Peter Fenton is no stranger to us here at City Limits Publishing. He published his seasonal play, See Amid the Winter Snow in November 2020, and now he is back with his dark, satirical comedy Abandon All Hope. Peter joined us again to discuss his theatrical inspirations behind Abandon All Hope and what makes this piece of theatre different from his last.
- What has your writing career taught you so far? How have you grown from the work you have released?
There’s a quote often attributed to Plato, “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” I think in my earlier work, I would try to justify that there was deeper meaning in what I put out there by publicly offering my own analysis of my own text as a way to say (almost to myself), “see?? There was real thought and attention put into this! This work is worth something!”
And I don’t feel the need to do that as much. I put pen to paper with Abandon All Hope not to say something, but because I had something to say. Sure, I have my own opinions about the characters, storyline, and ultimate meaning of Abandon All Hope, but I don’t feel a need to share them as much. I’m a proponent of the theory of Death of the Author – that once a work is published, the story and its meaning ultimately belongs to the reader. If there’s something to be taken away from the story – my audience will find it, whatever it is. I think my audience would be significantly narrowed or even discouraged if I tried to come in and say “this is the meaning of Abandon All Hope, take it or leave it”.
2. Who are your theatrical inspirations?
Oh goodness. I’m not a very good playwright. In general, I find myself most inspired by TV creators and filmmakers – folks like Michael Schur (Parks and Recreation, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place), Mitch Hurwitz (Arrested Development), and Dan Harmon (Community) have really inspired my style as a writer. Other creators I admire would be Mel Brooks, Bong Joon-ho, John Oliver, Tina Fey.
3. How do you hope to inspire others or reach them through your work?
I like to say about my work that if I’ve made you laugh and/or think, then I have done my job.
4. Is there a play that inspired you to want to get involved in theatre?
I’ll do you one better and give you three plays that inspired me:
-The play that I acted in in 8th grade. It was a play from a children’s theatre script service and I won’t share the name or author out of respect, but it was bad. I remember having the script in my hand and thinking “yeah I could definitely write something better than this”. And lo and behold, a year later, I had written my first play at fourteen years old.
–The Thousand-Year Rose. It was my senior fall at Wheaton College. This was my second play I ever wrote but the first one I directed. It was the first time I had an active hand in playing with all the pieces on stage and bringing a story to life and I really loved it! Couldn’t wait to get back into the world of creating stories. I ended up publishing Rose with a company that specifically licenses plays for school and community theatres.
–The Curious Incident of the Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime at Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, Spring 2019. This was the first time I saw a professional production with a small cast that doubled as lots of different characters in the story and got my gears turning: how do I write a professionally viable script that’s as good as this one? It was a great production, too!