Tuesday, October 08, 2013

I Interview Playwrights Part 609: Lauren Morelli

Lauren Morelli

I was born in Pittsburgh, PA. I'm wearing a Pittsburgh Pirates hat as I type this, which is a little bandwagon-y of me, since they're currently in the playoffs for the first time since '92. I'm told that's really exciting.

Current Town:
I've been in LA for the last 7 years, after spending 6 years in New York.

Q:  Tell me about the Lesser show.

A:  The amazing folks from Lesser America reached out and asked if I'd be interested in writing a play for their next show, "Just Right Just Now." Their only stipulations were that it should be 10-15 minutes and be set in a basement. I was really excited about playing with how much you can accomplish in such a short amount of pages. You really can't be lazy. Somehow I ended up writing this play called "Rat & Roach," which is about a suicidal rat and a roach that falls in love with her. It's weird and hopefully a little beautiful. But mostly weird.

Q:  What is it like to write for Orange Is The New Black?

A:  It's a dream job, truly. Jenji Kohan, our creator and showrunner, has taught me so much about writing over the last two seasons. She pushes me to be better but also allows me space to be a misfit toy, which is probably the role I'm most comfortable playing. I hadn't written on a show previous to this, and couldn't fathom what it might be like to come up with story and characters with a room full of writers. It seemed so far from my own writing process, but as it turns out, it's a total joy to have six other people to bounce ideas off of and brainstorm with. When it's working well, it's like the best volleyball team you've ever seen (I said that like I've ever seen volleyball, or like that's a really common thing people watch. Maybe basketball or some sport that's actually popular?). In any case, you can lob an idea into the air and then someone else will catch it, make it better, throw it back. It's a really exhilarating process. When it's not going well it requires a lot of emotional eating and early drinking.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm developing a pilot about mermaids that I'm pretty excited about.

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 have a younger brother who is mentally disabled (full disclosure, I would normally just say retarded, but I'm not sure how that reads in print), and when I was 13 I accidentally cut his finger off when I slammed my bedroom door on him. It took us a long time to find the finger, because, as it turned out, it was stuck to the doorframe. The ER doctor commented that I must have slammed it really hard because he'd never seen a wooden door do such damage. They sewed it back on, thankfully. That's pretty much all you need to know about me.

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

A:  I was a dancer for a long time before I started writing, and I was often very frustrated by the lack of accessibility that I saw. I find the same thing to be true of theater in our country-- I often long for bigger audiences and broader dialogues about theater. And I don't mean that the work should be more accessible, I just mean that I would love to figure out how to make theater safer for more people to love and participate in. There's so much incredible work being done that stays in our very small theater circle, and I daydream about what it might be like to expand that bubble beyond major cities.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I get really excited when I find myself being challenged by what I'm seeing. Something that doesn't allow me to relax back in my seat and take a breath. Something that feels emotionally honest and makes me question myself and my choices for a few days afterward. Something that sticks to my ribs.

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

A:  You know, this is a ridiculous thing to say, but it's really important to write. I feel like I meet a lot of people who want to be writers or talk about writing a lot, but the most successful ones are the people who are sitting down every day and doing it. And then when they finish something, they put it aside and start again. It needs to be endless.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The Lesser America show runs Thursday - Sunday, October 10-27th at Theater for the New City. Tickets at lesseramerica.com. And the second season of Orange Is The New Black will be out sometime in 2014, which the most ambiguous and worst plug ever.

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