Five Friday Questions with Scotto Moore

Scotto Moore is a playwright who specializes in a hybrid of comedy, absurdism and science fiction. In his latest production at Annex, H.P. Lovecraft: Stand­up Comedian!Moore stars as H.P. “Howie” Lovecraft ­in his first major acting role in a decade. Moore’s other recent productions at Annex include the musical A Mouse Who Knows Me with composer Robertson Witmer, the Gregory­-nominated Duel of the Linguist Mages and the video game­-themed costume party play Balconies. Moore is also a regular contributor to the 14/48 Festival, and the second season of his web series The Coffee Table premieres May 3rd.

Extending Encore’s run of notable local playwrights, Moore joined me for this week’s Five Friday Questions.

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

Every year on Good Friday, K. Brian Neel performs Jesus Christ Ukulele Star for a small, invited cabal of enthusiasts. For one night only, he sings every major song in the show, performing all the roles and accompanying himself primarily on ukulele and I think banjo once or twice. He’ll usually invite a couple of guest stars to appear—this year Alyssa Keene did a beautiful performance of Mary’s solo “I Don’t Know How To Love Him”—but the real thrill is watching Brian rip through all the big Jesus and Judas solos, often within the same song. I’m not sure if his German-­accented King Herod is inspired by Mel Brooks or not, but it feels that way. Anyway the whole event is a tour de force. It’s amazing how much charisma Brian brings to the table.

What’s the best meal in Seattle? 

For special occasion dining, I’m an absolute fan of the exclusive omakase at Nishino. Definitely my favorite Japanese cuisine in the city. But for affordable every day eats, the happy hour menu at Manhattan is pretty amazing. Try the truffle lobster mac and cheese.

And I think I’ve enjoyed almost every single burger on the menu at Twilight Exit. My favorite is the peanut butter bacon burger, hold the tomato, extra peanut butter please.

What music gets you pumped up? What do you listen to when you’re sad?

I’ve been blogging about music since 2003 or 2004, currently at Much Preferred Customers,­ and over the years I’ve curated a half-terabyte collection of wonderful stuff, which plays in constant shuffle in my office. One of my sub-­obsessions is collecting great cover songs, and the one I can always go to for lifting my spirits is Hackney Collier Band’s version of Toto’s “Africa”:

During one of my darker periods when one of the biggest projects of my life was teetering on collapse and I was feeling like an imposter and a failure, I really found a heavy well of inspiration listening to the track “Anthem” on repeat, by local band “Awesome.”

What’s the ideal setting for writing a play? 

For me, it’s all about time, since I’m not one of those “write a little bit every day” kind of people. I plan ahead and reserve entire weekends in my calendar where I’m free of all other obligations and I can just sit in my cozy little office and focus. Self-­imposed deadlines like that are fantastic motivation for me.

But a lot of prep work can go into making those weekends productive. I’ve always got scratch files open in Google drive where I can jot down character notes, plot fragments or snippets of dialogue, since my subconscious is usually working on a project in the background even when I’m not specifically trying to write. When I needed comedic monologues for H.P. Lovecraft: Stand­up Comedian!, by the time I sat down to actually work on the script, I had a whole pile of jokes waiting for me that I didn’t remember writing. It was an excellent little gift-­wrapped treat from the past.

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

When I was eleven or twelve years old, I showed my first screenplay to my favorite instructor at the children’s theatre where I was taking acting classes. It was a terrible little science fiction thing, but Patty took me seriously and she gave me some feedback that I still remember: “You only have one girl character in this story, and she’s just there to be the girlfriend of the main character. She has no personality and you didn’t give her anything to do.” I kind of feel like I’ve spent most of my life working to make sure I never get that note again.

Now when I sit down to write, my default is almost always to assume the lead role goes to a woman (or several) and then I build up from there. That doesn’t make me an automatic expert in writing women—as recently as my last show, Balconies, I had long, fruitful conversations with Evelyn DeHais during early rehearsals about how I needed to rewrite her character Sophie into someone less passive and more dynamic. But I wouldn’t get those opportunities to learn as a writer if I wasn’t filling my shows with a wide range of female roles and then really committing to making them believable.