New York actor and former Houstonian Bernardo Cubría is starting to get a little nervous right about now -- he's just hours away from the staged reading of his play Down, Boy by Wordsmyth Theater Company. At the first reading, earlier this year, he was, ah, anxious. "It's like watching your baby bungee jump," he tells Hair Balls.
"This is the first full-length play I've ever written," he says, adding, "though I did, in the seventh grade, write an amusing play about the O.J. Simpson trial."
Cubría had written poetry and short stories for most of his life but he thinks of himself as an actor first and he wasn't intending to add playwright to his credits. After being challenged by a teacher, "If you can act, you can write a play," he went home, locked himself in his room and emerged three days later with Down, Boy.
The storyline is based on a theater world's version of an urban legend. "I have an unhealthy obsession with Marlon Brando," Cubría admits. "Supposedly Marlon Brando had a stalker when he lived in New York, this was right after On the Waterfront came out and he was at the height of his fame. The story is that one day he went to his window, looked down and she was standing there. So he opened his window and told her, 'Come upstairs.' She went up, he made love to her and then told her, 'There, I've given you what you wanted, now leave me alone.' She left and she stopped stalking him.
"I've always been fascinated by that story, by both people. Why he would do that, why she would do that, why she would stop stalking him. The first scene in Down, Boy, is basically that situation, but in my version she stays."
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Cubría has had a couple of conversations with the show dramaturge and director, but for the most part has purposely kept clear of the process. "I'm trying to stay out of it, because I don't want to be one of those playwrights that stands around and says, 'This is what I think it means.' For me, I think it will be more interesting to see how it gets interpreted. Every other time I've had a reading of it, I've been involved directly in the process, so I think it's time for me to let my baby go."
Cubría's eventual goal for Down, Boy, is a full production, but for today he'll be happy with making his audience think a little bit. "My world view is certainly in the play and I'm definitely trying to say something with this. But it's more interesting to me what people think it means, which I know isn't always going to be what I was trying to say. A lot of times, I'm like, 'Oh, yeah, yeah, that's what it means,' when really I had never thought of it that way. If you come out of the performance, thinking something - anything - then I've done my job."
And if the only lesson we learn is that stalking is a good thing? "Actually," he laughs, "that would be really cool."
Down, Boy by Bernardo Cubría will be performed tonight at 7 p.m. Stages Repertory Threatre, 3201 Allen Parkway. For more information, visit www.wordsmyththeater.org.