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1000 PLAYWRIGHT INTERVIEWS

1000 Playwright Interviews The first interview I posted was on June 3, 2009.  It was Jimmy Comtois.  I decided I would start interview...

Sep 30, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 1000: C. Denby Swanson



C. Denby Swanson

Hometown: Austin, TX

Current Town: Austin, TX

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A Sloan/EST science-play commission called NUTSHELL, a one-woman show about Frances Glessner Lee, who is considered the “mother of forensic science.” She built the Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death, these precise miniatures of crime scenes, which are housed at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Baltimore and still, as Frances intended, used to train homicide detectives. I’m also writing a memoir and TV pilot about my first year as a foster parent. I fostered for five years and adopted my son in 2014.

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 kid, like 6 or something, I was visiting my maternal grandparent’s house in East Texas, and a family friend came over. She was an opera singer. I thought she was quite glamorous. She asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up and I wanted to impress her so I said that I wanted to be an actor. My grandmother got angry and told me I was NOT going to be an actor, I was going to be a journalist. And I thought, Oohhh, if I grow up to be an actor it will make her mad! THAT IS SO COOL. Now I MUST be an actor. I went to HSPVA, the arts magnet high school in Houston. Then I was a theater major in college. My intention was to be an actor. My grandmother died my senior year. That’s when I found out that she had toured East Texas doing productions of Shakespeare. When she married, she gave it up and never spoke about it again. And I am actually a writer.

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

A:  More yes.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Caryl Churchill, Irene Fornes, Adrienne Kennedy. And then Suzan-Lori Parks 365 Days/365 Plays. What kind of theater excites you? Small, intimate, unexpected, physical, impossible theater. The company I worked for in the 90’s, Frontera@HydePark Theater, did a production of Naomi Iizuka’s POLAROID STORIES, and I felt spiritually renewed every time I saw it.

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

A:  My 7th grade science teacher, Mr. Cole, urged us to observe 10 things a day. Which I still do. Other than that, I heard someone ask Suzan-Lori Parks how to start a play and her answer was just, you know, “Start.” Start. Do it. Say yes.

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

A:  I like the Miquelrius journals with graph paper and a fine-tipped blue ink pen. I doodle a lot and draw lots of arrows. 

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

A:  I used to experiment with fonts but then I became a parent and now don’t have the time or energy to mess with anything other than Times New Roman.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My “killer comedy” THE NORWEGIANS is available through Dramatists Play Service. And I have several plays for young people available through Playscripts. I just finished a workshop of a new play I’ve been working on with Stephen Bittrich and David Marantz, a one-man holiday-themed dark comedy called I AM MY OWN SANTA, which received Seed Support from ScriptWorks, the Austin playwright services organization. We’re working on some production options. My new one-act for young actors, THE SUBSTITUTE TEACHER’S TALE, is being produced this fall in Dallas. I wrote the play for the students of a former student of mine about my high school English teacher, Mrs. Catley, and her love of the Canterbury Tales. I like the legacy of writing about an important teacher for a student who is now a teacher with students of his own.

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11 comments:

Steph F said...

Congratulations to both of you! #1000

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