Tuesday, July 25, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 966: Holly Hepp-Galván




Holly Hepp-Galván

Hometown: Glen Cove, NY

Current Town: New York, NY

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I’m thrilled to have several projects going on at once! I’ve just finished co-writing a play called Guarded which is an adaptation of a novel by Angela Correll. It’s premiering at Pioneer Playhouse in Danville, Kentucky. And if you’ve never heard of this theatre, then you should put it on your radar! They are Kentucky’s oldest outdoor theatre and have been continuously producing plays for 68 years.

In August, I’m premiering Sex with Robots at New Perspectives Theatre Company. I’m very proud to be a member of their 2017 Women’s Work LAB. Six of us have developed new 30- minute plays around the theme “Unhinged” and will have a week of performances from August 7– 12th .

Finally, I’m working on another draft of Lakshmi Counts Her Arms and Legs. It’s based on the true story of Lakshmi Tatma, a girl born in rural India with eight limbs. Many villagers came to worship her because they thought she was a reincarnation of a goddess, but doctors argued that she needed to have the extra limbs surgically removed.

This play explores questions that have always haunted me. Whether it’s extreme cultural differences, or faith versus science - I’m fascinated by how human beings can see the world from such different points of view. What does it mean to think you are right? And is there ever a side that is right?

I also keep coming back again and again to the relationship of our bodies to our selves. What we look like and how we are viewed, as opposed to how we feel inside. I’ve explored this in my play Oddities, about a bearded lady, and in Departure, where a teenager suddenly grows a pair of exquisite wings. Is being different a gift? Or a curse?

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 grew up fascinated by animals and insects. If I could catch it and bring it home, I did. I had jars and jars full of strange bugs that I loved to keep. And since I didn’t have books to look up the names of things, I took very careful, detailed notes to describe what each creature looked like, how it acted, what it ate, and sadly, when it died. I had to write descriptively, but I also waxed poetic about the beauty of living things in the way only a 9-year- old can. I started writing from a deep sense of wonder and that’s something I try to keep to this day.

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

A:  I would love to change people’s perception of Theatre for Young Audiences! It’s so often perceived as an inferior or less sophisticated version of adult theatre. However in my experience, the TYA community is doing some of the most dynamic, creative, and original work on stage today. I’ve had such positive experiences working with 52nd Street Project here in NYC, as well as the Long Island Children’s Museum. In Austin, Texas, I’ve had the good fortune to work with the incredible Pollyanna Theatre Company. Pollyanna not only commissions playwrights to create 5-7 new plays per season, but they do big, beautiful and imaginative productions. I just returned from seeing the opening of my Playing Possum at The Long Center.

I’d love to see more companies take the bold step of commissioning new works for children.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  When I saw War Horse at Lincoln Center, my world turned upside down. I somehow never realized the unlimited and creative potential of puppetry. Since that time, I’ve dived head first into this brilliant art form, both as a writer and as a performing puppeteer. I’ve been amassing books on the history of puppetry, taking workshops, and sitting front row at as many shows as possible. Working with puppets has expanded my idea of what’s possible in theatrical storytelling, both for children and adults. It is a uniquely inspiring and magical art form.

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

A:  Keep yourself in a state of wonder. Seek out those experiences that astonish and amaze you.

Look through a microscope. Look through a telescope. Hold a large, multi-colored, scary-looking beetle in your hand. Go to an art museum. Go to a junkyard. Wherever you can, look for the things and the people that fill you with awe. That’s when you will create your best work.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Sex with Robots – New Perspectives Theatre Company – August 7 – 12 th , 2017 – Program A
http://www.newperspectivestheatre.org/productions/UNHINGED.htm

The Hairy Ape – Hunter Puppet Project – August 30, 2017 – Hunter College
http://www.hunter.cuny.edu/theatre/productions

Lakshmi Counts Her Arms and Legs – September 5, 2017 at 7pm
Staged reading with Wide-Eyed Productions at Downtown Art – 70 East 4 th Street, NYC
http://www.wideeyedproductions.com/

Mysterious Lake – October 29, 2017
Bunraku puppet performance with Izumi Ashizawa in midtown Manhattan
www.izumiashizawa.com/

If Wishes Were Fishes – June 22 – July 1 st , 2018 – Pollyanna Theatre Company – Austin, TX
http://www.pollytheatre.org/production/if-wishes-werefishes/


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