16 Hours – An Interview with the Playwright

16 HoursTravis W. Inman, Author and Playwright – his life story is like an epic movie portraying the challenges and triumphs of living the American dream.  As a young man, he begins his life as a cowboy in West Texas on his parent’s ranch and follows a long road complete with the harrowing hairpin turns of two broken hips during military service and a life threatening illness.  He survives and walks again and then becomes a published author and now a produced playwright and there is much that happened in between.  Travis W. Inman’s first produced play, entitled 16 Hours was a huge hit with sold out shows.  It was produced by American Laboratory Theatre and directed by international director and creative genius Jesús Quintero.  16 Hours which was originally entitled Decision Maker and then Forbidden Rose, is a deeply moving story of survival, hope, and retribution.

Let’s say hello to author and playwright, Travis W. Inman.

Madeline:Welcome and thank you for visiting with us again Travis.  Please tell us about your play 16 Hours.

Travis:Hello! I deeply appreciate you taking time to chat with me today!  Isaac Jacobs is a man who survived the Holocaust and WWII but lost his family to the Nazis. He dedicated his entire life to tracking down the men who murdered his wife and kids. He finally traps them in a bank and takes them hostage, along with everyone else in the bank at the time. He intends to execute the Nazis in a very public setting. However, nothing goes according to plan. The other hostages are more complicated than he anticipated, and he has trouble executing his plan. All of his life he hoped for justice, never did he expect justice would bring him hope.

Madeline:I have had the honor of reading your original script for 16 Hours and I was privileged to attend two showings.   The director Jesús Quintero, colored your story beautifully.  What was the most difficult aspect of letting go of your writings and allowing the creative process to work?  What was the most enjoyable aspect?

Travis:Jesús creatively interpreted the script and added many theatrical elements to the play that I did not envision. He asked permission to interpret the play, and I freely surrendered the script to him, knowing that whatever he did was going to be incredible. Nothing he did was difficult for me to embrace. In fact, there are many aspects of his direction that I will incorporate into the actual script. As far as letting go? I had no trouble with this at all. I learned long ago that when I create something in writing, and then surrender it to someone else, they are now the master and commander of the story. I’m honored that they loved my work enough to focus it to fit their needs. I was flattered, not horrified. And I would do it all again! Many writers can be very guarded with their work, and desperate to maintain control over their words. I went through that as well when I first started publishing. But, a good editor (or director) will see a broader picture that I can’t see. I’ve learned to trust that process and allow it to happen. IT WAS A BLAST, TOO!

Madeline:What was the most surprising creative touch added by director, Jesús Quintero?

Travis:Well. He added a whole new character, which shocked me. The death_ncharacter’s name? Death! I know, right? DEATH is now a character in the play. I was so taken aback by the new character; it took me a while to process that. But, once I saw where Jesús was going with it, I was amazed. And then I was jealous. I dearly wish I’d thought of it myself! Death as a character in a story about the holocaust was a stroke of genius, and it worked incredibly well. I already know how I’m going to rewrite the play to have Death as a background character, who is able to influence the characters from near and far, and it would have never happened had Jesús not contributed that change. BRAVO to him!

Madeline:The director, Jesús Quintero placed deep meaning throughout the play using images, objects and music.  I found after seeing a second showing, that many of my questions were answered.  How did that experience “play” out for you?

Travis:Well, some of his meanings and imagery didn’t make sense to me at first and I had to sit and ask him, “What does this mean?” And when he explained to me, “This reflects humanity’s reluctance to stand up against evil”, or, “This is characteristic of human reaction to pain”, I was in awe. Really, there was much of the play I didn’t understand because I was preconditioned to see it from my own point of view. But, once I heard Jesús declare, “This is a dream, a nightmare really, and this is how a dream works” it all clicked for me.

Madeline:Was there anything that you found especially touching or moving about seeing your writing coming to life in this play?

Travis:What a profound experience. It was both exhilarating and humbling at the same time. And terrifying. I felt very exposed and vulnerable at first, but once I saw that people embraced the play, I was at peace. It was quite a ride!

Madeline:As part of an innovative approach to theatre, you were asked to write two endings and the audience participated by voting for which ending that they would like to see.  How did you determine which two endings that you would write?

Travis:The overall connecting theme is the sanctity of life. In the original play, Isaac is torn between doing what he is driven to do and what he knows would violate his conscience. Despite all of the death he has embraced in his life, he discovers that actually pulling the trigger is harder than he imagined. Jesús took that idea and expanded it so the audience would have a chance to experience that conflict on their own. He told me to “come up with an alternate ending.” So, I thought about it. What if the audience voted for justice rather than mercy? How would that look? Well, I concluded that when we, mortals, try to execute our own brand of justice, things can be overlooked. Important things. Such as consequences. So, I wrote each part of the alternate endings to have unique consequences.

Madeline:Did you secretly hope that the audience would choose one ending over the other?

Travis:I very selfishly wanted to see both endings. I was even flirting with the idea of forcing the vote (I was the emcee who tallied the votes during the play), but each night the audience votes were unpredictable. Over the course of five performances, they voted for mercy three times, and for justice twice. Both endings were quite startling, I must say.

Madeline:16 Hours has an overtly pro-life message.  How has the public reacted to this?

Travis:I understand that on our first weekend, we had a few people walk out, but we don’t know why. We deal with really dark material in the play, but it is with the purpose of declaring how precious life is. I was expecting a backlash for being so overtly pro-life, but the audience seemed to embrace it without hesitation.

Madeline:OK, let’s lighten up with lightening round.

Madeline:  Sunny or cloudy?  Travis: Cloudy

Madeline:  Hotel or camping?  Travis: Hotel. I really enjoy lounging.

Madeline:  Surf or Turf?  Travis: Turf

Madeline:  Novel or TV sitcom?  Travis: Depends on how cloudy it is.

Madeline:  Bacon or sausage?  Travis: BACON. Duh!

Madeline:Do you have other plays already written?

Travis:I have a stack on my desk. I have more than I could possibly hope to see produced!

Madeline:Would you enjoy having another play brought to production?

Travis:We will be producing more plays. Sadly, we can only do one a year with our current resources. But, I will continue my relationship with American Laboratory Theatre for many years.

Madeline: Travis, please tell the readers where they can find you.
Travis: http://www.traviswinman.com

Madeline:Travis, thank you for joining us again and sharing your journey with the readers.

Travis:I absolutely love the work you do, and I think it has helped heal and motivate many more people than we could ever imagine. Being allowed to participate in that process is an honor for me, and I humbly thank you for considering me.

Please be sure to check out Travis’ other works on Amazon.com.  He has two excellent choices for you.   For a sweet love story, read When Love Called and for a gripping tale, read Shadows – One Choice a Future Makes.


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