T Q & A

Bryan Sanders

Bryan Sanders

Tucson writer Bryan Sanders had never written a play before, but his interest in the writer David Foster Wallace, who committed suicide in 2008, influenced him to give the medium a try for the Tucson Fringe Festival in early March. If you didn't get a chance to see the play he wrote and directed about the writer, The Ship Is Sinking Normally, Sanders, who stars as Wallace, is reprising it at 8 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 28 and 29, at Café Passé, 415 N. Fourth Ave. The evening starts with the debut of new band Kiss the Killer, which includes members of the Tryst and special guest Katherine Byrnes of Sweet Ghosts. Free admission.

Mari Herreras, mherreras@tucsonweekly.com

How did the debut go at the Fringe Festival in March?

It was good. People seemed to react really positive. ... Wallace is very much dead in the play but still experiencing the quality of being Foster Wallace. He has no idea why he's here. It's really a way to talk about the writer.

He killed himself, right?

Yes, he walked out on his back porch and wrapped a belt around his neck. Whatever his mental state was, he knew what he wanted to do. You have to respect that. It is a complex issue. There are two sides to suicide. But for all the compassion he had for the (written) word, I think he's owed some compassion and a clear-eyed look at his work. It's not all about his suicide and it would be a tragedy if people thought of him 20 years from now as just another guy who took his own life.

You are a writer and musician. Why did you choose this topic for your first play?

I'd been looking for an excuse to write something bigger. Writing lyrics is fun but more in the moment. This is more an opportunity to do something more structured. At first I was going to have people play all the parts but the time frame was too compressed for the Fringe Festival. I had two months. So I started writing ... and did it as a one-man play.

Did you have any experience with plays before?

I don't know anything about plays. I'm coming about it from someone who likes human stuff — triumph, disaster, despair. That's what I want to write about. I'm not Foster Wallace writing a new book. I'm a little kid in a candy store looking at all these tools. I'd been thinking about it for a long time, writing a play about Foster Wallace and comic Bill Hicks, who died of cancer at age 32. Both were incredible talented and I thought it would be a cool combination.

Why is Foster Wallace so important?

There's been a lot of gnashing of teeth about the death of the novel, that a lot of people my age and kids today sit on their phone and tweet or Facebook and watch TV. But I know kids who are still learning Latin and want knowledge, and they still read. Foster Wallace has been a huge influence. He took the novel to another level. ... I'm thrilled to have met him through his work. ... His level of competence was stunning and when you combine it with his level of compassion you get a rare thing.

How do you use music in the play?

Paul Jenkins, who is a really talented guy from the band ...music video? is a keyboardist and singer. He live-scores the show, so he's onstage. He knows where it's going, but adds a different sort of feeling to it and adds what feels right. He's a really creative person.

Do you want to travel with the show?

I think I do. I've also been told I should film it and put it in some other format or go to other fringe festivals.

What are you most excited about for the reprise?

Kiss the Killer, the opening music. Some of the members of the Tryst, with Katherine Byrnes of Sweet Ghosts, put together a band for this show. That is going to be spectacular. They are going to do all kinds of covers and may throw in a Harry Nilsson song at my request.

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