Oct 1, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 388: Sharyn Rothstein
Hometown: Avon, CT
Current Town: NYC
Q: Tell me about The Invested.
A: As the economy started imploding (the first time), I noticed that the few women who were at the top of major Wall Street banks and firms seemed to be losing or walking away from their jobs. Whistleblowers tend to disproportionately be women, so I thought that was an interesting correlation – one that nobody seemed to be talking about.
I was also interested in generational differences when it comes to money and Wall Street – when I graduated college in 2003 it felt like anybody, even a playwright with a sociology degree, could go get a job at a hedge fund and make ridiculous amounts of money. Obviously, there was a reason it felt that way.
Q: What else are you working on?
A: My newest play is a three-person comedy about amateur actors putting on a historical melodrama about Alexander Hamilton in an Applebee’s. I’ve also been working on a musical comedy based on the biblical story of Esther for a couple of years now… we’ll be workshopping that again soon. My play March, about two teenagers who meet on an online fantasy game, will be produced in April.
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 other kid’s parents were telling them – or telling them without telling them – that they had to pursue something practical, my amazing mother (also a writer) told me, “Somebody has to be Steven Speilberg.”
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: The virgin/whore problem with new plays. Every theater only wants to produce a world premiere, so once a play has been produced – unless it’s gotten tremendous press – it basically becomes the sad girl at the semi-formal who nobody will dance with anymore. It’s unfair to writers, who want to see their work produced as much as possible, and it’s unfair to theaters, who are missing out on wonderful plays that have had the benefit of going through a production.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I guess I’m old school: I love well-structured plays with complex characters and some funny to them, even if they’re not comedies. I love playwrights who have the guts to put whole, weird, complicated characters on the page and I love directors and actors who aren’t afraid to bring those characters alive.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Finding directors you love and trust is just like dating. You’re going to kiss some frogs, but when you find your prince – or princess – hold them tight and never let them go. Find opportunities to work with them. The same goes for actors – your plays will always be better if you know and respect the other artists you’re working with.
And if you can, find a community. I’ve been very lucky to be a member of Youngblood and Ars Nova Play Group, but if you don’t have access to a group that already exists, start your own. Getting feedback from other writers you trust will make your work better – and hanging out with other playwrights will ensure that you’re never sober for long.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: My BFF’s show is at LCT3 next month. All-American by Julia Brownell. It’s a wonderful – and wonderfully funny – play. Check it out.