Saturday, September 10, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 875: Antoinette Nwandu

photo by John Flak

Antoinette Nwandu

Hometown: Los Angeles, CA

Current Town:  NYC. but really i'm just across the river in Weehawken, NJ. ugh.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I'm writing a new play that centers on a mother-daughter relationship. Right now there are two other characters in it, but it's pretty much about them. It's called TUVALU, or The Saddest Song. It's forcing me to ask all sorts of uncomfortable questions about self-worth, sexual trauma, class and womanhood. About how certain black women learn how to be who they are in the world. It's sad and terrifying and I can't really say much more than that. I'm also in re-writes for my play Pass Over, which has been a true statement for the last two years. And I just joined a fantasy football league with some other theater-makers so, i'm working on making sure my offense is T-I-G-H-T. By which I mean, auto-select.

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

A:  There's a story my mom likes to tell about how I basically had no chill as a child. I tell it now because not that much has changed. It was the summer of 1983 and the Superman with Richard Pryor had just come out. And my mom was on a date with a guy and brought me along because when you're a single mom with not that much money, that's sometimes how you roll.

And the guy paid for the tickets and the pop corn and things were going really well at first. And then at some point Christopher Reeves stops just being a guy in glasses and starts doing his--as my mom would say--his Wonderments, or whatever. His Wonderful Tricks. And even though I was only three years old, I was having none of it. We were sitting very near the front and she says that I stood up and put my hands up in protest and started yelling, is this real? is this really happening? And she and the guy tried to quiet me down and did for a bit, but then Christopher Reeves goes and starts being wonderful again--flying, you know, and I stood up again and was like, no. This can't be real! Men cannot fly! Men do not fly! And I stormed out of the movie theater and my mom kind of looked at the guy and was like, alrighty then. I guess that's goodnight for us.

So yeah, sometimes I can be a little intense. And sometimes things that aren't really real--but maybe might be true--feel so immediate and overwhelming that I have to put my hands up and shout. Or maybe write them down.

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

A:  One thing only? Oy. Ticket prices. Access. Whose stories get told. Community engagement that's grassroots not top down. More poor theater. Less preciousness.

But also--and this is totally out of left field and a little hypocritical given the list I just spouted--I would love it if somebody could add a category at the Tonys for best PlayScript that would be akin to best Screenplay at the Oscars. Because every year they give out the award for best Play and the writer gets swallowed up by a gang of producers, which is fine. I get it. Money runs the world. But I hate how this whole ridiculous night about honoring people in the theater has no moment to focus on the people who get the whole thing going.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Adrienne Kennedy. Caryl Churchill. Martin McDonagh. Suzan Lori Parks. Samuel Beckett. Lynn Nottage. Katori Hall. Harold Pinter. So basically black women and Brits. Oh, and also Stephen Adly Guirgis.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I just saw Chris Chen's play Caught and was pretty excited by that. Also Leah Nanako Winkler's Kentucky last season. And the Ivo van Hove A View From the Bridge. Each of them very different, but all of them used structure and form to help me feel something essentially true about what it means to be alive. So, theater like that, I guess. Theater that's unabashedly theatrical. Where the story's form imbues its narrative with meaning. Theater that doesn't necessarily answer a question, but that does have a strong point of view.

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

A:  Don't quit your day job until you absolutely have to. Write at night and on the weekends. Save money. Or be rich. Yeah, maybe just be rich.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A: On Sept 21st, my play FLAT SAM is having a reading as part of the Parity Play Fest. Danya Taymor, who worked on the play with me at PlayPenn this summer, will be directing it. My Ars Nova Out Loud is coming up on October 28th. It's the 29hr reading that sort of signals the end of my time there. So, sadness. But also excitement because I'll be sharing TUVALU for the first time. And PASS OVER is getting a World Premiere at Steppenwolf in June 2017, which feels like a really long time from now, but isn't.

Enter Your Email To Have New Blog Posts Sent To You

Support The Blog
Mailing list to be invited to Adam's events
Adam's Patreon

Books by Adam (Amazon)

No comments: