Checking in with Robert Wray


What are you working on right now?

Right now I’m working on the first draft of a play tentatively called “Seven Variations,” which is basically a retelling of the Phoenix myth, and revolves around a butcher’s daughter and a fiction writer with the world’s worst case of ADD. I’m shooting for a summer finish date and hope to do a public reading of it at Live Arts.


Robert Wray’s “All is Always Now,” a play about actors who give up on making it in New York, was staged through March at the Hamner Theater. He says that if he had to splurge on a single item, it’d be a “first folio edition of the works of Shakespeare.”

Tell us about your day job.

Well, I teach creative writing at WriterHouse, which provides a bit of income, but not enough to travel to the Bahamas or anything like that. I’m also a bartender at The Pointe Bar in the Omni Hotel, which really pays the bills. And it’s a good place to get material. It’s a very transient crowd, and you meet fascinating people. I met Neil Young there not long ago—he’s actually one of my heroes, and for years and years it had been kind of a dream of mine to meet him. He was just sitting at the bar, drinking a beer. He didn’t finish his beer, and as sort of an homage, I finished it for him.


Locally, who would you like to collaborate with?

Actually, Devon Sproule and Paul Curreri, to write a musical piece. I’ve been following them for years, I listen to them all the time and they’re just transcendent.


What music are you listening to lately?

I’ve been listening to Beethoven’s late quartet “Opus 131,” which is probably one of the most sublime pieces of music or art on the face of the earth, and I’ve structured my play “Seven Variations” around the way he structures that quartet. I’ve been listening to that quite a bit. But for fun, I’ve been listening to Paul Megna, who sounds kind of like a cross between Kurt Cobain and Leonard Cohen. And I listen to Flight of the Conchords, because in this day and age, you’ve gotta laugh.


What is your first artistic memory from childhood?

My first memory of going to the theatre and being drawn away by something was when I was a kid and I saw “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” There was this guy who played Snoopy, who came out with such electricity and incredible energy, and it showed me what theater can do. My own first taste of that was something casual. I went to Catholic school, and in third grade I used to want to be a preacher, so I used to secretly preach my version of the Book of Revelation to the other kids. But that came to a stop, because I was found out and basically kicked out of school. I still remember that, talking about how the world would end in three days. Luckily, it didn’t, but I was trying to be dramatic and make a point.


If you’re on a blind date, what is your dealbreaker?

If the girl doesn’t show up. Otherwise, I’m pretty flexible.


Do you have a favorite building?

The Chrysler Building in New York City.


Outside of your medium, who is your favorite creative artist?

Bob Dylan. He’s the Shakespeare of our time. He has an almost psychic ability to articulate the unseen spirit of whatever’s going on, to pinpoint how things are.


If you could have dinner with any person, living or dead, who would it be?

Probably with Shakespeare. I’d like to pick his brain about a thing or two. Like, “How’d ya do it?”


What would you do if you knew that you couldn’t fail?

I’d end the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.


What is your favorite hidden place?

On the Blue Ridge Parkway, there’s a place before you hit Humpback Rock—it’s not one of the official mountain overlooks, it’s kind of off to the side and you have to find it. Sometimes even I can’t find it. But it’s a particular place where you can go and sit, to take in this magisterial view of the mountains and the sky.