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An interview with John Goff, playwright, on The Wait 

Being raised on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi doesn’t guarantee literary inspiration but, in John Goff’s case, the idea for The Wait arose directly from the location and characters he knew growing up. When asked how long the play had been cooking, Goff told us: “The Wait has been a magical piece for me since I began it 40 years ago; sometimes I wonder whether I wrote it or it chose me as a channel.”

“A bit of history: I was just beginning a creative writing career after working at newspapers for several years, was on vacation on the Mississippi Gulf Coast at my parents’ home (the model for the setting of the play’s first act) and thinking of opening lines,” he said. “Some thunder came from deep out over the water and I wrote—’In the late August dusk thunder grumbled from the belly of the Gulf of Mexico. The pleasing breeze ceased.’and from there I’m not sure I was ever in control of what came out in the original short story, the book, the screenplay or the play.  I’ve spent time writing The Wait in all those entities. I’ve never tired of working on the story and in each instance it has spoken and dictated to me rather than me manipulat[ing] it. One of those projects a writer lives for…so the answer to ‘time’ spent on it I couldn’t begin to calculate the hours but each has been richly full.”

Goff is also a film and television actor whose credits include The Witch Who Came From the Sea (as Millie’s father, an alcoholic sea captain); the guy who gets punched by Gary Busey in The Buddy Holly Story; and a hapless fisherman in John Carpenter’s The Fog. Billed as “an extremely prolific, versatile and shamefully underrated Jack of all trades” in his IMDb biography, Goff knows his way around a stage set. We asked about his new work being produced at The Adobe Theater this month.

ABQ Arts: With the “action” of the man being lost at sea happening offstage, what techniques did you use to maintain the tension onstage?

That’s set up in the first act, before he goes on the water alone so the audience has seen him, knows him, hopefully likes him, and the onstage tension is played out through the ghosts of the past coming to the fore with the peoplethose who love him and fear for himwho are “Wait”ing. And too, this is a learning response played out by Annie, the girl he loves going through this Wait for the first time which, to a newcomer, can be harrowing in itself.

ABQ Arts: As a playwright, is it difficult to give over your work to a director? How do you work with a director—hands on or not at all, or somewhere in between? 

It could be, if I’m not familiar with the director and his work. With The Wait I consider myself very lucky in that I knew Pete Parkin, his work and reputation and also knew that he believed in and respected the material; and I trust and respect his work. With another director, maybe not so much; a bit more trepidation would have reared its head. This is my first play and I consider myself very lucky–not only with the director but with the talented actors. They brought wonderful honesty to the characters.

Most of my writing has been for the screen and that’s a totally different animal. There have been times when I turned over the script and that’s the last I’ve seen of it until it hits the screen and I don’t recognize a thing about it when I see it. Again though, I’ve been lucky with several other projects in that my screenwriting partner, Matt Cimber, also served as director and he prefers having the writer with him on set to make whatever changes that might come up. This is my preference.

Some other projects I’ve been involved in alone such as ‘work-for-hire’ or ‘hired gun’ rewrite projects I’d just as soon not be involved in, have never seen and would prefer not to. Just so long as the check doesn’t bounce I’m good with whatever they do.

ABQ Arts: Tell us about the cast and characters. Do you have a favorite point-of-view character?

Each character is fictional but I’ve utilized parts and habits of people I’ve known for bits and pieces of each. I used my mother and father’s relationship which was as loving and sharing, honest and equal as any relationship I’ve ever seen for that between Lila and Git; their strength and belief in one another. The situation they all find themselves in though is purely fictionalized.

Annie, Little Git and Casty have bits and pieces of people I’ve known but mostly fictional… No, no favorite POV character. I do, however, admire all of them and wish I could have their best parts within myself.

The Wait opened August 9th for a limited three week run; Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays (matinee) through August 26th at The Adobe Theater, 9813 4th Street NW. Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings at 7:30pm, Sundays at 2:00pm. General Admission $20, Discount $17 (Seniors, Students, ATG/PBS Members, Military, First Responders). Opening Weekend Special: All Tickets $15!

 Photos courtesy of Adobe Theater.

Above: Michael Weppler, Lorri Oliver, Philip J. Shortell; Bottom Right: Michael Weppler.