Saturday, November 16, 2013

I Interview Playwrights Part 620: Sarah Matusek

Sarah Matusek

Hometown: Miami then St. Louis.

Current Town: Brooklyn.

Q: Tell me about your production with Everyday Inferno.

A:  The official title is short and sweet: PEOPLE WILL TALK ABOUT YOU SOMETIMES (A love letter to 4.48 Psychosis). Everyday Inferno is generously producing PEOPLE WILL TALK as part of their upcoming evening of one-acts, If on a Winter’s Night. As I reread 4.48 Psychosis last year, I couldn’t get past the heart-breaking line: “What do you offer your friends to make them so supportive?” I was intrigued by how memorialization can serve as the final compassionate act for a loved one, but also how we are memorialized in multiplicity.

Inspired by Sarah Kane’s final work, I have imagined the dynamics of a supportive network of friends affected by a suicide. Director Taylor Reynolds has joined me in exploring a poetic theatrical space composed without stage directions. PEOPLE WILL TALK does not attempt to adapt or explain 4.48 Psychosis—that would be impossible, and probably irreverent. Also, you do not need to have read Kane’s play before experiencing mine.

Austin-based Poison Apple Initiative is currently developing a full-length version of PEOPLE WILL TALK for Austin’s FronteraFest in early 2014. I am experimenting with these two lengths to discover which form best serves the content.

Q: What is Small Claims Court?

A: I started Small Claims Court as a devised performance group with an evolving/revolving team of collaborators. Since our residency at the Creative Arts Studio of Sea Cliff on Long Island this summer, our first full production, FALL OF ROME (an unofficial history), and two other short works-in-progress have been hosted by Title:Point and Fresh Ground Pepper at the Silent Barn. Due to fall/winter projects that have fallen outside of the realm of Small Claims, the group is on a small hiatus, but I’m looking forward to developing a dinosaur-themed dance theatre project with pals this spring.

Small claims court also “permits you to recover, without retaining a lawyer, up to $5,000 from individuals or businesses residing or having a place of business in the city or town in which the court sits.” – Better Business Bureau

Q: What else are you working on now?

A: A current exhibition of clocks and watches at the Frick Collection called “Precision and Splendor” has inspired my latest play, The Little Egyptians. It’s a love story set against the history of horology. It’s a two-person piece that calls for heavy Ancient Egyptian eye makeup.

I am also working on my first short screenplay—a mockumentary.

My mom wants to write something with me, so we will probably do that over Christmas.

Most pressing, however, is coaxing my heater to turn on.

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 grew up wanting to be a dolphin trainer and/or Broadway choreographer. After receiving the sad news that there were no dolphins in Missouri, I turned our unfinished basement into a performance studio. All through elementary school, I asked for CD’s of musicals and ballets as gifts for all major holidays so that I could choreograph each track into a fully realized basement production. I cast my friends from school and even bought them costumes from Goodwill. One major problem persisted: I was usually too shy to ask my friends if they wanted to be in my shows. So for years until adolescence I would rehearse these fully choreographed musical numbers with these ghost casts that I never mustered up enough courage to actually invite over. My productions of Annie and The Nutcracker include some of my best work to date. Some days I was lucky enough to guilt-trip my younger brother into standing in for a sugar plum fairy.

I really don’t know what changed along the way, how I began to open up. Theatre has taught me so much about courage—from presence and preparation to claiming ownership of original thought and action. While I still battle some of that residual shyness, at least now I can hold rehearsals with all members present.

Q: Who are your theatrical heroes?

A: Sherry Kramer, Eugenio Barba and Odin Teatret, Dah Teatar, Howard Barker, Dario Fo, Annie Baker, Mac Wellman, Sibyl Kempson, Jenny Schwartz, Young Jean Lee, Elana Greenfield, Sam Hunter, Anne Carson, and, most recently, writers of the French Oulipo movement.

Also, I just graduated from Bennington College where I was surrounded by theatre geniuses. So look out for my friends.

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

A: Well, I am a playwright/performer/director just starting out. If I knew how to be better, I would be better. I will say, though, that living and making work in a fast-paced city requires daily patience with myself.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Everyday Inferno Theatre Company – If on a Winter’s Night… One-act plays, Dec 5-8 at Access Theatre Gallery

Stay tuned for Poison Apple Initiative news involving PEOPLE WILL TALK at FronteraFest 2014!

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