Apr 18, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 338: Heather Lynn MacDonald
Heather Lynn MacDonald
Hometown: Tuftonboro, NH (Lake Winnipesaukee)
Current Town: New York, NY
Q: What are you working on now?
A: I'm working on a play about the history of the neoconservatives. It's been a few years actually - I'll do a ton of research, then write, then I freeze up and put it away for a while. I've found the fact vs. fiction balance tricky - some of my characters are living public figures. I'm almost there, though.
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 12 I was cast as Oliver in my local community theater production of Oliver. 6 years later at NYU I was cast as Macbeth in a class production. Do I play a man particularly well? No. Those were accidents, but they informed my point of view when I became a writer. I started out naïvely thinking men's and women's roles could be fluid. But many of the plays I read by women felt narrow - anything domestic and I was completely turned off. The 'woman writer' stamp became a kiss of death for me. So I overcompensated and wrote plays without women at all. The few women that would appear were angry, stuck, or cried for no reason. I had a distorted view.
Now I'm in my 30's and all I can think about are women's issues. I want to see plays about them. I want to write about them. I'm no clearer on how to do it in a way that doesn't feel 'woman writer'-stamped, but I suspect that will be an ongoing question for me.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Oh this is so hard. But I'll give three.
1. I wish it wasn't so expensive to produce new plays in New York. In the early 90's when I first came to the city, you could see a show for cheap at any number of theaters downtown. If it was a hit, it might move or play for a while, and if it was a bomb, you'd just pack it up and roll out the next one. The financial stakes were lower.
2. I wish we were less precious about theater.
3. I wish theater was more integrated with visual arts and/or live music (the Sam Shepard piece at the New Group last season is one example that comes to mind).
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Submit your work. Find the right opportunities for you, and apply. Repeatedly. People will remember you, even if you didn't get it the first time. Or second. Or third.
The Atlantic Theater has the rejection letter they sent Tony Kushner for Angels in America up in their office. Rejection letters are not a referendum on your work.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Mark Rylance in Jerusalem