Tuesday, October 12, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 268: Cheri Magid
Hometown: Easton, CT
Current town: New York City and Saugerties, NY
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Juggling a few different projects: The Tavern Wench, a contemporary and fantastic love story inspired by the bawdy tales of Boccaccio’s Decameron; The Virtues of Raw Oysters, about an eighteen-year-old aural smut peddler in the age of the phonograph (Yes there’s a theme—in my other life I write erotica.) And also a musical, The Christmas Windows of 1937, about the birth of the New York City Christmas windows.
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 remember seeing Guernica when the Picasso exhibit traveled to New York. They had it set off in a separate room from the rest of the exhibit. I had never scene art like that before, so charged, so alive. But what struck me more than the art itself was the empty space in front of it—that vibrating state of possibilities, of emptiness with this impending sense of being filled. We were the theatre in it—when we walked in we changed the essence of that space, bringing into it our reactions or non-reactions or our need to get something eat. That push or desire to create something—I felt it so acutely even if I couldn’t exactly put it into words at the time.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Oh how I wish you could write something and see it up immediately. I think about Jon Stewart’s show and how he and the staff can have an immediate reaction to a speech or a political decision and see it skewed or commented upon immediately. There’s a timeliness that unless you’re doing sketch comedy you just can’t get in the theatre. I wonder sometimes if we’re ruining our own power by that developmental delay.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I like messy oblique theatre that doesn’t answer every question, theatre that taps into another world. I think of the Mark Wing-Davey’s production of Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker that I saw at the Public. The breadth of that imaginary world floored me and that opening monologue of virtual nonsense that went on for at least ten minutes was amazingly theatrical. I want to be taken somewhere and to forget everything that pins me to the real world when I go to the theatre. I want it to have that kind of power and magic.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Write and write and write and write. And then send out your work relentlessly. When you first start sending out your plays you will hear a whole lot of ‘no’. But if you keep at it, if you study plays and productions that work, if you hone your skills and be your own best editor and then if you send it out relentlessly you will see results. But you need to do both to be a successful playwright; writing and marketing.