December 7, 2007

DT Q&A: "A Million Little Diapers," By Actor/Playwright/Dad John Mooney

It's Daddy Types editorial policy that there's no quid pro quo for advertising on the site. So when I saw the ad appear on Daddy Types for John F. Mooney's play, "A Million Little Diapers," my interest was piqued. So as a totally impromptu sign of interest and intrigue, I worked my way through several layers of representation to ask Mooney a few questions.

"A Million Little Diapers" is a one-man show about a guy who decides to deal with his alcoholism just as he becomes a new dad. Because why go through one lifechanging challenge when you could do two? Then write the whole thing into a play, and workshop it before your kid turns three? All while portraying Reverend Gary on 30 Rock? They should call this "A Million Major Projects".

Mooney is performing "A Million Little Diapers tonight [Fri., Dec. 7] and tomorrow, Saturday, and then there are four more shows next week, Dec. 12-15th. Check out some highlights from Mooney's DT Q&A after the jump:

DT: You're pretty upfront that "A Million Little Diapers" is based on your own experience dealing with your own alcoholism at the same time you became a new dad.

JM:It's completely autobiographical. It's based on my getting sober and beco a father simultaneously. I was compelled to write the show for my own personal exorcism.

A lot of people get sober, and a lot of people become parents, but I don't know how many try to do it at the same time.

I wrote it recently, and a lot of things came together to make it happen, but it's based on the first year and a half of my recovery from alco--Oh, hold on a second, I hear my son. I was a stay-at-home-dad while this was going on so, my hearing got pretty acute.

DT: Did you plan on doing this all at once? Paint the nursery, get into recovery, have a kid? It seems like an awful lot of changes to take on at once.

JM: There were a lot of things coming at me in terms of personal changes, not the least of which was, I was now a parent. But I was going through changes with recovery, and going through things with my acting career. And I no longer had my security blanket, that it was just me, and I could control what was going on around me.

I have a bunch of friends who're also in recovery, and they didn't come in until their kids were much older. For me, it was just glaringly apparent that the way things were going wasn't going to work anymore. And that's what the show's about. The show focuses on the monotony of being a father, and the loss of control. I still go through that; my son is 2 3/4, and i still go through that.

DT: So in addition to living through all this, you decide to write a play, too? Were you working on it all along? How were you able to do that?

JM: I kept a diary, and I'm working with a career coach who had experience with people like me, so I kept a journal at the time, which was really useful for seeing things. And when i was working on the show, I'd go back and look at what was happening, and remember.

When I finally put pen to paper, it took two weeks to a month for a first draft. I already had a lot of it in my mind, the bullet points, basically. And going back to the journal entries--and what was going on that day, because I was still living it.

DT: [laughs] yeah, two-year-olds are endless sources of material.

JM: Yeah, something'd happen, and I'd write it down: "I know that's going in." Eventually, I reached a point of equanimity where everything wasn't do or die, and the sleep deprivation was gone--he had begun sleeping through the night--and that was when I started seeing it as a show.

DT: So this experience is really fresh, and you wrote it when?

JM: This summer, mostly.

DT: How did you know when you were ready to perform it, or to take it public? Did you have readings and workshops and stuff?

JM: Well, I didn't want to write and rework it endlessly; I wanted to try it out. And for all intents and purpose i still call it a workshop. My director is a Broadway guy, and he's been around for years, and knows how to cut to the chase.

I didn't know if we should put it up now or in January, "No," he said, "no one wants to come in January." And then my son'll be three, if we wait until March, it won't happen. I wanted to do it when I'm doing it, right now, this time of year.

DT: So how's it going? You've had a couple of performances now. What are you finding?

JM: One thing I discovered not drinking was that I was a comedy writer after all--I'd done standup for twelve years--and that I could write more than something that comes with a punchline.

I had a great dress rehearsal on Wednesday--the show opened Wednesday night--and I had a completely mediocre opening night, right after the dress rehearsal. My director is really pushing me to get out of my comfort zone, and I'm already out quite a bit already.

There are moments while i'm doing to show that I could be right there, and there are moments when I could just walk away. It's beyond my control, and that's something I'm exploring. I felt like I was a 50-50 dad, either take it or leave it. I wanted things to be on my terms--I wanted him to sleep through the night when I wanted it. But there are these things that are beyond my control, and that can actually turn out for the good, too.

DT:I have to say, this sounds like a pretty intense, raw experience theatrically speaking, but going as a parent, and knowing all these same dilemmas--it sounds kind of harrowing. Have you heard from parents who've seen the show, or friends with kids? What's their reaction?

JM: They can see the absurdities in it, for sure. When I didn't have the drink to turn to, it was hard. But I still have those experiences, those memories of that time. I remember when I could hold him--he'd nestle in the crook of my arm, he was so small--I have that. Like I said, I have friends who have come into recovery much later, when their kids were older. And so their experience of those years--I don't think they have the same memories.

JM's kid: Daddy, I want to talk.
JM: No, this is daddy's friend.
JM's kid: Daddy--

DT: Well, I'd better let you take that. It's been awesome talking with you, I hope the best for the show. Break a leg.
JM: Thanks.

D'oh, I forgot to ask him about the title.

"A Million Little Diapers" runs Dec. 5-15 at Roy Arias Theaters, tickets are $15 []

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