Friday, April 09, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 142: Emily Schwend

Emily Schwend

Hometown: I had a nomadic childhood, but: Dallas, Texas, more or less.

Current Town: Brooklyn

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I'm working on a new play that takes place in Carthage, MO.  It's my third Carthage play (the other two are CARTHAGE and SOUTH OF SETTLING).  Maybe it'll be the last one?  I've sort of fallen in love with the place -- or maybe now it's just the idea of the place since it's been a couple years since I was there.  I've also become dependent on the cast of characters I have living in Carthage who pop in and out of each of these different plays.

I just wrote a thriller play, which was a lot of fun to do.

I'm also writing a zombie flick because, well, because I love zombies.  And zombie movies, although my script is hyper-naturalistic and sincere and lacks the slightest shred of camp.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  All right, this story:

When I was eight years old, my family and I were living thirty minutes outside of London and my parents took me to see my first show -- Cats.  Which I loved, by the way, because the target audience for Cats is eight year old girls.  I mean, come on, it is a musical about cats -- that's eight year old girl crack.

So I saw Cats and then I went home and I wrote a very derivative play called "Mia and the Tiger," which my 2nd grade class put it on after school a few weeks later.  But the thing is, I had never seen a proper play before so I called it "a musical but without music!" and I totally thought I had invented a brand new thing.  Like, I thought I had invented playwriting.  You're welcome, writers.  

Then, of course, my world broadened beyond the size of a, well, a very small world, and I was shocked to learn that someone else had thought of it first.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A:  Well, I've been waiting for that revival of Cats for a decade or so, now.  That's a joke, but I obviously will go and see it when it happens.  

I guess my real answer would fall somewhere between people being able to afford to have a career in theater and people being able to afford to see theater.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Most plays that are produced well and with a lot of heart can win me over.  I'm getting a little tired of the culture of super-hip, detached irony that crops up in some new plays (and movies and books and music, etc. etc.).  I guess I like stuff that isn't afraid to be brazenly sincere or heartwarming or sad.  Is that too square?  A friend of mine always says she waits for that "punch-to-the-gut" moment when she sees (or reads) a play.  So I guess I like theater that... punches me in the gut.

Q:  You're in Interstate 73.  Can you tell me about that?
A:  I joined Interstate 73 -- Page 73's writers group -- this year, which has been immensely helpful in my first "transitioning into the real world" year out of school (I was an undergrad at Tisch until 2007, and I graduated from Juilliard last year).  Also, P73, in general, is pretty awesome.  They have an annual fellowship that's pretty incredible, they produce new plays that haven't been workshopped to death, and Asher and Liz are both true supporters of new work.  You should definitely get to know them if you're an emerging writer.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A:  Appreciate and support your writer-friends.  They will probably be your biggest champions, your cheapest therapists and your most readily available drinking buddies.  Also, writers in general, or at least the writers I know and love, are such weird, funny, strange, and brilliant people.  Find these people and stick to them like glue.

And get a day job that you actually like.  It's possible, I swear, and will immensely improve your financial, mental and emotional stability.

Q:  Plugs, please:
A:  Page 73 is doing a reading of CARTHAGE next Monday (4/12), that the brilliant Davis McCallum is directing.  7pm.  311 W. 43rd St. 8th floor.

This spring, Page 73 is also producing my friend Sam Hunter's wonderful, strange play, JACK'S PRECIOUS MOMENT.  His play *also* takes place in Carthage, MO.  We are putting that town on the map, you guys.  

Here's a link for P73 goodness.

Finally -- and this is just totally rad -- Christine Jones does this amazing micro-theater project called Theatre for One.  She has a ten-day Times Square residency this May, where her T41 booth will be set up and (I'm guessing) hundreds of one-on-one performances will take place.  I've written a couple pieces for her in the past, but experiencing it as an audience member is a real trip.

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