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Q and A: Ernest Hemmings, writer/director of ‘The Proletariat’

So, does one invite their co-workers to something like this?

Abso-fucking-lutely! When we did the first read-through, everyone in the room ended up recounting these really horrific stories of being chewed up by their corporation and dumped onto the street. I have a feeling that if anyone has held a corporate job in the past 20 years that this play will strike a serious chord. I’m pretty sure [my co-workers] will experience some level of catharsis. Some will, unfortunately, find closure.

Have you ever been a John and/or a Harold and/or one of the underlings trying to rein in the Johns and Harolds of the corporate world?

Yes. This was, in part, inspired by my management role at a company that I don’t want to name (purely out of fear) … let’s just say that I oftentimes would refer to the management meetings as “back stage.” When you are in those meetings and people are callously talking about how to squeeze more out of employees and pay out less, or how to get rid of people using metrics that aren’t relevant, you get a bit ill over it all, and you try very hard to be on the side of the worker (if you are not a total bastard) and try to save as many people as possible. … I took that six months of insanity and condensed it into 90 minutes.

What does The Proletariat have in common with your other works, thematically speaking?

I’m not sure. I was trying to break away from what I normally do … this is a little more crafted than anything I had done before. Also, there is nothing sexy going on. Normally there is some kind of sex thing involved, and this doesn’t have a single mention of humping.

Does the stress involved with writing and directing get balanced out by the fulfillment of making it all happen?

I would prefer to just be the writer, show up four weeks later at the opening, and then go home to drink myself to sleep. TJ Larsen and Walter Niejadlik wanted to do the play, but they also wanted me to direct it. I had reservations about directing it because I knew my schedule was already going to be packed. … I also knew that if someone who didn’t want anything to do with it at all ended up with the script that I would likely come to the opening night and end up squirming in my seat the entire time, sobbing hysterically in my head. So I said “yes,” and I’m very grateful that they had that much confidence in me. The pressure comes from the gratitude because I really don’t want to let anyone down who believes in me.

You had to pass up Killers tickets for a Proletariat rehearsal. In what other ways do you suffer for your art?

Passing up sex. That’s the worst. I’ll get a text message that reads “I need it bad,” and I have to write back, “I have rehearsal. Can I give you a rain check?” My booty call list has shrunk considerably because of this play.