Three Questions with "Horror" Playwright Stephen Hancock



Stephen Hancock
  • Stephen Hancock
U of M professor and playwright Stephen Hancock is known for his love of absurd situations and his latest comedy The Horror of the Little Family Farce is yet another example of Hancock's screwball affections. Horror explores the unintentional and unexpected influences that each generation in a family has on its off-spring. It follows a young girl named Tina and her younger brother Sam whose playful imaginations create horrifying and hilarious situations. Here's what Hancock had to say about The Horror of the Little Family Farce.

Intermission Impossible: Your new show puts a lot of emphasis on play and the imagination. How do imaginary circumstances result in real consequences?

Stephen Hancock: The Horror of the Little Family Farce is a play about kids acting like adults who as adults act like kids. It shows how previous generations have unintentionally influenced the succeeding ones. On one level the four scenes depict the retirement years of Mother and Father K; from a retirement party to death. On another level, however, we discover that in reality two grandchildren, Tina and Sam, have been "playing house;" that the action and the imaginary circumstances are the impressions that Tina and Sam have formed about their parents, grandparents and other relatives. This realization is both the "horror" and the "farce" found in the title.

Where do your plays—and this play in particular—come from? Are they inspired by real things or projections of pure imagination?

My inspiration comes both from real events and fictionalized ones. For example, in scene three, the grandparents are fighting over the telephone. They play a tug of war to decide which one will get to tell the person on the other end "the news." This is based on a real situation that my mother had with her parents. Dramatically, I've invented the circumstances which lead to the argument and it's final outcome which finds the two characters wrestling on the floor. Another play I wrote—Revelations—is purely fictional. It's based on the premise of what if God sent another son down to earth and he was gay?

What is it about farce that keeps you coming back to it either as a theme or as a form?

The simple answer is that I like to laugh. The more complex one is that I like the challenge the form presents of putting a play together that relies on situation, conflict, language and physical action. I have, however, written dramas. It's just that none of them have been produced as yet.

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