Saturday, August 13, 2011

I Interview Playwrights Part 376: Claire Moodey


Claire Moodey

Hometown: Erie, PA

Current Town: Brooklyn

Q: Tell me about < the invisible draft >

A: < the invisible draft > is a play I describe as a radio play silent movie. There are two characters: Our Man of the World, a silent movie, and the Girl with a Backpack, a radio play, who interact in a space between reality and its representation. Their scenes blossom into stop-motion animations inspired by Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities. So what that boils down to is a non-narrative multi-media exploration of human experience, specifically the necessity of translating that experience in order to communicate. How's that for a mouthful?

I first started daydreaming about doing a project based on Calvino's book almost four years ago. When I first thought about the piece, I believed it was an art installation with some meandering actors or puppeteers of installation pieces not unlike Punchdrunk's Tunnel 228 which was in an old Tube station in London a couple years ago. About a year and half ago, I started writing and suddenly a lot of text started to congeal around the same set of ideas and then move further away from Calvino's book. Voice & Vision Theater, headed by Jean Wagner, has been incredibly supportive as I've developed this, my first play. Jean suggested I take a class with playwright Lisa d'Amour and then set me up with Saviana Stanescu through V&V's new mentorship program. These are both artists whom I admire and respect tremendously whose input on the show has been invaluable.

Q:  What else are you working on?

A:  This show has been pretty much consuming my time in the last couple weeks, but I have a some other ideas which are itching to get out. One of them has to do with color theory and Schubert, which is all I want to say about it just yet! I'll be headed up to Vermont for the last week of performance at Bread and Puppet Theater this summer after closes, which I am looking forward to, and I hope to do some more performing and lighting work this fall.

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 first got into theater when I was about nine and my brother Sam, who is now puppeteering in my show, was an Oompa Loompa in "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" at the Erie Playhouse. I went to see the show and spent the time really jealous that I wasn't onstage and humming along with Willy Wonka's song "A Touch of Magic". I had a huge crush on Willy Wonka and then auditioned with my brother for "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" a couple months later and have been hooked ever since. I'm not sure what that story says about me, but I think it is funny!

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I would make it less expensive-I think as humans we need art, we need forms of expression and play which theater makes available in a unique way. When this medium is inaccessible due to cost, I think audiences disengage, the work suffers, and we all miss out on an opportunity to come together as a community and participate in a ritual of culture, which helps us to digest our world and lives on several levels.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Samuel Beckett, JoAnne Akalaitis, Mabou Mines, Dario Fo, Dimiter Gotscheff, Christoff Marthaler, the woman who played Emilia Galotti in Thalmeier's production, the list goes on...

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I am most excited by watching theater in languages I don't entirely understand. Or understand near fluently, but not quite. It opens you up to rhythms and the musicality of the stage, the imagery in a different way; I think differently when not using English and that has the possibility of making me more acutely aware of some visceral responses which sometimes I ignore. This is also part of my interest in highly physical clown and puppet theater. I like the experience to be immersive in some way, whether or not that means you walk around and interact with the players is irrelevant.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A:  Write a lot, dream a lot, and don't be afraid to ask questions of just about anyone. Both seek things out and let them come to you. That's what I tell myself anyway! Any advice for me?

Q:  Plugs, please:

A: < the invisible draft > opens tomorrow at Theater for the New City's Dream Up Festival and plays through next Saturday, the 20th! My stellar team of collaborators and the staff at TNC have been working tirelessly on what I believe is a beautiful production. Jonah Rosenberg has been working on the project with me for about nine months, brainstorming and engineering the sonic world of the Girl with a Backpack, played by Briana Pozner. Lotte Marie Allen, a print-maker and animator, joined the project this past spring before the workshop at Theater for the New City's Scratch Night and her vision has been invaluable to the development of the visual world of the play. Both of them are outstanding artists, as is Matteo Paoloni, the Roman actor playing Our Man of the World who has helped generate a lot of ideas in rehearsal. And this summer, Milo Cramer, Harriett Meyer, and my brother Samuel joined as puppeteers. They have been crucial as we've constructed and learned to operate the set, which is made of old moving maps.

1 comment:

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