate over his head while doing high kicks in a codpiece. My future was sealed.


2Is there a production you wish you’d seen?

Tommy Tune’s production of Caryl Churchill’s Cloud Nine. Steppenwolf’s production of Lanford Wilson’s Balm in Gilead. And the very first production of Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex in 429 BC.


3Who was the person who made the biggest impact on your career?

Paul Walker (director/actor/writer/teacher) treated me like I was a genius and made me live up to his regard for my talent. Paul brought out the genius in everyone, what a spectacular gift! And, of course, my husband Robert, who is my editor, cheerleader, and muse.


4What are you reading right now?

The Grand Guignol: Theater of Fear and Terror by Mel Gordon, a juicy recounting of the French theatre devoted to fear, terror, and comedy. And The Practice by Seth Godin, a small book with a huge message about getting your work out there.


5When you sit down to work, what must you have with you in the room?

A bottle of water, a window, and a bathroom. And a large, empty wall for my collage work, which I create before writing anything; it helps me visualize and focus the unspoken energy of the story.


6When you’re in despair with a piece of work, how do you maneuver out of that?

I work on several projects at any given time, all in different stages of development. When I hit a wall on one piece, I switch to another with fresh energy and let my subconscious solve my first hurdle while I’m doing something else.


7If you hadn’t become a dramatist, what profession would you have chosen?

An anthropologist. We use the same tools: observation, interpretation, speculation.


8As a writer, what have you not done that you’ve always wanted to do?

I’ve been fortunate to work in a variety of disciplines and forms, from grand opera to children’s theatre, to film and TV, to cabaret and performance art, and I’m always excited by what’s next. But what I really want is more productions. I want lots and lots of productions: big, small, whatever, all the time. I want my work in front of an audience, I want to share my work with the world. I want to impact lives.


9Whose work do you drop everything to see?

Taylor Mac. Caryl Churchill. Charles Ludlum. Martha Graham. Stephen Sondheim.


10What’s next?

In January, I’ll be presenting a concert reading of my new music drama, That Hell-Bound Train, with composer Lisa DeSpain, at the National Opera Center in NYC. After that, a world premiere of The Life and Death(s) of Alan Turing, with music by Justine F. Chen, March 23 and 25, 2023, at Chicago Opera Theater, directed by Peter Rothstein. And I’m about to launch my own podcast series, Noise Ball, featuring short comic and dramatic pieces performed by me and my collaborators.

David Simpatico
David Simpatico

is a playwright/librettist, whose musical adaptation of Twelve Angry Men (Michael Holland, lyrics/music) recently premiered at Theater Latte Da, Minneapolis. Career highlights include: The Screams of Kitty Genovese (Jonathan Larson Award); the stage adaptation of Disney’s High School Musical; and his comic two-hander, Wilde About Whitman (Idaho Review).