I had seen Bastion Carboni around town quite often, but we’d never actually officially met. That being said, Carboni and I have mutual friends, so I wasn’t too nervous about asking to interview him for our newest RISING profile.
Carboni is a playwright, director, and Artistic Director of local theatre collective, Poison Apple Initiative. Admittedly, I had never seen one of Carboni’s plays, I had only heard sparkling reviews from reliable sources. Thus, I came into this conversation as neither admirer nor critic, but rather an interviewer intrigued by the hype surrounding a young, gay artist in Austin.
At ten years old, Carboni discovered his love for the stage while performing in “Hansel & Gretel” with the Dallas Opera’s Children’s Chorus.
“Once the giant gingerbread cutouts slide away from us and I saw 2,000 people in the audience, I knew that this was the only thing I wanted to do,” Carboni said.
After acting for an extended period of time, Carboni started writing plays, not only to bring to life the stories in his mind, but also to make himself more of a marketable artist.
Carboni was so in love with the romance of the stage that he didn’t care in what capacity he was involved with theatre; it’s the artforms that he’s madly in love with. He just turned 29 and already Carboni has directed several successful plays including “An Obviously Foggot” and “Holier Than Thou,” and started a theatre company, Poison Apple Initiative.
At the moment, Carboni is trying to get “Holier Than Thou” published; he wants to be published by the time he’s 30. What’s especially commendable about Carboni is that he views progression as a responsibility not only to yourself, but also to your artform. He’s just here to make good theatre that connects you to people and makes you wiser for it.
Poison Apple Initiative is hoping to move their initiative into a venue by the end of the year. Through the company, Carboni hopes to continue bringing fresh and innovative plays to Austin, a city that thrives with opportunity for upcoming artists.
“There’s no excuse for not doing what you want to be doing, especially here. It’s not simple, but this is a tooth-cutting city. I’ve never seen Austin as a final destination. I’ve seen it as a place to grown, build and learn,” Carboni said.
He is inspired by plays with dark humor, unique usage of language, and a heighten sense of passion.
“If I feel like the playwright’s gotten laid in the last sixth months, I’m more likely going to like the play. There are a lot of undersexed, white guy plays that I just can’t stand,” Carboni said.
Although he may have an evident distaste for trite theatre, Carboni doesn’t come off as an elitist. Instead, he seems more like an artist on the hunt for something new; a story that hasn’t been told yet or a character study many are too afraid to acknowledge because it’s grimy, gritty, or whatever synonym you want to use for theatre that doesn’t exactly fit the mold. Carboni prefers his brilliance to be not only brilliant, but messy.
Carboni’s “An Obviously Foggot” touches on very important topics in the young gay community, especially in the club and bar scene.
“‘An Obviously Foggot’ was the first time I ever wrote something that really married my passion for theatre and my sense of social justice, and that’s why it was so exciting for me,” Carboni explained. “It’s a deeply personal play. I said a lot of things that I felt really needed to be said because no one else was saying them in the American theatre.”
Carboni explains that, in the world of gay theatre, many rely on stereotypes to shape a storyline; gays surmounting societal obstacles or gays finding love in a world of promiscuity. It’s what he calls “Let’s Get Together” kind of bullshit that he’s trying to evade.
“I wanted to write a play where gay people don’t look so great. Because, let’s face it, a lot of homosexuals are emotionally stunted. That’s happens when you are not allowed to date in your formative years and the first time you actually have the potential to couple with someone in a non-platonic sense, you’re doing it in a gay bar,” Carboni said.
When I asked Carboni if he considered himself a cynic, he laughed for a second and hesitated, not out of skepticism, but out of assuredness, as if daring me if I was ready for his answer.
“I am not a cynic. You cannot make theatre repeatedly and be a cynic,” Carboni said.
Carboni’s presence in Austin is essential to the booming art scene. His willingness to discuss the unsavory side of gay youth culture is not only a brave endeavor, but also an important voice to be heard. And Carboni proves that, if you’re passionate enough, people will listen.