Writer | Dramatist
FRANK STRAUSSER is a playwright and novelist. His plays include Psycho Therapy, The Powder Room, The Split, Valentine Triage, and Wishing Well. Plastic is his first novel. He studied story and character development with Robert McKee and with the late Milton Katselias, at the Beverly Hills Playhouse. Strausser is currently working on his second novel, Here Comes The Son. He completed the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Program at Harvard University and majored in English Literature at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He divides his time between Los Angeles and Palm Beach with his wife and son.
A STORIED PAST
With two novels and five full-length plays, Strausser has developed a large body of work. His critically acclaimed first play, The Powder Room, starring Academy Award Best Actress nominee and Golden Globe Best Actress winner, Sally Kirkland, told the tale of a reverse gender-bias incident in a so-called “safe space.” The Split, a play about a new architectural blueprint for divorced couples, was performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Psycho Therapy, which Playbill described as "a raucous romp around the couch," enjoyed a five-week developmental production run on London’s West End. Psycho Therapy then went on to run for three months at the historic Cherry Lane Theatre Off Broadway and was awarded the Goldstar’s highest member-rated show in New York. And Valentine Triage, had a developmental production at the Blank Theatre Company in Los Angeles.
Strausser produced legendary horror film director, Tobe Hooper’s Toolbox Murders (Lionsgate). And he is currently adapting screenplays from his novel, Plastic and play, Psycho Therapy.
Early in his career, Strausser headed Strausser Productions, Inc., publishing hundreds of millions of magazine supplements for consumer magazines.
Strausser developed the largest 20th anniversary of Earth Day campaign, bringing McDonald’s and the World Wildlife Fund together in a landmark partnership to mobilize kids to make a difference, and which led to McDonald’s discontinuing the use of polystyrene packaging.
Select Praise for Frank Strausser
"A comic roadside attraction!" - The New York Times
"A raucous romp around the couch!" - Playbill
"Best bet!" - Los Angeles Times
"Revelations abound. We're not in Kansas anymore." - Hollywood Reporter
"A Must see!!! You're in for a real treat." - Broadway World
"Ferociously focused performance by Sally Kirkland!" - Variety
"Wonderfully witty, intelligent, well thought out script." - BBC Psychologist Donna Dawson
“There’s no doubt Strausser has a sense for character development, dramatic action, and structure.” - Backstage West
“Think Hepburn and Tracy, scripted by Alan Ayckbourn!” - The Scotsman
A BRIEF Q&A AUTHOR
Tell us about your background?
I've been a serious writer since High School, when I started keeping a daily journal. Like many people who dream of becoming a novelist, I ended up taking a circuitous route. I started a magazine at UC Santa Barbara called The Collage. It was quite experimental and yet I managed to fund it entirely from advertising. This interest in magazines led me to the Radcliffe Publishing Procedures Course at Harvard University and subsequently a career in publishing. I worked at Cosmopolitan magazine in New York and went on to became a publisher of magazine supplements which were really mini-magazines. During that whole time, I kept writing. My first novel was called PAINTED LILY but it didn't have enough conflict. The big shift for me came when a literary agent suggested I enroll in Robert McKee's Story Structure class. McKee suggested that writers take acting classes. This was very different than everything I'd heretofore known. I'd been an English major and taken many writing classes at UCLA and elsewhere, but it was a two and a half year involvement in the famed Saturday class at the Beverly Hills Playhouse which changed everything. The late Milton Katselas took an interest in me and I was one of the few writers in the class. Suddenly, I had all these actors in a scene study class, so I was able to workshop my first play “The Powder Room” with them. And I found I have a gift for creating drama.
What was the process like going from writing plays to writing a novel?
It was after I'd been studying at the Beverly Hills Playhouse for two years that I began the outline for PLASTIC. This novel was informed by my sudden involvement with actors but also a different view of the writing process. While I still had my literary pretensions, my writing was more grounded in what Milton (Katselas) described as "simple reality". My characters existed more organically in a moment-to-moment context and were freer like actors are. I also felt liberated to push things to the extreme because that's what we did in class.
Do you have any writing tips that you’ve found helpful, particularly for transitioning from one written form to another?
Two tips. First, research like crazy. For PLASTIC, I sought advice from seven medical professionals in the field of plastic surgery and even had them read my material. Special thanks to: Jan R. Adams, M.D., Jason Taylor M.D., Leslie Howard Stevens, M.D., F.A.C.S., Julia T. Hunter, M.D., Gabriel Chiu, M.D., Thomas Matimore, M.D., and Dorrie Emrick, R.N. Obviously it's always good to write what you know, but through research most anything is knowable. Second, make an outline. Take the time to carefully plot your whole story until you have clear characters and conflict and a beginning, middle, and end. Most writers fail to do this and end up having to find their story through endless and wasteful writing explorations. Believe me, I've done it both ways. it pays to research and outline. As for the relationship between theatre and novels. These are both writers’ mediums. My feeling is at the end the of the day, it’s about a story well told. At one point, I adapted PLASTIC for film which allowed me to explore the characters and the story through my theatrical process of having actors read and perform the material. Not all writers have actors available to them, but even organizing friends to read can be very helpful in sounding out the work.
What inspired you to write a dark thriller set in Hollywood?
I went with what fascinated me and frankly what I knew. I'm a keen observer of what's around me. PLASTIC is very much an LA story. Most everything in the novel is real to a degree. Perhaps there's a hyper-reality at play but these characters and situations are relatively recognizable to me. One of the things that has fascinated me about what I found around me and I’ll admit I’m a culprit myself, is a culture of judgement. Chasing after perfect. I started to find that LA was a desperate place where if you weren’t beautiful, you’re invisible. It followed in my way of thinking that if you’re not beautiful, you’re dead. That’s the logic of it. That’s what PLASTIC explores. It’s pushing a thesis, but it’s not as radical as it sounds.
When you created Fay Wray, did you have a particular singer in mind?
Over twenty years ago, I met a very Australian pop star named Max Sharam in Los Angeles. Max was the inspiration for my character Fay Wray. It's not that they're identical in most ways, but knowing Max well, I could get into the mindset of a young talent trying to navigate the treachery of the music industry. She played too hard and squandered opportunities. She really was a stranger in a strange land, or someone I like to say, ‘hadn't been house trained’. Max was feral and brilliant and resisted being packaged by the industry. The name was also influenced by the scream queen actress who starred in the legendary 1933 King Kong film. Kong is a story of man vs. nature and I saw PLASTIC as a story of man trying to control nature. So, Fay Wray seemed like the natural choice for my character.
What’s next for you – are you currently working on another book or play? If so, can you share any details of what it’s about?
My next novel is titled HERE COMES THE SON. You could say it's a ‘who done it’ tale about a paternity question that pushes a marriage to the brink.