Sep 7, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 255: Lisa Soland
Hometown: I grew up in a small town of only 350 people, but still knew the horses and the woods better than the individuals who lived there – Northern, Illinois.
Current Town: Los Angeles.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Last week the director Charles R. Miller and I cast an evening of works of mine entitled “MEET CUTE,” which is a collection of six short plays on the topic of “boy meets girl” in a unique and cute fashion, and then hopefully falling in love. It opens at Pellissippi State College in Knoxville, Tennessee, October 15 and runs through October 24, 2010. Look for the publication with Samuel French, under the same title.
Also, I have just recently been invited to serve as one of seven playwrights-in-residence at the Tennessee Repertory Theatre in Nashville. Mentored by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright John Patrick Shanley (Doubt), my play The Family Farm will be part of the Tennessee Rep’s Ingram New Plays Festival next May.
Q: What can a student in your playwriting class expect?
A: I run a playwright workshop entitled The All Original Workshop. I teach both live workshops in Los Angeles and Eastern Tennessee, and online one-on-one through Ichat and Skype. I work uniquely with each student, regardless of where they are in the process, and what it is they want to achieve. Many of my students have been produced all over the country as well as being published by Samuel French, Eldridge Publishing, Smith & Kraus, JAC Publishing and others. When you work with me, you can expect professionalism, excellence and progress. Check out the website at www.PlaywrightWorkshop.com.
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 born sixth out of seven children and I remember thinking when I was very young, that God must have had a reason to place me sixth and that this reason would serve me somehow in what it was I was going to do with my life. I decided that I was supposed to watch and learn from them, both in their successes and in their mistakes; to watch their behavior, so as to save time and heartache with regard to the decisions I would be making in my own life.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I think theatre is fine just the way it is. I think as artists, we are meant to strive and work hard and strain to see what is true and real about life. I think great work comes out of this struggling, and as much as we all wish we could make a living more easily at what it is we love to do, that very struggle is molding us into humble, compassionate, hard working playwrights, who have enough of a tiny seed of doubt within us to question even our own inner life. And that doubt is good.
Of course there are things to try to change, there always will be in all places and in all professions, but overall, I think it’s important for people to deal fairly with each other and to follow through on what they say they are going go do. If one is not worth their word, they’re not worth much.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Charles Nelson Reilly. Period. He was my mentor as I worked my way up through the theatre as an actress and he inspired me to eventually become a playwright. A bunch of us Florida people participated in his advance acting class on Wednesdays from 10 am to 2 pm at Chandler Studio in Studio City. Charles loved playwrights and spoke with such admiration of them to us actors, that six of us in his acting class became writers – myself, John D’Aquino, Cynthia Faria, Mark Fauser, Brent Briscoe and Kendall Hailey. Charles called us The Faculty Actor/Playwright Company. He wrote this, “The Wednesday class has amazed me. I’ve only had two other actors who wrote and that was in the late 50’s and early 60’s…they were Lily Tomlin and Robert Ludlum but I don’t know what happened to them. Readers?” He was always, always dropping seeds of hope and success into your mind, sometimes without you even knowing it.
Also, Burt Reynolds, who started The Burt Reynolds Jupiter Theatre in Jupiter, Florida so his friends in Hollywood would have a safe and fun place to recover and play parts they might not normally get to play due to their type-casted lives in the Hollywood film industry. That same theatre also became home for many of us “up and comers;” a place for us to learn and grow alongside his famous friends. Burt continues to care about turning around and lending a hand to those who are coming up behind him. He did that for me and I will never forget it.
And I have to mention William Luce, my Jelly Bean. I met him when cast in his play “Luce Women,” playing the role of Zelda Fitzgerald with Charles Nelson Reilly directing. Bill has remained a significant role model for the playwright I have strived to become and more importantly, he has continued to be my friend. He is brilliantly talented and a very good man.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Any kind, anywhere, at any level.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Make sure you love it and then…make sure you do it. No matter what, no matter who or what is in your path trying to oppose you. You won’t make it and you won’t make it good, if you have no opposers. So bless them and continue to work hard and do what’s right.