A Crazy (but fully clothed) Q & A With TM Sell, Author of “Crazy/Naked”
Q: First, tell us a little bit about yourself: Where are you from? What did you â€œwant to be when you grew upâ€?
A: Born and raised in and around Seattle. Wanted to be a lot of things but wanted to write a play the first time I saw one when I was second grade.
Q: What do you do now?
A: Professor of political science and journalism at Highline College; founder and co-owner of Breeders Theater; author and freelance journalist.
Q: What did you do in a past life?
A: Reporter and editor with a number of local newspapers, including Valley Daily News and the Seattle P-I.
Q: How did you get into journalism?
A: One day when I was 16 my dad said ‘You should be a journalist. You like to write.” And he was right.
Q: What made you start writing plays?
A: I write because I like to make people laugh and to make them think.
Q: Is writing plays a natural thing for a journalist to do?
A: Probably not. But I find theater to be a good blend of two of my passions: journalism and politics.
Q: How many plays have you written? How many have been produced/staged?
A: I don’t know anymore. I stopped counting. This is our 13th show at E.B. Foote but some of them have been pairings of one-acts and some have been full-length plays. There’s only a couple things that I’ve ever written that haven’t been seen anywhere.
Q: Tell us about Crazy/Naked?
A: Crazy/Naked is about local politics, involving composites of people I have known saying things I’ve heard people actually say. It’s about the degree to which people don’t participate and don’t pay attention to politics. With, I think, bad consequences. I mean who the hell cares whether the candidate is a guy you’d like to have a beer with? Is that going to happen? I want to know if they have a clue about what might work in government policy. Little else actually matters. Good legislators that I knew often were assholes. And some really nice people I met in Olympia were simply ineffective.
Q: Tell us about Breeders Theater Group â€“ when did you start it, why, what has it done, etc.
A: I had the idea way back in the ’80s. The I became a play reviewer for Valley Daily News and for KUOW, so I saw two plays a week for four years. It was like a second degree. Then I met actors. So we did some staged readings at Highline as benefits for the school. Then I met the folks at E.B. Foote and said, “I’ve written a play about a winery.” And they took a chance on us, and we’ve been there since 2002.
Q: As a Playwright, what is your ultimate goal?
A: To make people laugh and to make them think and to say things that I think matter.
Q: Do you aspire to do any other kinds of writing? (ie: feature-length screenplays, etc.)
A: I have finished two screenplays and I have no idea what do with them. I have neither a theatrical nor a film agent, and I really could use both (seriously). I’m not very adept at marketing my stuff.
Q: What are some other projects youâ€™re working on now? Any upcoming plays?
A: I’m always still dabbling in political science research. I’ve finished a couple of drafts of our summer show. I have some other shows in mind for BT. A few have been started. Mostly I need time away without distractions to write, and then I write in a mad rush. The first draft of Crazy/Naked was finished in about three days. Then I have to see it a bunch of times before what’s wrong with it sinks in. I probably need to do more hard work on each script before it hits the stage. But the cast is very good about suggesting things that need fixing. They’re very smart people, which is both a challenge and a huge blessing.
Q: Is the newspaper business â€œdyingâ€? Why/why not?
A: Nyet. It’s not growing, but newspapers remain well-positioned to gather and disseminate information. I don’t see them being replaced by blogs. What you’re doing isn’t so much a blog as a kind of on-line newspaper. The key, of course, reminds finding out how to actually make money on this.
Q: How has the internet changed journalism?
A: Not so much. I read that it was and did, but not really. Bloggers aren’t journalists (not talking about you again); they’re people popping off about subjects they often dimly understand. At the end of the day journalism is still about trying to tell true stories about important or interesting things. If there’s a fault of journalism, is that it’s taught in most places as a craft instead of as a method of inquiry.
Q: Should Bloggers be given the same access as newspaper reporters?
A: Only if they can earn it.
Q: Any predictions on how people will be getting their news in 5/10/20 years?
A: In the same ways they are now. The technology may change, but the information will not be greatly altered. Marshall McLuhan did indeed say that the medium is the message, but hardly anybody noticed that his comment was at least partially bullshit. Good reporting is still good reporting, regardless of the delivery method. But if you teach at a big university and say something suitably obtuse, suddenly you’re a genius.
Q: Any predictions for the B-Town Blog?
A: It may be in the right place at the right time. The difference may be that you are able to do more than recycle what other people already are doing.
Crazy/Naked opens this Friday, Jan. 18th at 7pm, and continues through Feb. 2nd at the E.B. Foote Winery at 127 SW 153rd #B in Burien, WA:
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The Jan. 30 show is a benefit for the Highline College Foundation.
The show includes tasting of E.B. Footeâ€™s award-winning wines and hors dâ€™oeurves, all for only $20.
Tickets are available at the winery, 206-242-3852 and at Corky Cellars, 22511 Marine View Drive, Des Moines, 206-824-9462.
[EDITOR’S NOTE/DISCLOSURE: This Reporter actually attended Highline Community College with Dr. TM Sell, who we knew then only as “Terry”; he didn’t have a PHD yet but was a kick-ass fellow journalist for the Thunderword, the school paper he now advises/teaches at Highline College.
<—Apologies to all B-Town Blog readers for the embarrassing self-indulgent clipping from the Thunderword, circa 1979.
Yes, that’s really me with big hair, wearing stupid shades and typing on an IBM Selectric typewriter.