INTERVIEWER: It has been a while that I’ve been chasing you around for this interview and you have been reluctant to do it. Why? RON: Contradictions. You answer a question one way and a few seconds later you could give the exact opposite answer.
… I: So you’re full of contradictions? What should we know about Ron? R: Ron? Ron is a diminutive for Ronald. My full name is Ronald Russell Kozloff. My parents gave me that name and I have carried it ever since.
… I: No kidding? Do I detect a level of hostility rising? R: Not really. You are a lovely person. But ask me a question that makes sense.
… I: What moves you? R: At this moment I am getting hungry. So food would move me.
… I: Do you want to take a break and grab something to eat? R: No. Let’s just slog this along till I faint.
… I: Okay. What else moves you? (Ron is on the point of passing out, so he does relent to pausing and going to the kitchen to grab a bite)
… I: Do you feel better now? R: Slightly.
… I: How was breakfast? R: Breakfast was good. I had two slices of black Russian bread with peanut butter and peach jam, which I wolfed down with a glass of cold milk. It went down well.
… I: You mention Russian. I understand you are Jewish of Russian origin. R: Who told you that?
… I: Word gets around. Is that true? R: It is true. My father came from Russia and my mother’s parents were also from Russia.
… I: How did it feel to grow up in Montreal as a Russian Jew? R: It felt fine. But I never had any real sense of myself as a Russian Jew per se. My parents spoke English in the home and I had friends from all nationalities. My identity was never founded on the basis of being Russian or Jewish for that matter, though many of my friends were Jewish. That said, I now do feel very Russian and very Jewish.
… I: When did that change? R: About five minutes ago while I was eating breakfast.
… I: I see. How do you feel Jewish? R: I realize I have many of the Jewish sicknesses , such as poor digestion, guilt complex, the tendency to transgress, a melancholic streak, vanity and humility at the same time, outsized rage, ambition.
… I: And love of money, of course. R: Are you an anti-Semite?
… I: Not at all. I’m also Jewish. R: The two are not mutually exclusive. My mother always told me I had no respect for money and I find out she was right. Money is an ugly thing. Now go tell that to people who have none. I have always had my creature comforts. But it is absurd as a motivating factor beyond that. It is totally useless and ultimately destructive. It causes untold suffering, as everyone knows.
… I: You will probably be drummed out of the Jewish race for saying that. R: You are an anti-Semite.
… I: It’s just a joke. A kibbitz. I: In poor taste.
I: Sorry. R: Okay, but you’re getting on my nerves.
… I: Sorry. R: Stop saying sorry. Everyone always does all sorts of shit and then they apologize. Anyway, you are probably right that I will be drummed out of the Jewish race.
… I: Maybe you’re the anti-Semite. R: Could very well be. Jews are complex creatures. They have had to be.
… I: Let’s move on to other matters. What is your position on women? R: Women are men’s best friend and worst enemy. When I think of women I want to…Oh I don’t think I should get into that.
… I: Oh, do. R: …I want to… well, I want to laugh and cry at the same time.
… I: Laugh and cry? Explain. R: I want to laugh because I find them so adorably funny. I sometimes think of them as candies and I am looking at them through the window of the candy store, and I start to cry when I realize the store is closed.
… I: You have a sweet tooth? R: I have spent a fortune at the dentist. And my dentist is no picnic. He’s a devoted sadist. But if he reads this, I apologize in advance.
… I: The state of the world. Comment. R: Who knows? The world has always been a bad place for most people in it. Only now it is always in our face and we are aware all the time of the inequities, and yet we feel paralysed by them, which leads to huge guilt and malaise, and that in turn leads to seeking stronger drugs to assuage our discomfort. People have become more stupid and greedy than ever before despite the leaps in technology, which is doing its best to destroy our humanity. The level of discourse is abominable. The next great war, I think, will be between humanoids and those that want to stay human beings. It has already started. Savagery abounds on God’s grey earth. But we will survive. That’s the tragedy.
