Ryan Dunlavey on Action Philosophers Play Adaptation

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Action Philosophers, the comic book series by Fred Van Lente and Ryan Dunlavey, has been adapted for the theater by award-winning playwright Crystal Skillman (who happens to also be Van Lente’s spouse). The play has been acclaimed for capturing the flavor of the comics series’ comedic exploration of several world philosophers. Action Philosophers is currently in a limited run through October 16 (Thursday & Friday at 8 pm, Saturday & Sunday at 7 pm) at the Brick Theater (in cooperation with Impetuous Theater Group). Dunlavey recently took the time to share his thoughts with me via email on the comic series’s successful transition to the theater.

When you and Fred first developed Action Philosophers, did you ever envision it being adapted for theater?

Never. I arrogantly believed that it was completely unadaptable to other mediums and it would exclusively live and die on the comic book page, but Crystal Skillman, director John Hurley and the actors have done a fantastic job of proving me wrong!

Interestingly enough (maybe only to me) Action Philosophers originally came about when I asked Crystal to collaborate on a comic with me, but then Fred got to me first!

What was it like the first time you saw characters you draw and scenes you created be performed in the theater?

Easily the most surreal experience of my life, but also really exciting! Plato was the most shocking being much more of a caricature of the real-life Plato than the other philosophers that are featured in the play. He’s become our trademark character for the series so seeing him come to life was really, really cool. It’s both a big honor and very humbling to see goofy things that I may have just doodled in a few minutes thoughtfully brought to three-dimensional life by talented people.

Is it awkward or does it make you proud to see the stories in theater form?

Both! I sat through the first performance with my arms folded but with a big grin on my face the whole time. And the audience liked it! As an artist I very rarely get direct feedback like that, and it was a thrill.

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