Tuesday, November 22, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 893: Beth Hyland




Beth Hyland

Hometown:  Rochester, NY

Current Town:  Chicago, IL

Q:  Tell me about For Annie.

A:  For Annie is about female friendship, survivor's guilt, small colleges, and how we try to craft the stories we tell about the people we love. But it's really fun, too, and there's a ton of pop music! It came out of a feeling that even the most mundane aspects of a life can be profound, particularly in hindsight, and that the mundane parts of women's lives are just as worthy of examination as men's.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm working on a play based loosely around the Lululemon Murder, and an adaptation of Three Sisters set in a Chicago theater company. What I'm working hardest on right now is how to write plays that will be both necessary and useful in the next four years and beyond.

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

A:  In fifth grade I got really into figuring out how to play songs I liked on the bassoon, which I was learning to play essentially because I was tall. I was an obsessive Beatles fan, so I taught my best friend and fellow bassoonist how to play Twist and Shout. We proudly played it for our music teacher, who made us play it for everyone in the main office. I really didn't understand why everyone was doubled over with laughter, but I did love the attention. My best friend from childhood is now a professional bassoonist, though!

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

A:  Ticket prices. And I'd put a 10-year moratorium on any play that could accurately be titled "Screaming In The Living Room." And I would change the past several hundred years of history so that theatre could be a popular form of entertainment again instead of a marker of class status.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Annie Baker, Anne Washburn, Jeanine Tesori, Anton Chekov, Stephen Sondheim, Kneehigh, and my professors at Kenyon College and at the National Theatre Institute.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  In Chicago, I'm so excited and inspired by my friends and peers who are making cool, weird, exciting, deeply felt work all over the city. I also particularly love The Hypocrites, The Neo-Futurists, Theatre Oobleck, Jackalope, and Steep.

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

A:  Make someone schedule a reading and invite people to read your play before you've finished it (so that you actually finish it). Be gentle with yourself. Everyone works and writes differently and at a different pace. Channel feelings of jealousy or inadequacy into productivity.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  For Annie is going to be produced by The Hearth; it runs December 9th-January 15th; get tickets here: https://www.artful.ly/store/events/10629
My website is bethhyland.com.

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