Thursday, April 09, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 734: Heloise Wilson


Heloise Wilson

Current Town: Brooklyn, New York.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I am about to start rehearsals for '' The Great Osterlin Colony '' in June at Dixon place for a show that my theatre company Little y is producing. I can't sleep at night thinking about the stage design ( How are we going to bring a bed to dixon place ?? ) but I am super excited. The play is about an artist's colony in a mansion on a secluded island surrounded by a dried out sea.

I'm finishing my last semester at Brooklyn College with Mac Wellman. We have a workshop every week and have to bring a full length play once a semester. So I am working on my full length play which is due last month. It's about objects and belongings left in garages, closets or given to relatives and charity after someone passes away. But I am not even sure it's about that yet.

I'm also writing a play for children about outer space, love and Blaise Pascal. Mac Wellman asked me to write it. He's nutty.

And I'm also an actor and I'm working on my actor's things. Just finished a film called Elans which is in post prod.

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 don't think I have one particular story. I think I was a dramatic person and a narcissist since day one. I would direct plays about llamas and baby pandas and cast and boss around my brother. Or I would pretend I was a BBC broadcaster and give the weekly summary for the Archers ( Sorry for the extra British references here). I think I have always had an interest in dramatic structures and story telling.

My dad is a musician and film composer and looking back I think this had a huge impact on who I am today. He dragged me from one jazz club to another growing up and it has taught me a lot. It taught me about creative pursuit ,finding the balance with a day job, about work ethic and collaboration. I spent a lot of time in rehearsals, sound checks, and I went to a lot of gigs. A lot of these people my dad was hanging out with were super odd but always had great stories to share with an eight year old. I am so grateful for the bohemian artsy upbringing I have received.

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

A:  I know everyone says theatre is in very bad shape but I disagree. I think American theatre is thriving. If I could change one thing however, it would be how the government and tax payers are involved. In Europe, making theatre is also a nightmare, but the government and the arts council help so much more. So yes- stronger arts councils and big private companies more involved.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  The productions at the National Theatre in London have had a great impact on me in my teenage years. Same for Ariane Mnouchine, Robert Wilson, Irina Brooke, Wajdi Mouawad and a French director named Phillipe Hadrien. Nowadays I would say my theatrical heroes are the people around me. Mischa Ipp my partner in crime with Little y is a great producer, a great actor and dramaturg. She is my everyday hero. Mac Wellman, Erin Courtney and Anne Washburn, who I all studied with at Brooklyn College are also my mentors and heroes. They totally changed everything about who I am. And I love the writing of fellow playwrights Zarina Shea, Zohar Tirosh-Polk, Kristine Haruna Lee, Kate Benson. So I would say that my heroes are the people who blow my mind every week - I am lucky that I get to hang out with them and see their shows and read their work.

There are also institutions like the Women's projects or The Bushwick Starr that I think we should look up to as role models.

I also have a mega girl crush on Heidi Schreck because she is also an playwright/actress and she is simply amazing at everything she does. I really want to be Heidi Schreck when I grow up.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Everything excites me. I love good writing but I also love strong directing choices. In Europe, theatre is so much more director oriented, so I love when I can see the director's trademark. I like things to be visual, with a strong use of space. So I would say I like strong physically told narratives.

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

A:  I have recently received two great pieces of advice. Mac Wellman once told us that the most important thing we can do everyday is to feed our creative ego.

The second one, is something Anne Washburn told me after I asked her how on earth I was supposed to make it through my twenties pursuing theatre and making seven dollars a year ? Should I quit everything and start writing commercials ?

She told me that no one would be interested in my sold-out soul. So you really have to write what matters to you and you have to keep doing it. Because eventually that's what brings exposure and attention.

I am also learning right now the importance of momentum. If you write a play it is important to have a reading pretty soon after. If you have a reading it is important to self produce pretty soon after and not wait around.

Also, on a more practical level, find a day job that stimulates you and allows you to meet people but does not suck you out of your creative energy. If you have to write all day at your job and you are too tired at night to write again maybe find something that doesn't involve writing.

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