Wednesday, August 08, 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
My other show can be found at

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