Oct 20, 2011
I Interview Playwrights Part 394: Radha Blank
Hometown: Williamsburg, Brooklyn/Harlem, NY
Current Town: Harlem
Q: What are you working on now?
A: Two plays....HappyFlowerNail...my first solo show in over ten years...follows the different women who call a Korean-owned nail salon (under threat from revitalization of Bed-Stuy Brooklyn) home...then there's Casket Sharp...takes place in a funeral home in a deprived Black town. It's about death rituals and gang rites. One screenplay...a mockumentary....
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'd get in trouble from time to time while in grammar school...always running my mouth or cracking jokes...I'd have to write these letters of apology and they'd always start like....'Dear Miss Such&Such...I am very sorry that I disturbed the class this afternoon....but maybe if you paid more attention to me or if we did more exciting things in class then' Lol. My mom had saved some of these letters....she couldn't believe my gall...and even agreed with some of my grade school sentiments. She figured I'd either be a great writer or a pretty good lawyer. I think I always had a knack for seeing things from another perspective...and definitely attacking injustice...because that was simply unjust (making me write those long ass letters).
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: I wish there was more investment in creating new audiences...and valuing those audiences instead of catering to the same ol' same ol'.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Joe Papp...(theater for the people which includes the poor, thanks) Alice Childress...(she was not afraid to walk away from Bway if it meant changing her vision) John O'Neill and all of the folks connected to the Free Southern Theater movement.. (to create social justice theater around human rights, voting rights in the heart of the south at the time of Jim Crow...was beyond bold...it was life changing)
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: Theater with balls...theater that is not about pleasing an audience but the artist being true to themselves, the message of the work and connecting with audiences who celebrate that. And I love theater that leaves me thinking about it's themes/subjects looong after its done...theater that punches me in the gut...the kind that makes we want to create some change, like The Exonerated by Jessica Blank or Born Bad by Debbie Tucker Green...
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: yes, learn the craft...but take as long as you need to figure out what your voice is...the kind of stories that speak to you....
Q: Plugs, please:
A: We just closed seed....(seedtheplay.com) but hope to have another life down the road...and then there's HappyFlowerNail...coming soon...by hook or by crook! LOL.