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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

May 1, 2014

I Interview Playwrights Part 658: Amina Henry

Amina Henry

Hometown: White Plains, NY

Current Town: Sunnyside, Queens

Q:  Tell me about Happily Ever.

A:  HAPPILY EVER is a dark fairy tale based, in a somewhat tangential way, on Shakespeare's play TWO NOBLE KINSMEN. It's a meditation on romantic love. I think romantic love is something that all of us, particularly women, want, but the play is really about how damaging our ideas about love can be to our self-esteem, and how destructive these idealized notions can sometimes be for real-life relationships.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  In my Bookshop Workshop writing group, I'm working on a play about a Jamaican dancehall queen competition that takes place in Pittsburgh - there will be a reading in June so I suppose I should finish my first draft. I'm excited about it because it's the first time I've ever included elements of my Jamaican-American identity in my work as a playwright... I'm just about finished with a first draft of a play about a homeless man and the ghost of a murdered prostitute. I began writing it thinking it would be the libretto to an opera, but now I think it may just be a play with a lot of poems. We shall see. The Salt Makers is a fun experiment with Noh drama that I've been working on with several very talented folks and we'll present what we've got so far at the Little Theater series at Dixon Place on May 12th. I'm also working on a modern re-telling of Cinderella. Also, I'm researching for projects I have on the back burner. I like to stay busy.

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  When I was 10 and in the 5th grade I had a best friend who had a huge crush on a boy at our school. This boy had a girlfriend, but I took it upon myself to manufacture a romance between the boy and my friend, writing long letters to my friend presumably from the boy, giving her little presents and telling her that he'd given them to me to give to her, making up lengthy conversations that I had presumably had with the boy about how much he wanted to break up with his girlfriend and be with her. It made her so happy and after a certain point I didn't know how to tell her the truth because this fiction I had created made her so happy! At 10, I felt that telling this lie was for the 'greater good' in some way. Since then I have continued to write fictions that I hope make people happy - or, at the very least, make people feel SOMETHING.

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

A:  More inclusion. A greater diversity of people being a part of the theater experience would be amazing.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Eek - this is such a hard question! I'll give you who first pops into mind because there are so many. William Shakespeare. Henrik Ibsen. Frantz Kreutz. Bertolt Brecht. Adrienne Kennedy. Lorraine Hansberry. Edward Albee. Eugene Ionesco. Suzan-Lori Parks. Mac Wellman. MAC WELLMAN. Erin Courtney. Ethan Lipton. Young Jean Lee. Jackie Sibblies Drury. Sibyl Kempson. Marc Bamuthi Joseph. And that's just playwrights. There are many other theater makers - directors, actors, ensemble groups, producers, theater companies - that are creating culturally relevant, lovely work that interests me such as Universes, Rady&Bloom Collective Playmaking, Rehabilitation through the Arts, Marc Bamuthi Joseph and The Living Word Project, The Civilians, Pearl d'Amour, New York City Players, Nature Theater of Oklahoma, Morgan Gould and Friends, everything that is Clubbed Thumb...to name a few. I am also very inspired by a lot of visual artists who have a certain amount of theatricality or drama in their work.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I don't like smug theater, so any theater that isn't SMUG in this pretentious "aren't we so smart, we totally GET it" kind of way is something that excites me. I'm excited by theater that makes me feel included. I'm excited by honesty, earnestness, bravery, experiments with form that are rigorous and mindful - theater that poses challenging questions rather than providing easy answers. I love to laugh, and cry and feel all the feelings, so theater that makes me feel is very exciting also.

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

A:  Read books. Experience culture - literature, art, music, theater, dance, tv. I rather enjoy going to museums. Be aware of what's going on in the world, and not just the theater world. Write as much as you think you can, and then write MORE. Work hard at it. Surround yourself with people who delight you and also challenge you. Also, find a way to make money other than writing plays - playwrights don't make money writing plays.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Happily Ever, Brooklyn College, May 2-6

The Salt Makers, Little Theater at Dixon Place, May 12

Also, some of my theatrical colleagues have things coming up:

The Food Was Terrible by William Burke, Bushwick Starr, May 14-31

A Beautiful Day in November on the Banks of the Greatest of Great Lakes by Kate Benson, Dixon Place, May 16-31

Let Me Ascertain You, "F*cking and Dying", The Civilians, Joe's Pub @ The Public, May 17

Nomads by Julia Jarcho & Alice Reagan, Incubator Arts Project, May 30 - June 15

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