Wednesday, March 18, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 727: Lia Romeo

Lia Romeo

Hometown: Boulder, CO

Current Town: Hoboken, NJ

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I’m currently writing a play in a month for The Brooklyn Generator. The Generator selects six playwrights every season, and each playwright is assigned to one month, during which they have to complete a draft of a full-length play. My play is called The Grand Tour, and it’s about travel and family dynamics and interracial adoption and a marriage that’s falling apart. It’s actually turning out to be a lot easier than I expected to write on such a tight deadline, because I’m able to just focus and completely immerse myself in it.

The other great thing about the Generator is that they start off each playwright’s month with a “generation meeting,” where the playwright meets with their cast and director and the other playwrights involved that season, and can ask everyone questions or lead a discussion about the themes of the play they’re planning to write. I want to get friends together and do this every time I write a play – I got some amazing stories and insights from the people at my meeting, and they’re finding their way into the script.

Q:  Tell me about Project Y.

A:  Project Y is a wonderful company here in NYC that’s dedicated to New York and world premieres of new works. I’ve worked with Project Y as a playwright quite a bit – they produced one of my plays at 59E59 a couple of years ago, and have also done readings and workshops of others – and last year I started working as the literary manager. We do a reading series with a specific theme each year (this year’s is Parity Plays – focusing on women playwrights, and plays with casts that are more than 50% female), and also do workshops, new play festivals, and full productions. We also founded the Project Y Playwrights Group in 2014 – it’s a selective playwrights’ workshop that meets every two weeks to read and discuss members’ work. It’s a really smart and talented group of writers, and it’s been so much fun to work with them.

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 was a strange child. When I was about four, I remember sitting under my parents’ kitchen table and suddenly realizing that I was going to die someday – and getting really upset about it. I was pretty terrified of mortality throughout my childhood, and I developed a focus on death that showed up in my writing – I wrote a lot of poems about dead flowers, and spent a lot of time wandering around in the cemetery near my parents’ house. Apparently my grandfather got worried about me at one point, and asked my mom if she thought I was depressed, and my mom was like no, she’s actually really happy, she just thinks about death a lot. That’s still a pretty good description of who I am as an adult and as a writer.

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

A:  I wish it were easier or there were a more obvious way to make a living in it. When I was getting out of college, and my friends were going off to work at law firms or PR firms or investment banking firms, I found myself desperately wishing that there were “playwriting firms” where you could just apply and get hired and paid a living wage to write a few plays every year, and then the firms would send your plays out to theaters. There are so many different career paths as a playwright, and in a way that’s great, but it’s also a very difficult thing – especially since most of them don’t actually pay any money.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  People who are just out there doing it – and doing it really well – despite how hard and frustrating and thankless it can sometimes be. People who recognize that it’s still pretty much the best thing ever.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Plays about the ways that people actually think and feel and talk. So much theater feels like it isn’t about real people, it’s about “stage people,” stylized versions of people that don’t bear a lot of resemblance to reality. It’s not that I only like realistic plays – many of my favorite plays aren’t – but I like plays about real – even if not necessarily realistic – people.

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

A:  Get out there and get involved with the theatrical community. I spent a lot of years not doing that – just sitting at home writing plays and sending them off to theaters, but not going out and meeting people and getting to know theater companies – and I think I wasted a lot of time. So much of theater is about networking and meeting people – which can be hard for introverted writer types, but it’s really important. I think it's really helpful for writers to read scripts or do literary management work – I actually just wrote a piece for HowlRound about this – and that can be a great way to get involved with a theater company.

Also, find a good day job. You’re going to be making a living from something other than writing for a long time, maybe forever, and it’s a lot easier to be patient and stick with it if the thing that pays you money is something you don’t mind doing.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The Brooklyn Generator reading of my play The Grand Tour is Sunday, March 29 at 4:30 pm at Brother Jimmy’s Union Square. I’ve also got a few productions coming up next season… not all of them are public yet, but here’s one that is: Forward Flux Productions will be producing my play Green Whales in Seattle September 16-October 3, in repertory with Still Life, a wonderful play by Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich.

Also, Project Y is kicking off the Parity Plays reading series in April with plays by Hilary Bettis (The Ghosts of Lote Bravo) and Allyson Currin (The Sooner Child).

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