Thursday, July 28, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 864: Nina Segal




Nina Segal

Hometown: London

Current Town: Brooklyn

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I'm about to go into a Chicago workshop of Big Guns. Big Guns is a piece about the threat of violence - and about our desire/disgust relationship to it in the West. It's also about theatre and how we, as audiences and as makers, have the ability to both conjure and deconstruct - and perhaps an equal desire for both. It was developed with Soho Theatre in London as part of their writer's residency and at NDSM Treehouse in Amsterdam. Its a play for two actors and (maybe) a bunch of guns.

I just completed a week's workshop on a collaboratively-made piece with Built for Collapse, for premiere in NY in 2018 - narrowly it's about the rise to prominence of the lobotomy procedure; more broadly it's about connections and disconnections and the fifties and the arctic and kitchen utensils and power tools and freezing.

I'm under commission with HighTide to write a piece called Touch Me Don't Touch Me about invisible disease, directed by Ben Kidd from Dead Centre; and am in the early stages of a piece about national and global drought, the meaning of green lawns in deserts, and the dismantling of the welfare state.

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 started school in the UK a year late and immediately led a small-scale five-year-old feminist revolution against the gendered uniform. I couldn't see how you could play in the dirt in a skirt. I think my plays are political, but my grammar and phrasing is terrible, due to the missed year of schooling.

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

A:  The assumed need for categorisation. I think there's a danger, in the increased push towards professionalism, in the need to market and sell a show well before the thing itself is made, in the need for pitches and statements and prize-winning synopses, that artists are often pressed to make decisions about how they speak about the work before the work is ready to be spoken about. On the other side of it, I think critics and programmers also feel a pressure to turn a show into a soundbite, that can be more easily packaged and explained. This doesn't leave a great deal of room for work that falls outside of easy categorisation.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Tim Etchells. I'm always wary of referencing Forced Entertainment too strongly - I was probably introduced to them in the first year of university or even before that, so the reference always feels a little juvenile. But those are formative years and so the references stay with you, perhaps more strongly than anything that comes after that.

Tim Crouch. I recently got to spend some time in the Adler and Gibb rehearsal room with Tim Crouch and the way he makes and deconstructs and rebuilds and breaks again constantly is fascinating to me. And the fact that maybe he believes in theatricality, whilst still being absolutely aware of it's artifice.

I want to make a joke about another Tim but I can't think of any and it wouldn't be a great joke anyway.

Also, this one time at a show when the singer of a pretty terrible band sensed that he was losing/had lost the room and jumped down into the crowd with his microphone and ran all the way around the edges of the space either trying to get closer to people or trying to admonish them for not caring and when he re-climbed the stage on the other side, the microphone cord which had snaked all round the room after him, pulled tied around the crowd's ankles and everybody was dragged together into the centre of the room and suddenly you felt like something was going on. It wasn't theatre but it felt how I want to feel at the theatre.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Theatre that asks more questions than it answers. Theatre that defies description and so always sounds a bit shit when you breathlessly try and tell someone how good it was (see microphone cord story above).

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

A:  Don't agonise too much about it - it's not supposed to be perfect.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Big Guns reading - 3pm on August 5th at the Theatre School, DePaul University, Chicago.

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