Friday, June 19, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 756: Nicole Pandolfo



Nicole Pandolfo

Hometown: Gibbstown, NJ

Current Town: New York City

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I’m working on a play that moves non-linearly through time and has whole scenes where seemingly peripheral characters become the main focus, which may or may not be a completely insane thing to do. It’s called LUSH and follows Mia from teenager to mid-life as she navigates her self-destructive urges and life flings her and those around her in directions they’d never imagined. The play travels from places like a high school reunion in New Jersey in 2002, to a honky tonk in Tennessee in 1982, to a television studio on the East Coast in 2026. It’s been a lot of fun to write and is about how if you’re not careful, your life could be marked by the love you missed. I’m also working on a play off of a prompt from my MFA advisor Tina Howe to set something on prom night in New Jersey. It’s about 17-year-old Denise, an aspiring marine biologist, who has been a victim of acquaintance rape by two of her classmates, and her one-legged friend Crystal, who is on a mission to lose her virginity, dealing with prom. We see the two of them navigating this high stakes evening as outcasts searching for both independence and inclusion. I’m also working on a television pilot and my first screenplay.

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

A:  These are more moments that stand out, but I remember spending a lot of time staring out the picture window in my living room waiting for my dad’s car to pull up, which more often than not never did. In day care, a kid bit me and when I told the aide about it my punishment for being a tattletale was having a literal tail pinned to my backside for the rest of the day. My mom wouldn’t teach me how to ride a bike because she was afraid I’d get hit by a car, and so I spent summers three blocks behind all my friends furiously trying to keep up on my scooter. And finally, I spent many an evening on my Granny’s lap while she drank Manhattans and smoked cigarettes.

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

A:  I would wish that theaters would produce more work from emerging artists with more than 4 characters in the play. This is partially because I’ve got lots of badass plays with 5-9 characters and so do many of my friends, and also because plays are so much fun when the world is full. There are great 2, 3, and 4 character plays, but sometimes I just want more flesh and blood.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Larry Harbison (find me a greater lover of the theatre) Cher, John Leguizamo, Tina Howe, John Patrick Shanley, Craig Lucas, Dan Lauria, and Laura Cahill. Also, I’d like to shout out that the most perfect playwriting Master Class would be led by Tanya Barfield, Cusi Cram, Tina Howe, and Francine Volpe.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  If it isn’t boring or pretentious and the people on stage care deeply about things, I’m usually pretty damn excited to be in the audience.

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

A:  I hope you are lucky enough to have a close family member or parent that supports you whole heartedly so that when you call them crying every two-three weeks they remind you that someone very big in your life believes in you. If you don’t have this, then make sure you find someone who can be this person for you, friend or mentor, because there will be many dark days in the course of a career in the arts, and these people are essential to keeping you alive. My mom and a few close friends do this for me when I panic that I should have become a dentist or accountant; both excellent fields that I would be horrible in. (PS thanks Mom for being the best! Couldn’t do it without you!) But I also think it’s important to let yourself acknowledge these moments of despair because it’s really hard and painful a lot of the time. I’m convinced that the people who are never affected by the pain of the hard parts are either sociopaths or delusional. Also, something new that I’m learning now is that no matter how good it gets, what you’re looking for deep in your soul is probably not going to be found in your career, but it sure does help when things are going well. In general, try to have a good time as much as possible, because what’s the point of anything else. I wish you the very best of luck and happiness. Also, maybe write some 2-4 character plays so someone will produce them.

Q:  Plugs, please

A:  My one-act play I Thought I Liked Girls will be performed as part of Jersey Voices July-August in Chatham, NJ. Also, A Bad Night, the documentary play about acquaintance rape that I’m co-writing with Amy E. Witting will have a reading on October 5th. For more info www.nicolepandolfo.com

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