Aug 31, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 254: Sigrid Gilmer
Hometown: Pittsburg, California.
Current Town: Pasadena, California
Q: Tell me about your show with Cornerstone.
A: It’s All Bueno was written for Cornerstone’s 7th Summer Institute that was stationed in Pacoima, California. The Institute is a program where theatre makers, social activist and students come, hang out, learn the Cornerstone methodology and help make a play. Based on Candide, It’s All Bueno was inspired by the two diametrically opposed ideas that I kept running into when I was gathering stories in Pacoima. On one side I would hear that Pacoima is dangerous, violent and full of poverty. On the other I would hear that Pacoima is a great place to live and filled with folks who are active in the community and participate in organizations that enriched the neighborhood. The story of the play is about a family, who has abandoned the Pacoima and because of the fears both real and imagined they have locked themselves and their two daughters behind the iron gate of their home. When their house is erroneously foreclosed the family sets off on a mad-cap adventure through Pacoima and comes to terms with the community they have forsaken. The play is a broad farce with lots of slapstick, chases and dance numbers (Yay! Ken Roht). There are dueling car washes, a gang of clowns, a street vendor with magic elotes. It was 90 minutes of goofy and silly, performed by the community members and Institute participants in the beautiful Project Youth Green community garden at Jessup Park. It was a great show and theatre making experience. The level of commitment, bravery and generosity of the community members-many who had never performed before-was amazing. In four weeks, these folks along with Institute participants and under the innovative and brilliant direction of Julliette Carrillo embraced the spirit of the play and created a beautiful show more rollicking, joyous and heart opening than I could have ever envisioned.
Q: What else are you up to?
A: I am beginning a new play called Frilly. Filled with Girl Group tunes, the story takes place at the turn of the 20th century and is about how a minister’s wife and daughter’s sexual awakenings leads to the invention of the ice cream sundae. I see ladies in big Sunday hats and high-necked dresses with cinched waists crooning the Chantels or the Bobbettes. It’s fresh. As in new, I am just tinkering with characters and research, which I love and fresh as in super awesome.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: I was a latch key kid, so I spent the majority of my afternoons and summers home alone with the TV. When my favorite shows were over I would be so bummed that I would create extensions of the episodes I had just watched. I‘d make up new story lines and characters, embellish minor ones, give main ones different traits, take the show to a new location. I would perform these pieces-I played all the roles-for my dog Fluffy in the proscenium of arch of our living room. My favorite shows were Fame and Little House on the Prairie. Fame was the best because I would add dance numbers.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: A living wage for playwrights.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Theatre with balls and brains.
Theatre that challenges assumptions about structure and storytelling.
Theatre by and about people whose stories don’t get told.
Theatre that titillates & entertains.
Theatre with a sense of history and humor.
Theatre that is socially and politically aware.
Theatre that is messy, filled with music, fearless and kicks ass.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write. Write. Write.
Persistence is the key.
Trust your own tastes and proclivities.
Don’t listen to anyone. No one really knows what’s going on. Especially me.
Write. Write. Write.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Brian Bauman. His plays are fearless, poetic ruthless beauties. If you are in NYC track him down!
In LA, Sibyl O’Malley is creating hysterical, intelligent and biting plays with tender centers.
In Austin, Alana Libertad Macias’ Zero Libertad! Revolutionary. Ritual. Fierce beats.