Five Friday Questions with Scot Augustson

Scot Augustson Thomas Krueger

Scot Augustson is a playwright and creator of Seattle’s favorite adult shadow puppet troupe, Sgt. Rigsby and His Amazing Silhouettes. He’s also an alumnus of the Seattle Rep Writers Group and a member of Printer’s Devil Theatre and the Sandbox Artists Collective.

Augustson is always working on something surprising, from a play about John Considine, a theatre producer who shot and killed Seattle’s chief of police in 1901, to an e-book of his short fiction illustrated by local artists (coming out this Spring after a successful Kickstarter campaign). This fall he’ll be producing a new Sgt. Rigsby shadow puppet show at Theatre Off Jackson entitled Gaslight, Neon and the Moon.

Keeping with this month’s 5 Fri Q spotlight on playwrights (check out the last one with scribe Kelleen Conway Blanchard), Augustson joins me for this week’s installment.

What’s the best performance you’ve seen lately?

I was utterly charmed and taken in by David Nixon’s short film Bladfold. I told him I wished I could get the memory out of my brain so that I could watch it again for the first time. Oh, and Pony World’s We Are Proud to Present…[running through April 4 at New City Theatre] Oh, jeez, the ending is just…you know, just go see it.

Best performance in the real world I’ve seen lately: yesterday I saw a bus driver give a homeless woman a banana and without missing a beat she held it up to her ear and said, “Hello? Hello?”

What’s the best meal in Seattle?

There’s a no-name taco truck just south of Top Hat. They make delicious food. It’s in the parking lot of an abandoned building that used to be an Albertson’s. I once saw a fist fight in broad daylight in that parking lot while waiting for a quesadilla.

If you go about two miles down the road toward Burien there’s a Thai restaurant in what used to be an International House of Pancakes. And yes, locals call it the Thai Hop. They make a yummy dish called Swimming Tiger. (Which, relax, it’s just chicken, not tiger. In general, carnivores don’t make for good eating.) That said, don’t make a special trip to eat at these places. Top Hat and Burien are to be avoided.

What music gets you pumped? What do you listen to when you’re sad?
I’m not a big music guy. I’d rather listen to eavesdropped conversations on the bus. But I wish there was something called GUAC, a GWAR cover band sponsored by the California Avocado Growers Association, or Band Geddes, a group that performs songs inspired by the work of photographer Anne Geddes. I would listen to either of these all the time if they were real.

I don’t listen to music at all when I am writing. When I’m making shadow puppets I like to put on Philip Glass or Meatloaf’s Bat out of Hell.

When I’m sad? Who has time to be sad?! I’m never sad, but if I were I’d listen to Leonard Cohen and Tom Waits and Joni Mitchell and Nancy Griffith’s Dust Bowl Symphony.  But like I said, Sad? I don’t even know what that means.

What’s the ideal setting for writing a play?

Completely alone. Fairly quiet, but a little world noise drifting in is fine. Big windows, at least the second floor, but higher up is good. And I love to write when I travel (which I have not done enough of lately).

You know that room in that Gustav Caillebotte painting with the shirtless guys scraping the floor? That would be the place.

What’s the most useful thing anyone has ever taught you about working in theatre?

I don’t know if there has been one great thing. I haven’t really had a mentor—I think I am too much of an asshole to attract a mentor. But, I’ve gotten a lot of little bits of wisdom from thousands of people over the years.

For example, here’s a story that I can tell you now that it’s legal: Back in 2001 at the old Consolidated Works we were doing my show Why? Why? Why? We put the audience on pillows inside of a tent and a shadow puppet show went on all around them. One night we had the super secret invite-only marijuana performance where the attendees could smoke dope during the show. 

About ten seconds after the show started the people started giggling. They were the easiest crowd in the history of the world.

Tim Gouran leaned over to fellow actor Susanna Burney and said, “They’ll laugh at anything.”

She put a hand on his shoulder and said, “Yes, but let’s not count on that.”