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1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Jan 24, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 910: Laura Neill

Laura Neill

Hometown: Wrentham, MA

Current Town: Brighton, MA

Q:  Tell me about Don't Give Up the Ship.

A: Don't Give Up the Ship goes up at the Boston Center for the Arts with Fresh Ink Theatre from February 10-25, directed by Joshua Glenn-Kayden. It's a funky feminist drama that centers on Diana, a middle-aged mother, as she takes on the identity of an 1812 war hero to explore her identity and sexuality. A few years back I did a lot of research on Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry for the Dartmouth Digital Library Program, and I started to wonder what would happen if I mapped that incredibly structured, masculine world of the 1800s Navy onto 2017. "Diana" is actually the name of one of the ships that Perry captured in the war... I thought, what if Diana captured Perry? And the result is this crazy romp that mounts the Battle of Lake Erie in a bedroom, transforms awkward meetings into sweeping waltzes, and involves swashbuckling with a Swiffer sword. I'm incredibly lucky to be working with Fresh Ink on this piece--Josh and I are having a lot of fun with it, and I'm absolutely in love with my cast and team. Shout-out to Wilbury Theatre Group in Providence and the Norwood and Watertown libraries for hosting readings of the piece as it grew.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  LOTS. My play Cap, or, El Limite peels off the rhetoric hiding the U.S. education system and tells the stories of four students and teachers over one unusual school day. It's a nine-character behemoth with an exuberant chorus that tackles the phenomenon of charter school expansion. (You can read my current draft on NPX here.)

My youngest play is The End Will Hurt, which tracks three generations of women through their digital lives on Facebook, on the Food Network, and in video games, respectively, as they deal with the matriarch's upcoming death. The youngest daughter blurs the lines between her video games and her real life, with dangerous consequences.

I've also been commissioned by OperaHub to write the book of TRUNK SHOW!: A Fashionable Fantasia of Women on the World Stage, a pastiche play with opera that weaves together the lives of past opera divas with questions that are crucial to our society in 2017. Stay tuned--TRUNK SHOW! premieres in Fall 2017.

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

A:  I basically grew up in the town library as a kid. This has had the effect of shifting my ideas of geography to center entirely around libraries. Any town or city I visit, I'll find the library--and anyplace I live, if someone asks me for directions, I'll probably use the library as a reference point. Free books call my soul.

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

A:  Representation and the need for gender parity. Seriously, if playwrights and actors of color had more space and audience to tell stories--and if at least 50% of all stories on our stages were coming from female playwrights--this country would be in a better place.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Caryl Churchill, David Henry Hwang, Lila Rose Kaplan, Charise Castro Smith

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theater that is ambitious--plays that make the audience embrace suspension of disbelief. I'm intrigued by plays that contain multiple worlds, whether that's magical realism or parallel timelines. I'm also a huge fan of woman-driven stories, plays that include multiracial families, and plays that utterly defy stereotype or genre.

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

A:  Ask for what you want. Nicely, of course. There are so many fantastic theater makers out there who are looking for their next collaborators and/or are happy to give you a leg up. Outline your goals for yourself and then take specific actions to achieve them, whether that's getting coffee with a friendly artistic director or hosting a reading of your own new script.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Playwrights who live in New England: submit to Fresh Ink Theatre! They're brilliant (but they only take subs once a year in January, so put it on your calendar for 2018). Come see Don't Give Up the Ship this February and I'll introduce you to the excellent artistic team.
Also, for folks who are trying to figure out the giant ongoing performance that is our political state right now, I'm grateful to the new site The 65 for a different sort of script.

NPX: https://newplayexchange.org/users/1933/laura-neill

Home site: http://laurajneill.wixsite.com/home

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