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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 29, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 976: Maureen Brady Johnson

Maureen Brady Johnson

Hometown:Lakewood, Ohio

Current Town: Oberlin, Ohio

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I am working on a monologue play inspired by photographs I have taken of vintage and antique dolls that I have seen at flea markets and antique stores. It has been picked up for publication and I am doing the final proofs. It is titled “Curious Dolls and the Tales They Might Tell”
I have been working on this particular project for over 5 years. My focus with this play is to challenge both performers and audiences alike to think and discuss the real issues behind the doll's tales, issues like loneliness, abandonment, inner beauty, diversity, and strength.
The play will come with a set of photos of the dolls that are speaking to use as a projected set above the heads of the performers and a set of discussion ideas and questions for teachers or directors to use after the audience has seen the performance. I hope to complete at least two more monologue plays using the hundreds of photos I have taken.

I taught theatre for over 30 years and I was always looking for a vehicle for my students that gave the youngsters a chance to connect deeply with a character and have a chance to develop and to showcase their solo and ensemble acting skills. I am hopeful that this script will help theatre teachers to do that for their students using an economical, simple set. I also see this as a production for smaller theatres to tackle some interesting questions in a non-confrontational style. It would be fun to see adults in a production giving voice to these dolls.

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

A:  As I reflect on my drama life, there are so many signs that this was my journey from the very beginning. I think the very first time I saw a production at the Lakewood Little Theatre and the lights were dimming and the play, “The Little Princess”, was beginning, I knew I was hooked.

I think another story that happened when I was older that gave me immense confidence as a writer was when I met Chris Durang at a theatre conference and gave him a copy of my monologue book, “Namely Me” and he actually wrote to me and told me that he had read the book and thought it was quite wonderful. That was a moment when I knew I was on the right path as a playwright. Very grateful to him.

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

A:  To make it less expensive to attend. Theatre is powerful but it must be seen by larger groups of diverse people and it should be more affordable. I would also make Drama and Theatre classes mandatory for students, K thru 12. Drama classes save lives, as do all of the Arts.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  My mentor was my HS drama director, Mary Bill. She was also a playwright and the managing director of what was to become Playhouse Square in Cleveland, Ohio. She wrote and directed plays, saved historical theatres and taught me to aim high and never give up. She gave me my theatre life...and that is HUGE. She also taught me how to balance my professional and personal life as a teacher with a family of a husband and four children. I dedicated one of my books, Middle Mania: Imaginative Theatre Projects for Middle School Actors, to her.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love it when theatre makes you think. I have seen some perfect productions and I love when a production has layers. If I find myself still thinking about a play years later, I know that it will stay with me the rest of my life. At 66 years, I carry a lot of theatre with me.

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

A:  My playwriting teacher (a class I took in my 50's so it is never too late) Linda Eisenstein, told us that you must SEE lots of theatre. She also said to volunteer at a local theatre and learn everything you can about production. It is really good advice. I think learning to listen is incredibly important...and learning to know when to change something when it isn't working. AND write, write, write. My job as a theatre teacher helped me make a living...but I found time to write plays, even if I had to get up at 4 or 5 am.

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

A:  I use a pencil and a legal pad for the first draft...writing on every other line so I can add or scratch out as I go along. Then I transfer it to the computer and edit as I transfer it from the legal pad to the screen. Then I edit it like crazy on the computer...many times...sometimes with input from my husband, who has a great ear for things that aren't working. He was my set designer for years and years. And we are still happily married! Theatre is MAGIC!

Q:  When on computer, what's your font?

A:  Something stark and simple.

Q:  Incredible theatre experiences: 

A:  Two of my short plays, BEATLEMANIA, And STALKING THE BEATLES, won the right to be performed as part of the Ticket to Write Theatre contest in Liverpool, UK. I also was chosen to be a part of a delegation of theatre teachers sent to China to meet with theatre teachers there. Our upper school was chosen to perform in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and it was a life-changing experience for all involved. Along the way, I have made such wonderful friends who share my passion for educational theatre and playwriting.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My books, “Middle Mania” 1 and 2, and my book of monologues, “Namely Me” a collection of monologues based on a person's name, are published by Smith and Kraus, also available on Amazon. “Shoes on the Highway: Using Visual and Audio Cues to Inspire Student Playwrights” is published by Heinemann. My plays are published by Samuel French and Brooklyn Publishers. “Curious Dolls and the Tales They Might Tell” will be available from Brooklyn Publishers next year. If you have a need for any of these, please take a look and support a retired theatre teacher and full time playwright. They make just about the same amount of money.

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