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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...

Jun 7, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 948: Laura Stratford

Laura Stratford

Hometown: Belmont, Massachusetts (20 minutes west of Boston)

Current Town: Chicago, IL

Q:  Tell me about Number Nerds.

A:  Numbers Nerds is the story of four very different high school girls (and one boy) who love math for reasons as distinct as their personalities, and the challenges of overcoming their differences to succeed as a team. With the help of their under-employed drama-teacher-turned-janitor, they tackle stage fright, stereotypes, cliques, and college pressures as they journey from Waukesha, WI to New York for the National Math Championship. There are songs, for which I can't accept credit, and jokes, for which I can.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm working on a new musical about two sisters and a harp made from the breastbone of a murder victim and strung with her hair who attempt to discover and bring to justice the murderer. Some light musical fare.

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 is video evidence of me as a four-year-old running around my house for over an hour singing one continuous song about the adventures of Wendy and Peter Pan that I made up as I went along. Ever night before I fell asleep, for at least 18 years, I'd tell myself stories, usually based on movies I'd just seen or books I was reading, that would continue the story in what was essentially mental fan fiction. I've always loved telling stories, and incorporating music however possible.

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

A;  Funding for the arts. We have so many talented artists who just want to create new work and it is so challenging to make a living as an artist. Proper funding would also allow for more venues to participate in the development process, which, especially for a musical, is often long and intensive.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I'm an English major and a nerd myself, so Shakespeare has to be on the list. I love thinking about the hustle that the Queen's Men undertook, running their own theater while somehow also producing masterwork after masterwork. More currently, Tom Stoppard, Stephen Sondheim, Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Lisa Kron and Jeanine Tesori, and future-best-friend Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I'm excited when I see theater that is uniquely theatrical--a piece that needs to be on stage and wouldn't work the same in another medium. I love the emotional intensity and connection that you get when a real human being, experiencing real emotions, is speaking or singing in the same room as you.

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

A:  Get started and give it a shot. Work with your friends. Do readings in your apartment, or in a park, or at a coffee shop with a friendly barista. Don't wait for someone to hand you an opportunity, because while you wait, other people are doing the work and learning and getting better. It's all make-believe, so go ahead and play, and even a little bit a day adds up over time.

Q:  Plugs, please.

A:  I have to shout out to my collaborators, Alex Higgin-Houser (lyrics), David Kornfeld (music), and Dylan MarcAurele (additional music). Numbers Nerds will be performing at the New York Musical Festival at the Peter Jay Sharp Theater from July 19th-23rd, and I'll be the tall brunette biting my fingernails in the back row. Also, anyone in Chicago should check out Underscore Theatre Company and the Chicago Musical Theatre Festival, for which I am Executive Director and Executive Producer, respectively.

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