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The Wright Stuff

Craig Wright's "Melissa Arctic" opens at the Barksdale while the writer is busy putting "Six Feet Under" to rest.

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Style: You have such an amazing personal story. Have you thought about writing a memoir?

Wright: I have, particularly since my experiences between the ages of 7 and 21 were pretty amazing. But I don't have the patience. Sentences are so long, and good descriptions are so hard to write. That's why I write plays. You give the characters their dialogue and the actors just do it.



You have become very successful as a playwright [Wright's 2000 play, "The Pavilion," was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize]. How did you end up writing for television?

My theater agent sent a play of mine to an agent in Hollywood. I had a meeting with the producers of "Six Feet Under" and they offered me a job. It's really the only way it could have happened. I never could have just moved out to L.A. and started looking for a job. I'm just not the type. The themes in my writing are all about fate and powerlessness, and I really believe in that. I think you stay where you are and do what you do and the system will find you.



"Melissa Arctic" is a retelling of Shakespeare's "The Winter's Tale." Of all his plays, why rework this one?

I had written three plays all set in [the fictional town of] Pine City, Minnesota. I wanted to do something to finish them up, something to help me figure out why I had written all three of them. And one of the themes of "The Winter's Tale" is how art can bring things back to life. It's about the redemptive power of art.



"Six Feet Under" is now in production for its fifth and final season. How do you feel about the show wrapping up?

It's a good thing that the show is ending. If there was ever a series designed to end, it's "Six Feet Under." It's all about death and mortality. So we have a lot of thematic tools at our disposal to bring it to a close, much more than other shows.



What is next for you after "Six Feet Under" wraps up?

I'm in negotiations with several studios around town. I like writing for television. I like to be able to work with characters over time. I also like having a place to go to work every day. I do better than when I'm left to my own devices.

I'm finishing up a movie script for [producer] Kathleen Kennedy called "Last of the Metrozoids," based on a story in the New Yorker by Adam Gopnik. I also have a play called "Mistakes Were Made" that was commissioned by the Humana Festival in Louisville that will premiere next year.

I like working on a variety of things because everything feels like a vacation from the other stuff. Or if you wanted to put it in a darker way, I'm only happy when I'm betraying something else.



You have a master's degree from United Theological Seminary. Have you ever considered a career as a minister?

Yes, I've considered it. I might come back to it someday. Who knows? I know I don't want to die in Hollywood; I don't even want to get old in Hollywood. Maybe I'm kidding myself, but I get fed up with words sometimes. All a writer does is have experiences and then vomit out words. I think it might be nice to be done with words at some point. S



"Melissa Arctic" opens at the Barksdale Theatre Friday, March 25. Tickets cost $32-$36. Call 282-2620.



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