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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...

Mar 27, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 920: Lauren Wimmer

Lauren Wimmer

Hometown: Milwaukee, WI

Current Town: Pittsburgh, PA

Q:  Tell me about Divorce Party.

A:  Melanie and Eugene, a freshly divorced couple, decide to throw a party to prove to their friends they are truly happy to disastrous effects. Parties are interesting to me as a playwright, because they are escapes from the real world where everyone's all smiles so I wanted to explore what happens when those facades are tarnished and we start to see these people for who they really are. The play employs surreal elements that will consistently surprise the audience as these friends forge new relationships with each other and themselves. I began writing this play during my senior year at Sarah Lawrence. My writing up until that point veered toward morality plays reminiscent of Arthur Miller. Before I graduated, I wanted to stretch the boundaries of my writing and this was a large step in a completely different direction, almost in a different universe. I'm inspired to write plays by an image, or a tableau and I write the play around it. How do we get to, or how does the play surround that image? With this play that image was a smiling person holding a cake with only the word "Happy" frosted on it. So that catapulted this play forward and, four years later, I am thrilled to have Cave Theatre Co. produce it.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  Many things. Maybe too many things, but I don't think that's possible. Attending Carnegie Mellon's School of Drama where I'm pursuing my MFA, I have written more than I could ever imagine. I also have a ten minute play "Everything You'll Miss In Minutes," heading into rehearsals in April as part of Theater Masters. The play takes place in a chair lift so that's been a fun challenge. I am also working on other plays with elements ranging from baby dolls to hand models and child prodigies to a Christian children's television show to a drama set in a college dorm room.

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 don't have a particular moment, but I was the quietest child growing up. I would see how long I could go without talking at school like it was a competition with myself. Some days I wouldn't talk at all in public. By choice. At home, as my family can attest, it was a very different story. So, I think that made me interested in exploring our private selves versus public selves. And I also noticed being a shy kid that I was easily forgotten by teachers and classmates so I'm also drawn to people on the outskirts.

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

A:  I would swap out quite a few of the Shakespeare festivals and put New Works festivals in their places. This way we could discover bold, diverse voices and maybe even the next Shakespeare.

Q:  Who are, or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I distinctly remember reading How I Learned To Drive by Paula Vogel my first year in college. I was struggling in my first playwriting class as I tried to imitate the Tony-winning family dramas around that time. I thought about quitting and it was reading Vogel's play that I discovered so many things. It showed me how you could handle dark subject matter with humor while not diminishing the trauma associated with it. I then read Edward Albee, Ionesco, Maria Irene Fornes, Beckett, Joe Orton, Christopher Durang, Caryl Churchill, Suzan-Lori Parks, John Guare, and Nicky Silver, whose writing was also influential to me during my college years. Currently my theatrical heroes are, but not limited to, Annie Baker, Branden Jacobs-Jenkins, David Henry Hwang, Mark Schultz, Jenny Schwartz, Erin Markey, Duncan Macmillan, Simon Stephens, and Ike Holter. I am also drawn to theatre ensembles like Kneehigh, The Debate Society, and The Civilians.

Q:  What kind of theatre excites you?

A:  Theater that keeps me guessing, that causes me to think about something in a different way even if I may disagree with the position the playwright takes. Theatre that I don't forget about a week later.

Q:  What advice would you give to playwrights starting out?

A:  Submit your plays everywhere. Be persistent. Read and see plays, even readings of plays. Have a trusted friend, or family member with a law degree look over contracts from theaters. As far as writing goes, if your brain is telling you not to write something, you should write it. Also, I think this is common problem for many writers starting out, never apologize for your writing. Be your work's greatest advocate.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Divorce Party
Produced by Cave Theatre Co. at UNDER St. Marks
4/21-5/7: Friday & Saturday performances at 8pm, Sunday matinees at 3pm
Tickets are $20 and available at cavetheatre.org

Theater Masters' National MFA Playwrights Festival
At Theater For The New City
5/2-5/6 at 7:30pm
Tickets are $18 and available at theatermasters.org

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