Aug 8, 2012
I Interview Playwrights Part 487: Vanessa Claire Stewart
Vanessa Claire Stewart
Hometown: New Orleans LA and Monroe LA (can I have two?)
Current Town: Los Angeles, CA
Q: Tell me about Stoneface.
A: Stoneface is essentially the story of Buster Keaton: The redemption of a man who squandered his own success through a bout with alcoholism and his own career-obsession.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: I have a few things in the hopper, but currently I've been hired to rewrite a 1960s Mario Bava film. It's the screenplay that's open on my desktop right behind this email window.
Q: Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.
A: In the fifth grade, there was a contest at in our local elementary school where a kid could win a prize for writing the best book report. Well, none of the books on the list interested me, so I wrote my own book, and put it in the school's library, then wrote a report on that. For some reason, I thought it was much easier to write a book than to read one that I wasn't interested in. Of course, I won the contest.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: Right now, I'm really disappointed in the larger commercial arena. Producers are taking less chances by creating more derivative material. It's like what's happening in Hollywood. Everything's a sequel or a remake. And of course, the ticket prices make it almost impossible for newcomers to see theatre. Theatre audiences are becoming a rare breed because of this kind of inaccessibility.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Of course I have to give a shout-out to my home boy Tony Kushner! (ha,ha) Also- Stephen Sondheim is obviously a theatrical genius. Also- I really like the originality that Sam Mendes has brought to classic musicals as a director. As an actor, I really eat up Tennessee Williams. Maybe it's the southern girl in me. And I know that some of his shows are seen as "overdone", but there's a reason why they've lived on as long as they have. I always hope I bring that sense of heart and character to my plays.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I go to a theatre to see things I can't see on a movie screen. I want to see actors taking risks ten feet away from me. The biggest compliment that I got about Stoneface is that there's always a sense of danger happening at any given moment. Whether it's physical or emotional, we try to keep Stoneface constantly risky.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: Don't be afraid to put your heart on the page. Scare yourself. If you're scaring yourself, you're probably doing art. If you're boring yourself, your audience will be bored.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: The show can be found at www.sacredfools.org
My other show can be found at www.liveatthesahara.com