Wednesday, December 21, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 898: Anisa George



Photo by Kate Raines

Anisa George

Hometown: Bethlehem, PA

Current Town: Philadelphia, PA

Q:  Tell me about HOLDEN.

A:  HOLDEN is a frightening play. I didn’t set out to make a terrifying piece of theater, but to understand something I am terrified by - which is the role of violence in the male imagination.

Q:  Tell me please how you go about writing in collaboration with an ensemble.

A:  It’s a different journey every time. There’s no magic formula or fail-safe procedure. I just try to enter the room with a handful of things I’m excited to try which usually involve themes for the ensemble to improvise around. My job is to see the potential in these first raw improvisations, and to use them to write towards a more perfect structure. There’s generally a massive breakdown at some point, and hopefully a breakthrough after that.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’m working on a musical with the Philly-based band Red40 & The Last Groovement and also with Lightening Rod Special on their next major work.

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 often say that I became a writer editing over my father’s shoulder. When I was eighteen we toured across Canada and America together in a play that he wrote, but I was often re-writing. I didn’t want to say half the words he had written for me, and that’s how it all began. Now I’m writing his lines as well (when I let him have any!)

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

A:  I often wish I could change the demographic of the audience. I wish it was so much more diverse, not just racially, but diverse in political perspectives, economic classes, religious persuasions, etc. I wish it looked more like the city where I live. I often make work with a political bent, and I feel like I’m seldom reaching the people who disagree with me. What’s the point of that?!

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  My parents have got to be #1. I witnessed them survive so many setbacks, and they always picked themselves up and carried on trying to be the best possible human beings they could be. Not to say there were never any hurt feelings, or people that parted ways, but really it’s freakin’ amazing that the company is still going 35 years later. After them, I’m utterly besotted with the Berlin-based group, Gob Squad.

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

A:  Invite people you admire to criticize your work, then write another draft, and ask them to do it again, and keep doing that until you feel like you’ll die before the play is finished.
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