… I; You mention God. Are you a religious man? R: Religion has always been a strategy to control man’s base nature. The dark dog within. It’s aspirations are good, but why not just do the right thing because it is the right thing to do? And everyone knows what is the right thing to do. Everyone knows. Don’t tell me they don’t.
… I: Then why don’t they do the right thing? R: Well some do. But most of us just couldn’t be bothered. It is too hard to even think about and we have become very weak . It is now a matter of taking the road of least resistance. People feel there is nothing worth doing anymore. Nothing worth fighting for.
… I: So you’re optimistic about the future? R: Right. If you happen to be a rat.
… I: What about Obama? You like Obama, don’t you? R: I love him. But he is one man. One man alone cannot make it happen. I just hope he doesn’t end up dead soon. If he can survive, he might be able to make a start at least. Not that there are no well intentioned people. But there are so many unprincipled motherfuckers around.
… I: Do you recycle? R: Yes.
… I: That’s a start. People recycling. Paying attention to the environment. It could turn things around. R: Isn’t that like the guy facing the firing squad deciding to become a monk? I have been hearing about air and water pollution since I was sixteen. Everyone saying how horrible it was, and it has only gotten worse. No one is willing to give up all the shit they prize –all the toys and soft living – for a cause even if that cause will save their lives.
I: Thank you, Ron. R: You can sit down now. ………………………………………
Interview with Ron Kozloff on Terminal
INTERVIEWER: Let’s talk about your latest offering: Terminal. RON: Sure. Shoot.
… I: What is the genesis of this play? R: I was in Italy last summer and riding in trains for long periods at a stretch and I had several Sam Beckett books with me and I had the opportunity to read 3 of his books during the trip.
… I: You mean the playwright, Samuel Beckett? R: Yeah. His friends called him Sam.
… I: You feel close to Beckett? R: Well, I do feel close to him. He goes deeper into my psyche than anybody I have ever read. Anyway, when I got back I just automatically sat down and wrote for a few weeks and Terminal was the end product. No pun here, okay?
… I: If you say so. The play is about suicide. R: Yup.
… I: Why suicide? R: It’s a subject close to my heart.
… I: You have thought about suicide? R: Sure. Hasn’t everybody?
… I: Probably not. R: You might be surprised. There is a line that goes, “To be or not to be. That is the question.” Also Beckett’s line, “ I can’t go on. I will go on.” I love that line. We all struggle with that question. But people don’t like to talk about it. It’s the only taboo left in this world. People will reveal any of their orifices on the Internet without blinking but would not admit that they have ever had a suicidal thought. Well, Silvio, in this play, takes the opposite view. He believes it his right to kill himself. And he wants to make it interesting. So he invites a hooker over to help him out.
… I: Laura? R: Or Laurie. Depending on her mood.
… I: Laura. I like Laura better. R: So does she as a matter of fact.
… I: Who or what is Laura? R: Laura is someone who is caught up in her conscious mind. She is a sound bite who knows nothing about what makes her tick. She is a student in psychology who is moonlighting as a prostitute because she likes sex and because she says she wants to help people. But underlying this she is a very different person.
… I: Who are the actors? R: Todd Harrop is an actor from Ontario, Waterloo, I believe. He is a pro and also a musician. Janice Wu is also from Ontario. She has tremendous presence. They are both skilled actors and I am learning lots from being with them.
… I: This is your first time directing, isn’t it? R: Yeah. First time. I have been wanting to do it for a long time, and so now thought it would be best to start with something I wrote. It is a very interesting experience. I have huge respect for actors. It takes lots of courage, in my view, to put yourself out there emotionally naked in front of a group of strangers. There is so much that can happen and you risk it all. To touch people that way is a beautiful thing.
… I: Well, good luck staging it. By the way, is there anything after Terminal? R: I’m glad you asked. I have another play that is a full farce. It’s about the singer, Bob Dylan and it’s called Botox Bob.
… I: Will that go through Fringe as well? R: Who knows? It will depend on what happens this June, I suppose.
… I: Thank you, Ron. ……………………………………………………………..
Terminal – A one-act black comedy that explores the relationship between sex and death