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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 14, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 952: Nora Sørena Casey

Nora Sørena Casey

Hometown:  Santa Monica, CA

Current Town:  New York

Q:  Tell me about your upcoming show.

A:  False Stars is a unique show for me as a playwright: I was commissioned by The Pack’s Artistic team—director Jenny Reed and movement director Samantha Sheppard—to collaboratively create a show loosely inspired by the idea of “genius” (what does it even mean, who gets to fit that description). We assembled a design team and a cast of performers who were interested in working collaboratively and who felt that in some way their identities were underrepresented in theatre.

After a weekend workshop where we all traded ideas about genius, identity and theatre, I went away to begin to create characters and a story framework for the show. Over the course of the last year, we’ve worked in all sorts of collaborative models—from physical devising work to TV-style pitches to workshops with full design elements­­—to build the world of the play and refine these characters together. The result is a darkly funny drama about a group of individuals who have come together at the deathbed of a dying man, each seeking validation before it’s too late.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I’ve got a one-act play called Resistance Training in the Women in Theater Festival that’s going up on June 21. It’s part of an evening of plays with Lia Romeo and Barbara Blumenthal-Ehrlich that take place on the day after Trump’s Inauguration. Mine involves a lot of passive-aggressive workout moves.

I’m also writing an adaptation of The Orestia that takes place in a modern American living room. I was inspired by the fact that Aeschylus’ Agamemnon takes place outside the house, so this play looks at everything that happens inside, which just happens to be a modern American living room. I’m interested in mixing the epic Greek archetypes with the iconic portrayal of family from American sitcoms to explore how ideas of violence and family change over time—or don’t.

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 remember being in pre-school and swinging by myself one morning singing my favorite songs from Sgt. Pepper’s. When playtime was over, one of the teachers turned to me to say, “Nora, you're such a good singer!” I was like, “you can hear me?!”

I’d completely forgotten about the rest of the world.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Lynn Nottage, with her incredibly, unrelenting curiosity, and David Henry Hwang, who makes me believe that’s it’s possible to be both wildly original and inspired and also intellectually rigorous as a writer. I’ve learned so much from both of them while studying at Columbia. I also have a real soft spot for Harold Pinter and for Naomi Wallace. I remember first reading The Trestle at Pope Lick Creek and thinking: I didn’t know we could do stuff like this, but I want to.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theater that makes the audience use their imagination. I’m always trying to figure out what things work uniquely well on stage: strange double-casting, putting a character in two places at the same time, or using language to transform what we see. I’m endlessly intrigued by what a flexible space a stage is, and I love work that makes the most of that.

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

A:  Get behind the scenes. While I may not have always been thankful at the time, I think the hours I’ve spent hanging lights and striking sets have done a lot to help me understand all the resources we have available when we make a play. Understanding other people’s artistry also helped me build respect for my collaborators, and what I’m asking them to do when we bring a script to life.

For instance, I once wrote a play with a fireplace in it. When we went to perform it, we found the perfect freestanding stove—all we had to do was lug the giant metal thing up four flights of stairs. I carried it up with my director, cursing the playwright the entire time.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  False Stars, part of the Corkscrew Festival at the Paradise Factory Theatre, Aug. 18 – 27.


Resistance Training at WiT Festival on June 21.

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