To Err is Human…Right? | 16/17 Season, New Play Development | Orlando Shakespeare Theater To Err is Human…Right? | 16/17 Season, New Play Development | Orlando Shakespeare Theater

To Err is Human…Right?

Interview with PlayFest playwright Eric Pfeffinger, author of “Human Error”


Eric Pfeffinger, author of Human Error (a PlayFest presented by Harriett’s Charitable Trust 2017 new play reading) talks about what he hopes his audience will discover in his latest work.

Eric Pfeffinger

OST: What is the biggest challenge about crafting a new play?

EP: The biggest challenge is sitting down and realizing that, regardless whatever you might have done or accomplished in this field previously, it turns out you have no idea how to do this and should probably be doing something else. Or is that just me?

OST: Why are you passionate about the subject matter in Human Error? What inspired you?

At the core of Human Error is political polarization—specifically, an exploration of the ideological echo chambers in which Americans currently like to isolate themselves, listening only to people with whom they agree with and harshly judging those with whom they disagree. It’s a destructive and dysfunctional way to run a society, and I’m pretty sure I’m totally guilty of it.

EP: I started writing the play years ago. At some point during its development it actually occurred to me that if the vicious polarization plaguing our culture were to heal, the play might no longer seem relevant. That doesn’t seem to have happened yet. So, yay?

OST: What themes or ideas are you focusing on with this play?

EP: I went into writing Human Error expecting it to be a completely pessimistic vision of whether people can overcome those partisan prejudices and really see and understand and learn from one another—I basically thought it couldn’t be done, that we’re too far gone, and I expected the play to reflect that fatalism. But plays have minds of their own, and it turns out the play’s a little more humane and optimistic about the human capacity for cross-ideological connection than I am. I hope the play’s right and I’m wrong. The odds are pretty good; I’m often wrong.

OST: Describe your play writing style in one sentence. What should the audience know about you?

EP: I like writing comedies about things that really shouldn’t be funny.

OST: Tell us something unique about your writing process. For example, do you have a sacred writing place or a special writing talisman? Do you secretly love rewrites? Is there music that gets you in the mood to write?

EP: I write everything longhand in spiral notebooks before I ever type it up digitally because it’s a great opportunity to watch how my handwriting deteriorates measurably over the years. Before long even I won’t be able to read it.

I always listen to music when I’m writing, but I never register or retain or notice any of it, so I have no idea if any of the new music I’ve gotten lately is any good. I’m told it’s good.

I used to be in an improv troupe and the writing of every first draft is like a silent improvisation where I’m playing all the characters. I have no idea what that looks like to the outside eye, which is probably just as well.

Eric Pfeffinger’s play Human Error will be performed as a staged reading at Orlando Shakes on Friday, November 3, 2017 at 8 p.m. in the Margeson Theater. Click here for tickets.

About Eric Pfeffinger: 

Eric’s work has been produced by Actors Theater of Louisville, the Geva Theater Center, the Phoenix Theatre, and the Bloomington Playwrights Project. His plays include Accidental Rapture, Hunting High, Some Other Kind of Person, Barrenness, Assholes and Aureoles, Malignance, and the plays for young audiences Lost and Foundling and The Day John Henry Came to School.

He’s written new plays on commissions from the InterAct, Imagination Stage and the Signature and developed scripts through workshops and readings at PlayPenn, Page 73 Productions, the Rattlestick, the New Jersey Rep and available light. He’s collaborated on pieces with the Internationalists and the New York Neo-Futurists.

His plays have been published by Dramatic Publishing and Dramatics magazine, and he’s written articles for American Theatre magazine. He’s co-author of the novel The High-Impact Infidelity Diet, available on finer remainder tables everywhere.