Dec 15, 2010
I Interview Playwrights Part 298: Andrea Kuchlewska
Hometown: Malden, MA, then Arlington, MA. I went to high school in Cambridge and it feels like home.
Current Town: New York City
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on THE HISTORY OF ENGLISH, the second in my cycle of plays about Americans and language, with director Tamilla Woodard (http://www.tamilla.com/). It’s early in its development. Here’s how I describe it so far: A comedy in which the history of the English language collides with American history. Nerdy-chic linguist by day and reluctant superhero by night, Criseyde contends with Chaucer, the Oakland Ebonics controversy of the 90s, her own dead mother, and writers who claim Eskimos have a large number of words for snow.
I’m also writing HUMAN FRUITBOWL, a solo show for actress Harmony Stempel about artists’ models, which will be in the Prague Fringe in May and June 2011. I’m using all found text and it’s very satisfying to work on.
I’m stumbling forward with THALIA, a play that’s very close to home. There will be a reading in March 2011, so I’m writing toward that. Actress Lyndsay Becker and director Alice Jankell are taking the leap with me.
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 did the est training at age nine. The use of language in that subculture was specific and differed in important ways from the English I had been speaking up until then. It was a lot of fun for me to use language in this new way, and at the same time, sometimes what was said inside the organization didn’t make sense to me. This was a potent combination for me as a child – using language to empower myself, but also being confused at times by what I and others were saying. It forever changed the way I think and how I speak. I grew up to study linguistics and write plays about language. My play Complete is inspired by both the language of est and the scientific study of syntax and semantics.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I’d change the economics of theater. I’d like performances to be more accessible to more people. And I’d like it to be easier for artists to make a living so they can do more work.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: David Dower for founding The Z Space Studio in San Francisco as a development home for new plays (it was my artistic home when I lived in San Francisco) and for all the work he does for new plays now.
Anne Galjour for being an early mentor of mine.
Arena Stage for putting five playwrights on salary through the American Voices New Play Institute Residencies.
Paula Vogel for saying, “I don’t believe in fixing plays. I believe we have to get out there and write flawed plays that disturb everybody, and change the atmosphere” (in a 1993 interview in American Theatre).
The Women’s Project for… actually for everything they do.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Right now I’m excited by theater that does not take place on a stage. That includes anything from actors delivering lines from the house to people performing on stilts in town squares.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Get your work produced at whatever level you can as early as you can. Self-produce when necessary. You will learn more about playwriting from this, and people will get to know your work sooner.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: I’m a member of the 2010-2012 Women’s Project Lab (http://www.womensproject.org/labs.htm) and am so in love with the whole group I want to plug all of them. Directors: Tea Alagic, Jessi D. Hill, Sarah Rasmussen, Mia Rovegno, Nicole A. Watson. Producers: Elizabeth R. English, Manda Martin, Roberta Pereira, Stephanie Ybarra. Fellow playwrights: Alexandra Collier, Charity Henson-Ballard, Dominique Morisseau, Kristen Palmer, Melisa Tien, Stefanie Zadravec.
7 MINUTES, a short play I’m writing for actresses Barbara Spence and Lori Kee, will be produced in FAST & FAB II at The Barrow Group Theatre (http://barrowgroup.org/) in February 2011.