Nov 24, 2012
I Interview Playwrights Part 529: Tania Richard
Hometown: Western Springs, IL.
Current Town: Evanston, IL.
Q: What are you working on now?
A: A play called "Angry Black Woman" and a sister solo piece called "Angry Black Women" The plan is for them to debut in Evanston, IL. The solo piece will also tour.
Q: How would you characterize the Chicago theater scene?
A: It's a great city to start your career because of all the non-equity theaters that produce really solid work. This community also gives you room to reinvent yourself and have multiple careers. I am a writer, actress and teacher and I've had success in all three without having to leave Chicago.
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 started writing short stories very early. By grade school I was already carrying a notebook with me everywhere. I'd write during class instead of paying attention. I use to draw comic strips about totally mundane things like a girl getting a hair cut. Making comic strips taught me about action in playwriting. Every box had to contain an event that moved the story forward.
Q: If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?
A: The lack of diversity in casting. As a black pIaywright some of my writing is race specific but a good deal of my writing doesn't require a specific ethnicity. In my cast descriptions I encourage non traditional casting to the point where I often write a character and specify that they are a minority even though their race has nothing to do with the character or the story. I want to see casts that reflect the diversity we see in the world. I would rather see diverse casts than "the all Black play" or the "all Asian play" It's time to stop segregating our theater.
Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?
A: Harvey Fierstein, Tony Kushner, Lanford Wilson, Lorraine Hansberry, Tennesee Williams. I fell in love with theatre by reading "Torch Song Trilogy" when I was in high school. I feel like Harvey Fierstein is my fairy godfather or something (no pun intended) Tony Kushner is brilliant and even though he is given his due for "Angels In America" I think people take his genius for granted. He is a master of marrying the personal and the political. If I could write like him I would be so in love with myself I'd never leave the house.
Q: What kind of theater excites you?
A: I love theatre that has a mix of the theatrical, great language (which does not mean it has to be verbose) and strong relationships. Also, I love first and second act rock 'em sock 'em endings. August Wilson has some of the best final lines in all theatre. The ending of "Fences" on Broadway knocked me off my seat. The ending of "Angels In America" was jaw dropping. I love a great final line and the lights fading to black. Good clean fun.
Q: What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?
A: You have to allow yourself a lousy first draft. Take pleasure in how bad it is. Get all the muck out then start to revise. If you wait for the right time to have children you will never have children. If you wait to write a perfect first draft it will never get written so write crap and get on with it. Also, choose who gives you feedback wisely. Be protective of your plays. Don't seek approval or validation through the feedback you receive. If you choose the right people to give you feedback then there's no need to take what they say personally.
Q: Plugs, please:
A: Currently appearing as Mrs. Cratchit in A Christmas Carol at The Goodman Theatre (an example of colorblind casting with a multiracial Cratchit family), my blog is http://trichard3.blogspot.com, my website is www.taniarichard.com