“There’s nothing in that.”
Those were the sage words of advice David Ives received from his father as the young playwright headed off to the Yale School of Drama. We should all have such nothing. With a career spanning influential comedies like All in the Timing and acclaimed translations of classics like the Moliere “rewrite” School for Lies, to his current Tony-nominated, Broadway hit Venus in Fur, Ives has proven those words wrong and made a life working in the theater.
During a recent discussion moderated by famed critic John Lahr at the 92nd Street Y Tribecca, Ives opened up about the highs and lows of his career in sparklingly articulate and, at times, raucously deadpan stories — from his tragically lost first play to his current much-anticipated collaboration with Stephen Sondheim.
On his unfortunate debut as a playwright:
I got bitten by the theater bug quite early and I wrote my first play when I was nine. I took this three hundred page, sort of noir novel out of my parents’ library and I turned it into a ten minute play. For my cub scout troupe. I was going to play the lead, of course, and all my friends were going to play the secondary roles which were much smaller. But what I didn’t know is that everyone in the play has to get a copy of the script. And so I learned my lines, I passed the script on and he lost it. And it was probably my best work ever. I’m still looking for it.
On the thrill of discovering his love for theater:
The stinger really stuck in my flesh when I was seventeen and I went to see Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy in A Delicate Balance. It came through Chicago. I well remember the sensation that I had sitting in the front of the balcony for $3.65 and watching Cronyn & Tandy and feeling like I was in the front car of the Cyclone in Coney Island. Because I had never seen anything like this, something so extraordinarily passionate and eloquent. I might as well have just gone home that day and written my parents a note that said, “Dear Mom & Dad, I’m going to be a playwright. Nothing can stop me.”