TheatreSquared debuts ‘dark comedy’ by Arkansas native

TheatreSquared debuts ‘dark comedy’ by Arkansas native

Joseph Scott Ford is no stranger to Arkansas. Born and raised in Little Rock, he was 12 when he portrayed the little boy who got the coveted bicycle in the 2004 film “Mr. Christmas,” shot in Eureka Springs, and two decades later, worked on his play “Responders” at the 2022 Arkansas New Play Festival. In between, he was Dana in the world premiere of “Primating” (Arkansas Repertory Theater) and Austin in “True West” (Producer’s Club, Company of Fools), while also writing “Not Even The Good Things,” “Sasparilla,” “Mainly The Rabbit,” “Penthouse Play,” “The Only Mountain in Texas,” “The Catch” and “Montauk Rising.”

Presented as part of the 2024 Arkansas New Play Festival, in co-production with Arkansas Repertory Theatre, Ford’s “Responders,” directed by Vickie Washington, is currently making its world premiere on the TheatreSquared stage, and Ford, now “proudly back in Little Rock raising two kids,” answered a few questions for The Free Weekly via email.

Q. As I understand it, this is your second — or maybe I should say “continuing” — collaboration on “Responders.” What have you learned that has shaped the play T2 audiences will see?

A. This is a funny play around a tragic circumstance. Through this process — festival to full production — I think we’ve all learned how to find the funny and honor the tragedy. It’s a beautiful balance that makes for a moving story. And, frankly, we learn a little more each night with every new audience, so come see and be a part of the process. We need you.

Q. When shaping a “dark comedy,” how do you balance those two sides?

A. Penitently, and with one eye closed. It’s largely by instinct and good fortune. Some situations, for whatever reason, are funny. Some are not. But even the situations that aren’t funny can become funny … if you handle them a certain way. Sometimes the “dark” is in the situation and the “comedy” is in the handling of the situation. Sometimes it’s the other way around. But, ultimately, it’s a mystery to me, and I like to keep it that way.

Q. I understand from the 2022 questions/answers that this was your first play development collaboration. What did you learn that you use every time you act or write?

A. If you don’t have good actors, director, crew, and crowd, it doesn’t matter how great your script is. So get your story in the hands of talented people as soon as you can, because that’s when all the learning begins. But, that said, I’ve also learned to trust my instincts more, because most of what I imagined would work on stage does actually work. So, that helps me write with more conviction. And, as I’m sure you know, it takes conviction.

Q. Who are your characters? Are they based on anyone in particular?

A. We’ve got Daryl, the senior paramedic who’s over it and counting down the days to his retirement. There’s Ang (short for Angela), the gung-ho former hairstylist turned rookie EMT. Then there’s Suzie, the ambitious small-town reporter and Daryl’s ex-wife. And finally Tucker, her goofy but well-meaning cameraman recently back from his second tour in Afghanistan. My teacher, Bill Esper, used to say that a “moment” is to acting what a “note” is to music. Every little moment has a meaning all its own. The same applies to character inspiration. Some of the moments come from aspects of me, others from people I’ve known, others from things I’ve read or conversations I’ve overheard, and plenty of it comes from I have no idea where. Characters come from this swirl of the subconscious. My job is to listen and give shape to the swirl.

Q. What makes live theater matter?

A. The power of connection. The people in the room make live theater matter. Now, a bad story told badly doesn’t matter much. But when we gather to tell a good story and tell that story well, I find that people connect, hearts open, and there’s no limit to the goodness that can flow from that theater back out into the world.




By Joseph Scott Ford

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday; 2 & 7:30 p.m. Saturday; and 2 p.m. Sunday, through June 30

WHERE — TheatreSquared, 477 W. Spring St. in Fayetteville

COST — $43-$68

INFO — 777-7477 or

Categories: Cover Story