Tuesday, October 23, 2012

I Interview Playwrights Part 510: Lucy Gillespie


Lucy Gillespie

Hometown: London, England

Current Town: New York, New York

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Graduate School at NYU, mainly, but therein I have just started a play about rhetoric and faith. It will take place in the lobby of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, where my parents used to send my siblings and I on Saturday mornings so they could fight in peace. It will feature some kind of horrific event, perpetrated by young congregants in the basement, and justified by (drum roll) rhetoric and faith. This is all conjecture, though; I haven't gotten far.

In preparation for Graduate School at NYU, however, I had a summer of spring cleaning. I finished a brand new play, A Responsible Adult, about a love triangle between a Kylie, a married tutor in her mid-twenties, Anya, her 15 year-old student, and Malachi, a 40 year-old musician. It's also the families we build for ourselves in New York. The girl is a prodigal cellist and the dude is a jazz musician, so in my head there will be extensive sequences of improvised jazz. That I did not write.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  Oh man. I was a nightmarish child. Here's one example:

I was the most popular kid (and only girl) in my Hebrew school class of awkward misfits. We all loved our teacher, John Haggard, who was funny and brought in great exercises that, like, made learning about Jewish identity fun! He also always brought in a box of Cadbury's Roses and at the break, he would open the box, lift it high above his head and tip it up so that brightly colored chocolates would tumble out onto the table. If I missed the frenzy, he would save me the orange and strawberry creams. The following September, we had a new teacher who I shall call Deborah. We hated Deborah. Deborah was strict and by the book. The class became less about games and discussions and more about learning Hebrew. She gave out homework and quizzes, she had a high-pitched, whiny voice, and she never, ever brought in Cadbury's Roses for us - or even Quality Street. She had to go. One day I just flipped. She was in the middle of some kind of complex, abstract, probably highly intelligent thought when I stood up and announced that we would continue the class under the table. I crawled under the table and one by one, the boys (my minions) joined me. First, Deborah laughed. Then she started to scold. Then she started to beg. Then she started to cry. Then she crawled under the table and, crouched like a hamster, finished the lesson. We never saw her again.

It frightens me - and I think about this a lot - that this is fundamentally who I am.

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

A:  Audience participation. There should be more of it.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Shakespeare, Stoppard, Churchill, Knee-High, PunchDrunk. Mac Wellman's Chrestomathy completely rewired the way I think about theater. And I drop everything when TJ Jagodowski and Dave Pasquesi come to town.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Stuff that really commits to itself? When it patiently and organically unfolds - as opposed to rushing to define itself as one thing or another, or conform to some kind of structural or narrative formula (which always makes the play seem overdeveloped). Can you tell that I'm in grad school? I love anything that's smart but also gut-wrenching...

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

A:  Self-produce! You will not regret it. Figuring out how to ask people for money is about the best skill you can learn...

Q: Plugs, please:

A: OUTFOXED - about an American study abroad student who gets caught up in a SEX DRUGS VIOLENCE scandal in Italy, and must be bailed out by her mother - is being produced by FullStop Collective, November 30th - December 16th at the Access Theater.

Also: THE ATWATER CAMPAIGN - about the rise and fall of spin-doctor sonofabitch, Lee Atwater, with original blues music - is being produced as part of terraNOVA Collective's Groundworks Reading Series, Sunday December 9th at 3pm.

Also: YOUNGBLOOD Brunches! If you've never been, they are the BEST and the MOST FUN. And I might even get around to writing one this year!

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