Paramount Q&A with Jaston Williams
A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar comes to Stateside at the Paramount at a perfect time for a Jaston Williams’ show, and by that we mean directly before the holiday season – when the bubbling panic leading to full on panic attacks start to kick in and grown, independent, “seemingly over it” adults must return home for the holidays. Nobody can relate more and positively trump us when it comes to the characters we’ll encounter back on the home front than Jaston Williams.
A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar comes to the Stateside Theatre November 11th—20th.
Paramount: Jaston, we meet members of your family and West Texas community as they inspire each show you bring us – tell us who we’ll meet in A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar and why we have nothing to complain about.
Jaston Williams: I never really thought of it till you asked the question but none of the characters in Wolverine have any connection to my family back in West Texas. Over the years I have resided or hidden from the authorities in a number of other locals, with Lubbock, San Antonio, Austin, Houston, Atlanta, New York, San Francisco, Taos, New Mexico and New Orleans among them and I have witnessed a lot of behavior that I could never have come up with from my own tangled imagination. The characters in the first scene, which is titled Armed and Liberal, sprang an experience I had when touring Greater Tuna and ending up in Kansas City the same weekend of the NRA convention. I discovered many things I liked about people that I generally disagreed with. I laughed a lot and not in a derisive way and in writing the piece I felt the experience, was important to share. It’s still a comedy but the subject matter has serious stature and I felt the obligation to write it. I play a lifelong Texan who has never owned a gun and Laura plays a woman who has more guns than hair curlers. Lots of fun.
P: Speaking of home – The Paramount Theatre is a home, of sorts, to you – your name (along with Joe Sears) was the first unveiled on our Avenue of Stars under our marquee and it’s common knowledge that Tuna has been credited with “saving the Paramount.” Most people’s first show at the Paramount was a Tuna show – (myself included). Tell us a little bit about what it means to return to the Paramount with each of your shows.
JW: The Paramount Theatre is one of the few venues where I am not superstitious about walking through the front door before a show. I love hanging with the bartenders and ushers and staff and a number of the backstage crew members are people that I have grown old with. It may sound trite to bring up images of home and family but I have spent a lot of my life in that place and I am always comfortable returning.
P: Our Executive Director, Jim Ritts, has had the honor of getting to read some of your newest works and writing a couple of times and he has been raving about how utterly prolific and fresh the writing is – he even goes so far as to say that as huge of fans as we all are of every show you bring us, he believes some of your best work emerging – do you agree – is something is contributing to this?
JW: I am grateful for the work I and we have done in the past but the more recent work is more fearless. Maybe it has to do with age or something worse (just kidding) but I have come to a place where I am more in love with writing than ever before. I also don’t have time for cultural correctness because it can lead to a certain dishonesty. I am going to say what I need to say in whatever dialect. The great joy of it all comes when you hear the laughter followed by knowing silence. In short I hope this is my most significant work.
P: How did the collaboration with A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar co-stars Lauren Lane (co-star of TV’s The Nanny)?
JW: A couple of years ago I was blessed to work with Lauren Lane in Zach Theatres production of Vanya, Sonia, Masha and Spike and I was astounded at the chemistry I had with her. This is not to denigrate anyone else in the cast, fine talents all, but Laura and I had a chemistry that l just filled me with joy. I started thinking then and there of writing something for her and Wolverine is the result. She blows me away in that she has all the training from her years at the American Conservatory Theatre. I have worked with a lot of classically trained actors but Laura is one of the few I know who can really apply the technique and make it real and make it funny as hell. She is brilliant and she is funny and she is a kick to work with. Being up there with her is not like working but rather living the dream.
P: We know how they can go wrong, but talk about what good comes out of conversations poured over ice?
JW: This play is not about drinking at all, in fact some characters are not drinkers, but rather the play is about conversation and friendship and laughter. For many, bars are preferable to psychiatrist couches and a hell of a lot cheaper. In A Wolverine Walks Into A Bar, we play gun nuts and cowboy pacifists, flight attendants who are afraid of airplanes, sexually promiscuous old ladies (I play that one) old hippies with issue with Bob Dylan’s vocal technique, an Anglo man enamored with everything Hispanic married to a Latina who just as fervently longs to be white and, to my knowledge, the oldest lesbian and gay man ever portrayed on stage. Enough said.
P: The show title alone gives one a pretty good idea that the show is set in a bar – in fact, ticket buyers can opt for the VIP ticket which includes a cocktail style “bar” seat on the stage for the performance. Any favorite bars here in Austin past or present day and why?
JW: There used to be a place downtown, not far from where I lived over on San Antonio Street, where you could bring your dog and they would serve them a bowl of milk on the bar. My kind of place.