Paul Hood gets inside a character.
By Christina Heintzelman
Paul Hood is a local playwright, writer of novellas, and an actor, teacher, and director in his spare time. Born in Middletown, he grew up on the East Shore, and attended Capital Area School for the Arts (CASA) back in the days when it was called Harrisburg Arts Magnet School. He began by studying dance his first year before moving into movies and then television. Those moves helped to transport him to his current path.
“This is where I met a lot of great people working in film and television and I decided that cinematography would be my first choice. I then started writing short themes on very personal things,” Hood said. “All my writings are very personal and examine the human condition. It also tends to be philosophical in nature.”
He admires author Chuck Palahniuk whose book Fight Club was later turned into a movie starring Brad Pitt and Edward Norton. “Chuck is a hip Kurt Vonnegut and writes in a style called transgressional fiction,” Hood explained, adding that it is a genre of literature that focuses on characters who feel confined by norms and expectations of society and who break free of those confines in unusual or illicit ways.
Hood places his writing in this genre, too, and also in terms of urban surrealism and realism. “I love the urban environment, so my settings are often urban settings. I am a huge fan of city life because of its diversity both in people and happenings. I find this all hugely invigorating.”
Hood’s drama I, Journeyman, presented as a staged reading at Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg (LTM) in 2018, is a horror story about a city couple who mostly stays to themselves. During a violent storm, a stranger knocks on their door seeking shelter. It’s difficult to determine whether the stranger is a trickster or fiend, or even if he’s real. His purpose is to force the couple to confront why they isolate themselves from the world.
The play attracted a review by Marakay Rogers of Broadway World, who wrote, “Little Theatre of Mechanicsburg has been staging a comeback that’s anchored in many ways by its Original Play Workshop. The honoring of area playwrights by putting their works on stage is an important act of recognition – not that Paul Hood has not been recognized before. But I, Journeyman, the staged reading put on by LTM this past weekend, is a bit of a departure for Hood from the more realistic into psychological (and quite possibly supernatural) terror. For what he admits is a work in progress, it is a noble start.”
Hood has more than a start with several published and produced works. Paths: The Diary of Baine Adams is available through Amazon. It is a story of a mysterious man named Cyrano who helps Baine write to a woman he meets one day on the New York City subway. Things are not as they appear with Baine and Cyrano, something made clear upon the arrival of a psychologist. Comments in response to the book on Amazon include “A roller coaster of a story” and “A literary crawlspace into the psyche of its main character, Baine Adams” among others.
My Electric Life was presented in Theater of the Seventh Sister in Lancaster and also was reviewed by Rogers, who wrote, “This is the story of Ari, Manny, and William who don’t know each other at the beginning of the play but will know each other very well by the time they have been placed in group addiction therapy. Each cannot live without the internet, but each has wildly different reasons for falling under its spell. My Electric Life is insightful and a highly original work and one that tackles a subject greatly overlooked in current drama.” It was also performed in a staged reading at Gamut Theatre in 2015.
Hood is also a member of Narcisse Theatre Company, Harrisburg. Narcisse is a community-based, non-profit organization dedicated to uniting the local arts community and developing artists from outside the mainstream. Not only are they committed to showcasing thought-provoking revivals, but half of their productions are original plays from Harrisburg playwrights. Hood serves as a playwright, director, and actor for this group, which was founded by Frank Henley, Jr., who is the artistic director, actor, director, playwright, poet, and musician.
Despite Covid, 2020 was kind to Hood. Three of his plays were workshopped by Harrisburg-based Bare Bones Theatre Ensemble – The Sequin Royale, Pieces, and Happy Hour. Caitlin Graci Tran, artistic director and founder of the traveling troupe, has a motto, “Theatre that makes you think.”
“Take away stage lights, sets, costumes and glitter, and what you have is the ability to get into characters you are watching and feel their emotions — up close and personal. We want to present material that makes our audiences sit back and ponder what they have just experienced,” Tran says.
Hood was commissioned to do a series of audio monologues on Paetreon — which is an online membership platform for more than 200,000 creators who sell subscriptions to their channels — for Epic Theatre out of Cranston, RI. The monologues are entitled “Deadly Things: Monologues for Sinners.” Four of them are featured on “Midnight Monologues” for Epic Theatre in February, in addition to the Patreon recording of the entire set of monologues.
He has also done creative writing workshops in Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, and The Cotuit Library in Sandwich, MA, and next month he will be teaching a course on playwriting at CASA. He also has lectured at Harrisburg University on film philosophy.
Despite this proliferation of works, writing is Hood’s avocation. Since 2008, he has worked in Special Education/Autism with Susquehanna Township School District. Last summer he started working with Hope Springs Farm, a farm specializing in working with adults with intellectual disabilities and autism.
Hood’s books can be found at Good Brothas Book Café, 1419 N 3rd St. in Harrisburg and on Amazon. Contact Hood on Facebook or by email at phwroteit.com.