The following interview with American dramatist Walter Wykes was conducted on April 2, 2008 and posted in Theatre Database on April 5, 2008.
Your one-act play, The Worker, is a very interesting little play. What inspired it? Any sort of personal experiences?
WW: Not really. It was actually inspired by a painting.
WW: Builders of Illusion by a Peruvian artist named Wilmer Lalupu Flores.
How did you develop the ideas and concepts of the play just from looking at that picture? It must have taken a lot of creativity on your part.
WW: Something about the two characters in the painting just caught my attention--their relationship intrigued me--so I decided to write a play about them to figure it out. They seemed to be a couple, but their backs were to each other and they each seemed occupied by their own interests--he holding some obscure items (which became all of his office supplies in the play) and she holding what appeared to be a doll or a baby. They were attached but something seemed to be separating them. From there I just used my imagination, and The Worker is the result.
So the play doesn't reflect any personal experiences that you've had?
WW: Well, I guess it must reflect something I've experienced at some point or I wouldn't have been able to write it. But there wasn't any one experience that really fed the play. Although all of the things the woman says about her "child" at the end of the play (i.e., counting to ten but skipping seven, making specific animal sounds, wacking the cat & then apologizing to the "meow", etc ...) are taken directly out of the baby journal that my wife wrote for our daughter Kyra.
I knew there had to be something personal in there!
WW: Oh! I almost forgot. One other personal experience in there is the man's monologue about his responsibilities at work. While obviously exaggerated, this was a satire on my wife's job at the time. She worked for an upscale linens company in Los Angeles and had been hired as a "design specialist", but in reality they expected her to do just about everything, including taking the owner's dog out to do its "business" several times a day. And yes, the dog did have stomach problems. When we had our daughter, my wife's employer actually told us that she (our daughter) was "almost as cute" as her dog.
WW: Yeah. She would come home and tell me these crazy stories and I would just laugh at the absurdity of it all. Her job really did have quite an influence on the play, now that I think about it.
Why does the play end so negatively?
WW: Does it end negatively?
I think so.
WW: I guess it depends on your perspective.
It makes sense and I can see why "woman" would do what she does, but it could have ended a lot of other ways and I was just curious why you chose this one.
WW: Okay, I admit the end is a bit of a bummer, at least for the husband. But it's actually much less negative than the original draft.
How did that one end?
WW: The husband forced his wife to have an "abortion" of the "child." That was really dark and nobody liked it, including myself. So I rewrote it to end as it does, which seems appropriate since the man never stood up for anyone else at work and treated his wife as a second class citizen at home. To me, it feels like poetic justice for him to sort of reap what he's sown. And from Mr. Flores' painting, I felt like the play should end on a dark note.
Silly personal question, do you like cake? If so, what's your favorite kind?
WW: Do I like cake? Yes! I love cake! My favorite is German-chocolate cake. Although P.F. Chang's has a great chocolate-raspberry torte. That's good too.
One last thing, why didn't you give the characters in the play names?
WW: I didn't give the characters names, and this is something I do fairly frequently, because I wanted them to be everymen of sorts, universal characters. I wanted them to represent a broad spectrum of humanity, every man and every woman, rather than emphasizing their individuality. This is reflected in the opening stage directions as well.
Thanks for your time.
WW: Take it easy.