Dec 9, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 292: Peggy Stafford
Hometown: Bainbridge Island, WA
Current Town: Brooklyn
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m collaborating with Madelyn Kent and Maja Milanovic on an opera set in the former Yugoslavia during the 1984 Winter Olympics and also in 2008, the year Radovan Karadzic was captured on a city bus. I’m writing a stage adaptation of Marguerite de Angeli’s The Door in the Wall for Seattle Children’s Theatre. I just finished the first draft of Jewel Casket, a play inspired by a Joseph Cornell box. And I’m working on the book for Sunrise at Hyde Park, a musical based on the 30-year correspondence between Eleanor Roosevelt and Lorena Hickok.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: In third grade we all sat at small wood desks (the kind with tops that open), in rows that faced the front of the class. Inside my desk, I kept hidden small eraser people with faces, tiny match boxes, and also some trolls with bright hair. I set up elaborate scenes for my eraser people and trolls, and as much as possible I’d open up my desk to look at them in there. I also ran into sliding glass doors three times throughout my childhood and nothing happened to me except the last time I cracked a tooth.
Q: What kind of theatre excites you?
A: The kind that wakes you up & is de-familiarizing. Nature Theatre of Oklahoma, Richard Maxwell, W. David Hancock, ERS, Young Jean Lee, Madelyn Kent, NTUSA, Caryl Churchill, Judith Thompson. Theatre/spectacle like Robert LePage, Dan Hurlin, Erik Ehn’s Saint Plays, Big Dance Theatre, Joseph Cornell boxes. Funny plays by Charles Ludlam, Mac Wellman, Sibyl Kempson, Beckett. Chekhov, too, is exciting.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: See a lot of theatre. Listen to real people really talking. It’s helpful & smart to write down things that you hear on the street or in the emergency room. Find collaborators who can interpret your plays.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Daniel Alexander Jones/Soho Rep, Kristen Kosmas’ Twenty-Five Cent Opera of San Francisco at Barbes.