Wednesday, June 12, 2013

I Interview Playwrights Part 590: Larissa FastHorse



Larissa FastHorse

Hometown: Pierre SD

Current town: Santa Monica CA, although I’m hardly there

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  This actual moment I am looking at the Grand Tetons while on break from choreographing a new musical in Jackson WY. (I was a professional ballet dancer before I become a writer.) Next I turn back into playwright and head to Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor program to workshop one of my plays and then to AlterTheater in San Raphael CA to read the first draft of my commission with them. I’m also working on a re-write for my commission with Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis, developing a park show for Disney and by the end of the year starting the community engagement process for my commission with Cornerstone Theatre Company in LA. I’m hoping to get one more project rolling by fall. You gotta keep a lot of balls in the air to make a living at this!

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 spent my childhood desperately wanting to be a ballet dancer against a lot of odds. So, I am very self motivated and love collaborating with a group of fellow artists every day. However, my parents both value reading and writing highly. A vacation for our family meant we’d go to the Black Hills of South Dakota, hike into the woods, find a rock to climb and sit outside reading, writing and eating a picnic together. So books and paper (now screens) are comforting and feel like home to me as much as a dance studio. (Which is just a rehearsal hall without furniture and tape.)

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

A:  I would love for everyone to focus more on gratitude. In the regular world, tons of people work really crappy jobs day after day for their whole lives. We get to be artists and make theatre AS OUR JOB. Even if it is only part time, we are so privileged. (This is coming from a minority female in the American theatre.) Yes, we can be paid more and diversity can be better and we can be funded as well as sports, etc. etc., but my husband (a sculptor, which is a far more difficult field than theatre) constantly quotes Dennis Quaid's character in The Rookie, “Today we get to play baseball.” Today I got to make art. That’s a true gift. The day I am no longer grateful for that is the day I need to work a road crew in one hundred degree, mosquito filled air and get back to grateful again.

Q: Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Until very recently I would freak out and get all insecure when people asked me this question (or who my favorite playwrights are). I started as a dancer and didn’t have time to go to college, so I felt like I didn’t have a proper theatrical background. The truth is I’m a passion junkie. I am inspired by passion in work, any work; dance, music, theatre performance, books, scripts, sculpture, paintings, TV shows, culture, fashion, street performance, and anything else that makes me stop and feel. I was just watching my dance captain teach a Zumba class. She was gloriously in her element, wearing her favorite outfit with a fantastic hat and pouring her whole body and soul into this “exercise class”. Her passion and confidence and joy brought tears to my eyes. Tonight, she’s my hero.

Q: What kind of theater excites you?

A: I can appreciate really intelligent plays that are super smart, but I’m easy, if you make me FEEL something real or have a new experience, I’m all in. People asked me why I loved Sleep No More so much. (I went alone and stayed three hours.) I remember chasing a soaking wet, nude Lady Macbeth up three flights of stairs and thinking, this is the most fun I’ve ever had in the theatre. On the other side of the spectrum, there was a moment with Raul Esparza in the last scene Speed the Plow where out of a whirlwind of words, he turned his back to the audience and whispered the word “No.” That one perfectly placed word was devastating and still gives me chills. So, I guess it’s back to passion.

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

A:  Believe in yourself and your voice. I talk to playwrights who are beautifully trained and spend all their time comparing themselves to another writer or style or whatever. There’s only one you. If you can capture that essence and point of view on paper, you’re set.

Dance taught me the most valuable lesson; I’m not for everyone but I’m for someone. I’m a tall girl with a certain style of movement that not everyone likes. In fact, the majority doesn’t like it so much. But I kept auditioning for companies until I found the ones that liked what I had to give. Same with writing. I’m not right for every theatre, and that’s totally cool. It’s their money and their time away from their kids and personal goals that built their theatre, so if they don’t dig what I’ve got, I move on. There’s someone else who will get me, and it’s a waste of everyone’s time and energy to try to force my work somewhere it doesn’t belong. This is true of people who are personal friends and love me and my work, but professionally we aren’t a good fit. Don’t take it personal.

Q:  Plugs, please.

A:  The only thing coming up this summer will be a public reading of What Would Crazy Horse Do? at Berkeley Rep’s Ground Floor the last week of June. Not sure of the exact time yet, but check it out and give me some feedback. I honestly want to hear it!


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