Be Here Now

Despite a yearlong retrospective, John Guare wants to be a playwright of the present tense

Impolite questions about the presumed autobiographical references of his work are met with a shrug. ''It's all wish fulfillment,'' he says. ''I wrote House of Blue Leaves precisely because I wasn't in New York when the Pope arrived in Queens. While I was hitching around Egypt trying to see the world, the world came to my parents. You write what should have happened.''

For someone who never fails to find ways of exploiting life's unexpected twists, Guare seems unusually relieved to be back in the theater after concentrating the last few years on two yet-to-be-made screenplays, one for Martin Scorsese, the other for his great friend and collaborator Louis Malle, who passed away before the film could be made. ''It's all too depressing working in movies, never knowing whether they're going to get done or not. I like making plays, where the object is for them to have an immediate life.''

''The Signature has given me the opportunity to take a few old plays of mine and put them into the present,'' he says, growing increasingly restless in his seat. ''It's not about looking back--it's about right now. Someone told me after seeing Marco Polo that it was like having the '70s come up and shake hands with the '90s. I can't tell you how moving it was to see that play was still alive.''

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