Friday, January 31, 2014

I Interview Playwrights Part 637: Nandita Shenoy

Nandita Shenoy

Hometown: Buffalo, NY

Current Town: New York, NY

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I've got a workshop of my latest full-length play, "Washer/Dryer" coming up, and so I'm taking another look at that. I've also been working on a commission from Ma-Yi Theatre and the Flea, adapting a play from the Yuan period of Chinese history into a modern one-act.

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'm the oldest child of Indian immigrants, so when I was growing up, my parents were kind of figuring out the culture along with me. For instance, when I was about 3 or 4, my mom noticed that in October, everyone put pumpkins out on their porches, so she put one out on ours. She didn't know how to carve one, so she drew a face on the pumpkin so that it would look like the other ones. And I really liked the pumpkin. So one day, she heard me yelling "My pumpkin, my pumpkin!" and looked out the front window to see me running down the sidewalk after a big kid who apparently had taken our pumpkin off of our porch. She said she started to worry because I was a tiny little Indian girl chasing after this big American boy. I have no recollection of this incident, but a few minutes later, my mom told me that she saw me coming back with the pumpkin in my arms. She says that this is when she knew that I would always take care of myself, because I was able to get my pumpkin back. As an adult, my version of getting my pumpkin back is pretty much putting anyone who crosses me into my plays, although I did hit the teenage boy who tried to take my iPhone on the L train once to recover my "electronic pumpkin." I haven't put him in a play. Yet.

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

A:  Just one? Fine. The ethnic make-up of the industry from the actors on stage to the creative teams to the producers. We need more diversity.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  13P because they made it happen.

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

A:  Write short plays first so that you get the satisfaction of finishing one under your belt.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The workshop of "Washer/Dryer" is coming soon! Public readings will be held on February 25th and 26th at 7:30pm at the Ma-Yi Writers Room, 260 West 35th Street, 2nd floor. Admission is free. "Washer/Dryer" shares an evening with newlyweds Sonya and Michael as they negotiate their living situation with some strange obstacles. It asks the age-old New York question - can love conquer Manhattan real estate? There is also a figurative pumpkin in this play.

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