Tuesday, November 02, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 275: Maya Macdonald


Maya Macdonald

Hometown: New York City

Current Town:
New York City

Q:  Tell me about The Really Important People:

A:  The Really Important People is a play I am developing for the 7th Street Small Stage with Rising Phoenix Rep. It is about a group of lady friends - Clarissa, Lynn, and Lucie - who have what they believe to be an incredibly important blog about sex. The blog is centered around Lynn, who has been in a wheelchair since she was a little girl. Lynn and Clarissa go out every night and collect experiences with men, report those experiences to Lucie, who in turn makes them “blog-worthy.” When Clarissa leaves the group, the other girls place an ad for a “replacement friend.” The only applicant, Abageal, chooses Jimmy’s No. 43 for the location of her “friend interview.” As many know, the 7th Street Small Stage is down a flight of stairs, so Lynn has convinced Brad, a new bartender, to carry her into the bar. And that is all I am going to tell you…

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  I am re-writing my play Leave the Balcony Open (formerly titled “The Last Three Days”) and have also been collecting material for a play tentatively titled “Burned in the Last.” This material comes from the summer of 2009 when I traveled to Bamidji, Minnesota to play Rosalind in an all female production of As You Like It. Upon arrival I learned that the not only was this Women’s Theatre Collective housed in a Masonic Temple, but that I too, would be housed there during my stay. I was struck by this clashing of worlds, and in my off time I began collecting images, artifacts (shh, don’t tell the Masons), experiences, and a few scenes for what I will one day make into a play.

Q:  You come from an eclectic background. How does this affect the plays you make?

A:  My parents were both modern dancers, and so dance and choreography is at the base of a lot of what I do. I find that all aspects of story telling are related, so I think it’s useful to explore all sorts of mediums. My favorite experiences in the theatre, and the experiences I wish to create when I write plays, are very much a collision of different genres.

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

A:  When I was 15, I got in an accident at a summer camp and injured my knee. I had to return home to NYC in order to have several operations. I was bored and lonely, and asked Steven Tanenbaum, a writer and director with whom I had worked on two previous projects, if I could help him out with his new play MONO. MONO was a site-specific ensemble piece, set in a bar about people who think “dialogue is for suckers.” As it was meant to reflect the multi-cultural nature of New York City, the cast was filled with people from all over the world. Every actor played three different roles, and they would rotate every week. My favorite character was The Mute, who was dragged to the bar by her Rehab Drop-Out sister. She converses with a French sock puppet called The Mysterious Stranger while her sister gets wasted. I loved the play and the ensemble so much that I continued to work with them after my surgeries.

One night the actress playing The Mute apparently spoke in the middle of the play. I’m not sure if anyone besides her scene partner heard, but needless to say, she was no longer in the show after that. Last minute, I was asked to fill in. Apparently they thought I was good, because I ended up performing with the show throughout its four year run. I became very close with this ensemble. One of the actors even served as my date to my senior prom.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  Music and comedy are often recreational activities that people go out to see but for the most part audiences at Off-, or Off-Off-Broadway theatre events are theatre artists themselves. Which is wonderful, but I would like to see theatre become something that reaches a wider audience.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  My theatrical heroes are, or have become my mentors and friends.

My teachers: Brooke Berman, Cusi Cram, Karen Hartman, Sherry Kramer. I am also inspired by playwrights who bend genres like Sheila Callaghan, Sarah Ruhl, Florencia Lozano. Also, Jonathan Marc Sherman, Neena Beber, Lila Neugebauer and Daphne Rubin-Vega are all people who have supported, and inspired me as people and as artists.

And of course: Chekhov, Tennessee Williams, and Lorca, who I unfortunately never knew personally.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love plays that bend genres and give me a visceral experience rather than just showing me the world I already live in. I don’t need to know where I’m going, just that the production knows where it is going. From there, I like to be surprised, or even confused. I like leaving a play with questions.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  You always have the power to make something. Regardless of where it is performed, who wants to produce it, or even who likes it, as a playwright, you have the power to make something that wasn’t there before. Seek out collaborators. Go see plays. See plays that excite you more than once. Support the work of your peers. The people and the work are the best part, and that’s lucky, because those are the things no one can take from you. Enjoy.

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:  The Really Important People will be produced by Rising Phoenix Rep sometime in the Spring. I will post all the info on my site, so please look me up for more info at my site: www.mayamacdonald.net

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