Sunday, January 30, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 311: Charlotte Meehan
Hometown: New York City (from 20 on); Connecticut, New Jersey, Long Island on a rotating basis from birth to 20.
Current Town: Sharon, MA
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I’m working on a play called Real Realism that I’ve been gearing up to write for two years now. This “gear-up” has involved keeping a list of lines heard in my daily life, dropping in on internet gossip chat rooms, reading very bad dollar store books and supermarket tabloids, and god-knows-what else. The play shows characters tangled in a string of non-sequiturs from which they cannot emerge due to a compulsion to respond to anything said with whatever thought that randomly appears regarding their own immediate need.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: Oh boy. That’s a can of worms. Suffice it to say that my father was a leader in the John Birch Society and my parents were pre-Vatican II die-hard Catholics who refused to change with the times when the Church became a kinder, gentler religion complete with guitar strumming and the Mass spoken in English. The effect this has had on me as both writer and person is that I have developed a mutinous soul and find the restraints of form quite irritating and sometimes even insupportable.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I don’t want to change theatre (aside from the hope that my own plays contribute something new), but would love to see the American theatre establishment expand its scope. There are so many necessary, exciting plays being written that deserve a place on the large stages of our country. It would be my dream come true to see producers invite their audiences in for conversation with playwrights whose works challenge the status quo formally, politically, and aesthetically. I have experienced such conversation with Trinity Repertory Company’s top donors and, believe me, we are lucky to have the support of such serious theatre goers who deserve to be presented with the full array of brilliant writers working in the contemporary theatre.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Then: The Greeks and Samuel Beckett.
Now: Mac Wellman and Hélène Cixous.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I want to be surprised, dragged through the mud, moved to tears, unable to sleep that night, made to laugh until my stomach hurts, and most of all I want to leave the theatre in a state of bewilderment. Caryl Churchill’s The Skriker, Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia, a small rickety production of Ionesco’s The Chairs, Mac Wellman’s Antigone, James Scruggs’ Disposable Men, Joseph Chaikin’s Firmament, Pina Bausch’s Palermo! Palermo! and countless other works have excited me enough to want to live forever. I have experienced many art exhibitions as theatre too, and love theatre that incorporates the visual as more than illustration. Bill T. Jones’ recent dance theatre piece, Serenade/The Proposition, is an example of total theatre that makes me swoon.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Work hard. Read a lot. Go to the theatre all the time. Have more ambition for your developing aesthetic than for worldly success. Make friends with directors you respect. Send your plays to theatres that produce the kind of work you like. Be true to your own voice.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: My new play, Crazy Love, a cross between Noel Coward’s line drawing comedies and François Truffaut’s Jules et Jim, is madly funny and awaiting production. Should anyone reading this interview be interested to read it, please visit: http://www.charlottemeehan.com/contact.html and I will send you off a copy.