‘Here is the text of an interview from the March/April 2015 edition of “The Dramatist”, the monthly magazine sent to Dramatist Guild Members.
By Larry Dean Harris
Vince Melocchi is not a regular guy, but he plays one on TV. In commercials (he played the plumber for Liquid Plumber for years) and dramas like “Southland” and “Criminal Minds,” this actor/writer plays the everyman. Which just might explain his characters: janitors, army recruiters, steelworkers.
There are no bon vivants in a Melocchi script. But there is always a compelling play populated by exquisitely drawn – and very real – characters. Who better to represent the emerging LA playwright than a man who is working in the trenches of the Los Angeles small theatre scene?
LDH: Let’s start with humble beginnings.
VM: Honestly, I stumbled into playwriting. Enrolling for classes my junior year at Penn State, there was one theatre class still open: Principles of Playwriting. From the first exercise – we were assigned to eavesdrop on conversations and then write a short scene based on what I heard – I fell in love with bringing stories to life onstage.
LDH: How did you get your first play produced in Los Angeles?
VM: The writers group I started at Pacific Resident Theatre( PRT) did a short play festival which spawned a ten page version of my play Lions. I kept writing until I had a first draft. Eventually, I approached the award-winning director Guillermo Cienfuegos to direct. He became not only the director, but dramaturg. I’d write and send him stuff, then we’d meet, and he’d give me more notes, and I’d go back and write. Finally, we did a reading and a workshop at PRT. The response of this play (It deals with the unemployment picture in Detroit), was so overwhelming that the Artistic Director Marilyn Fox offered us a full production. We ran from late fall to spring (and the play was published by Samuel French).
LDH: What do you see as the challenges facing LA playwrights?
VM: This past fall my play Nice Things had it’s world premiere at Rogue Machine Theatre in Los Angeles. Elina de Santos directed and Rogue Machine’s artistic director John Perrin Flynn was my dramaturg. John’s attention to the detail was incredible. It’s a delicate play, tackling big issues like sexual assault in the military and the lies Army recruiters may tell to get kids to enlist. The audiences loved the play, the reviews were terrific. But the trick is getting butts in the seats with a new play, especially when traditional sources like LA WEEKLY and BACKSTAGE WEST either cut back coverage or stop reviewing altogether. It puts more pressure on us to get the word out there. On the upside, there are guys like Steven Leigh Morris and Colin Mitchell with their websites Stageraw.com and Bitterlemons.com, respectively.
It’s important to note at this point that Vince has had some success outside the 99-Seat Los Angeles arena. His play Julia – also directed by Cienfuegos, also produced at Pacific Resident Theatre with a sold-out run and lots of award nominations – moved to off-Broadway in the spring of 2011.