After a death in the family, people sometimes throw themselves into work. Alan Ball insists it's a coincidence, but after ending his critically acclaimed landmark HBO series Six Feet Under he has plunged into three projects almost simultaneously.
He's editing his feature film debut, an adaptation of the best-selling novel Towelhead. He's prepping a new HBO series, this one set in the "Southern vampire" world of the best-selling novels by Charlaine Harris. And he's tweaking his new play, All That I Will Ever Be, which brings him back to the stage for the first time in nearly 15 years. Of course, it was the play Five Women Wearing the Same Dress that launched his career, as it caught the attention of TV producers Marcy Carsey and Tom Werner, thus introducing him to the network sitcoms Grace Under Fire and Cybill.
"It's a ridiculously absurd time," admits Ball, who returned to New York City last November with his partner of five years. "I have to laugh. I did the first workshop of this play a year and a half ago, and the movie was supposed to be happening four months earlier, and they all started happening at once."
Ball realizes it's an enviable position. "I'm at a place right now where I get to do everything that I want to try," he says without a hint of boast. "That's a great place to be in. I'm not sure how long that's going to last."
If his career is going great, rest assured that the characters Ball creates are as damaged and confused as ever. On Six Feet Under it sometimes seemed the only happy people were the dead people, and that trend continues with All That I Will Ever Be, running at the New York Theatre Workshop in New York City through March 11.
In All That I Will Ever Be, Dwight (Austin Lysy) is a morose young man living off his wealthy father and self-pity. His new boyfriend Omar (Peter Macdissi) is a Middle Eastern immigrant who works as a part-time prostitute and a full-time liar, ashamed of his ethnicity and desperate to find somewhere he belongs.
"I'm not particularly drawn to happy characters in general," admits Ball. "They're not that interesting. While I strive to be a happy person in life, I don't find them interesting dramatically.
"I think it's a terrible thing to feel you're unworthy of love. And I think for a lot of people who don't fit a certain mold of race or sexuality or nationality or whatever, depending on what culture they're in, it's very easy to internalize that and turn it towards oneself. To me that is a very tragic state to be in and one that I certainly wrestled with earlier in my life. This is really a love story of two people who are like that, and unfortunately they are not at a point where they can move beyond that."
Dwight and Omar yearn for acceptance, just like 13-year-old protagonist Jasira in Alicia Erian's novel Towelhead. Jasira just wants someone to pay attention to her, whether it be her viciously stern Lebanese father, her racist predatory neighbor Mr. …