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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...

Aug 22, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 969: Samantha Charlip

Samantha Charlip

Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Current Town: Brooklyn, New York

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A midwestern ghost story that's both a meditation on relationships and a sort of small town mystery. It's a play that deals with the ghosts of our old loves. The ghosts of our old selves. The ghosts of our choices and the people we once were. It's really warm and fuzzy.

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

A:  When I was a young kid, my mom told me a story about a man she met sitting on a bench. He was dressed in a business suit and he sat down next to her. They got to talking and slowly she began to realize he wasn't making much sense. That's when she looked down and realized he wasn't wearing any shoes. He was homeless.

This isn't some kind of parable with a lesson at the end, but it does have a certain sense of the absurd that I appreciate. And it represents something my mom also taught me about perception and deception: Someone doesn't always reveal their true selves until you sit with them a while, look a little closer. It makes me wonder if all of us aren't just sitting next to each other on benches, trying to impress with our suits, but wearing no shoes.

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

A:  I've never been a big fan of "issue theater." Straight-forward plays about popular news stories or public figures. It makes me feel like I'm watching a book report rather than seeing a mirror held up to life. I know there are good plays of this type out there, but these days it feels like all you need to do to get a production is slap on a recognizable name or subject matter.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  Samuel D. Hunter, Lisa D'Amour, Amy Herzog, Anne Washburn, Annie Baker. I love small character-driven plays where the movements are emotional and internal. I think the best plays are those where not a lot happens but inevitably everything changes.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  I'm a pretty excitable person by nature, but the theater that really gets me thinking are these ducks on the water, lots going on under the surface, subtly absurdist plays with unexpected locations and lots of silence. There's so much we say by saying so little.

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

A:  Be observant. Spend a lot of time listening to the way people speak or don't speak. People lie a lot when they talk. They embellish. They play up or down their strengths. They trail off. You could learn so much about a person just by writing down exactly what they say, word for word. Every ellipses. Every hard stop.

Q:  When not writing on a computer, what's your go-to paper and writing
utensil?  When on computer, what's your font? 

A:  Crooked scrawled notes on napkins with a pen from my purse.

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A: Samantha Charlip is award-winning New York based playwright and Writer/Producer for television networks including A&E, Turner and Viacom. She is a two-time O’Neill Finalist and has also been recognized as part of the Source Festival, Susan Glaspell Award, Leah Ryan Fund for Emerging Women Writers, Ingram New Works Lab, Athe Award for Excellence in Playwriting, Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship, Princess Grace Fellowship, nuVoices Play Festival, Play Penn and The Kennedy Center, among others. Her play, Futurama, made the 2015 Kilroy’s List of best plays by female playwrights.

Samantha’s plays have been read and produced as part of The NewWorks@TheWorks Festival, Glass Eye’s Fresh Produce’d Series, Obligatory Theatre’s New Works Series, Strange Sun Theatre’s Greenhouse Project, AboutFace’s NEWVember New Plays Festival, Centenary Stage Company's Women Playwrights Series and the Great Gay Play Contest.

Samantha is also a television writer whose pilots were selected as second-rounders in the Sundance Episodic Series Lab and the Austin Film Festival and twice as semi-finalists in Storyboard TV’s pilot competition. She is a graduate of NYU's Tisch Dramatic Writing MFA program where she was awarded the Full Tuition Departmental Fellowship.


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