Wednesday, February 16, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 317: Elana Greenfield
Current Town: Highfalls
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A couple of things—
XOTEA MOCKBA (Hotel Moscow), idiotically, a play based on a couple of events and characters in Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot, especially on the character of Nastasya Filippovna who is really amazing. And a short-story/cross-genre collection (a sort of sequel to my last book, At the Damascus Gate: Short Hallucinations) working title, WHITE CITY.
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 grew up in two very different countries/cultures and in two different languages—with words for experiences in one language that didn’t even show up on the grid of the other-- that has affected my writing both formally and thematically. Also, when I was a child I heard of the humanist philosopher, Wilhelm Reich, who died in jail in a federal penitentiary in Pennsylvania before I was born—I heard that before he died 6 tons of his books were burnt by government order in a public incinerator in downtown NYC. I think because I was a child and this happened so close to where I lived, in the city where I was born it affected the way I felt ---seemed to me while most everyone else was acting like they were living in peacetime there was actually some kind of war going on.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: 4 things: more leaps; more courage; productions constructed with care on all levels; and an affordable seat, bench, patch of ground---depending on venue—so that anyone who wants to can view the players and the play.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: -I love Billy Wilder’s early scripts— the completely’ idiotic’ and fantastic ways he plays with language—
-Modern: the work of Sarah Kane, Tony Kushner, Mac Wellman, August Wilson, Charles Ludlam, Sam Shepard. I love the plays my students write—fearless, and so smart.
-I love Pascale Ferran’s films.
-I love the work of James Thierree.
-Eugene Hutz is an amazing writer/lyricist and performer.
-Would have given anything to see Peter Lorre on stage. Peter Lorre is a sort of theatrical hero of mine.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: One that leaves room for the humanity of the viewer. A theater in which the audience feels a sense of flying, of a world getting bigger, a horizon getting larger, the air getting brighter, something unexpected entering their realm, either because the performances are so true, or the language so alive and full of grace, or both.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Read. Write what you would like to see, and stay playful and stay serious.