Interview with Chris Payne, winning playwright (Veils of Justice)

    Watch the Winning Stage Play reading of ‘VEILS OF JUSTICE’ by Chris Payne


    NARRATOR – Sean Ballantyne
    Mazen Tomedo – Vince Jerad
    Lynn – Ida Jagaric
    Chris – Rob Salerno
    Doug – Jim Canale
    Gerrie – Danielle Nicole
    Miriam – Alissa DeGrazia

Matthew Toffolo interviews playwright Chris Payne:

Matthew: What is your stage play about?

Chris: A wife finds out that her husband has accused a young Saudi of beating, torturing and raping him, but the Muslim male defendant’s Jewish female’s lawyer shows evidence that indicates innocence – triggering the wife’s journey with her gay brother through fear, betrayals and prejudice in post 9/11 New York City.

Matthew: Why should this play be produced?

Chris: No shoulds… but the play could add value and draw paying audiences in several ways:

– Heighten a sense of connection and compassion between potentially antagonistic groups (Muslims/non-Muslims, Jews-Muslims, Straight-LGBT… an early draft received Honorable Mention from the Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation’s contest for plays based on actual events that position LCBT life in positive ways, Wives and Husbands when one is hiding LGBT orientation, etc.)

– Strengthen audience commitment to take a stand for justice by witnessing ordinary people caught in extraordinary decisions the force them to choose between fear and trust, loyalty and justice, safety and truth …and to deal with their own sexual prejudices and proclivities in many forms.

Matthew: How long have you been writing stories?

Chris: Five years.

Matthew: What movie have you seen the most in your life?

Chris: African Queen. Close second: The Russians Are Coming.

Matthew: What artists would you love to work with?

Chris: Wishful thinking for this play: Maryann Plunkett as the wife. Too many wonderful Jewish actresses to choose for the Defense Lawyer and Prosecutor. Same for the attractive fit 30-something gay brother. Haaz Sleiman as Saudi defendant. Vincent D’Onofrio as the husband. Douglas Hughes Director.

Matthew: How many stories/stage plays have you written?

Chris: Stage Plays: Four full length plays (all in various stages of revision), six one acts. One Novel; One Book of Poems. Several stories.

Matthew: Ideally, where would you like to be in 5 years?

Chris: Working with a theater group, (stage and/or online Internet, maybe even a social justice organization like the Center for Constitutional Rights or Human Rights Watch, but one that incorporates the power of theater to tell stories)…

… anyway, as I was saying before I started musing, in five years, I’d like to be working with a group that creates stage plays that capture stories about ordinary people around the world who have made extraordinary stands for fairness and justice.

Matthew: Describe your process; do you have a set routine, method for writing?

Chris: I work a day job three days a week and write Fri-Mon, some evenings, sleeping late, seeing friends for lunch or dinner, writing the rest of the time. I used to layout the story, using my own mix of structures from Syd Fields, Robert McKee, Vogel’s version of Campbell’s Myth… but I’ve recently finished Hal Croasmun’s Pro Series and am part way into his Master Class where he synthesizes insights and gives daily assignments that imprint the techniques used by great writers to avoid boring exposition and heighten dramatic focus.

…But before, during and after I focus on structure, I go into a creative trance that follows the characters. Sometimes I haul them back in, sometimes, the characters loosen me up and make sure I change the structure.

Then I have the mortifying readings with talented, generous actors, interview them and willing audience members, then rewrite/revise, start over.

Matthew: Apart from writing, what else are you passionate about?

Chris: My children. My cat. Lovers. Friends from all around the world in New York City. Connecting with people in struggles for fairness and justice in ways that Archbiship Tutu and his Truth and Reconciliation folks would see as really fair, not partisan. (Everyone thinks their cause is fair and just – even Hitler – so the waters can get muddy. All sides in my play that WildSound is reading believe they are right.)

Matthew: What influenced you to enter the WILDsound Festival?

Chris: I think a notice in Linked In’s Independent Theater Artists and Producers’ discussion group. I have had three table readings and learned/revised each time. But organized the readings, did a little coaching, had a director for some of the actors in the first reading, and another reading was after placing as Finalist in a contest. I applied to WildSounds because I think I will learn a lot by listening online to a reading where I have nothing to do with selecting or speaking with the actors about the story, characters or my intentions – either it will come through, or it won’t. More fodder for more rewrites!!

Matthew: Any advice or tips you’d like to pass on to other writers?

Chris: Not until I prove I can find a theater willing to produce my work and audiences who feel the time watching my plays – or, for some, interacting with them or discussing them after, was fun and had value for them.

By WILDsound Festival

Submitters reactions to their feedback on their stories. New testimonials coming each month! Watch this month's winning readings. At least 15 performances a month: Submit your script, story, poem, or film to the festival today:


  1. Thanks so much to WildSounds and the fine actors who brought “Veils of Justice to Life” – Sean Ballantyne, Vince Jerad; Ida Jagaric, Rob Salerno, Jim Canale, Danielle Nicole, Alissa DeGrazia. When I revise, I have to cut about 45 minutes at least and your reading showed me the high points that I must keep and the areas where I can easily cut. Any suggestions welcome! Chris Payne.


Leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: