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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...

Oct 21, 2018

I Interview Playwrights Part 1008: Daryl Lisa Fazio





Daryl Lisa Fazio

Hometown: Starkville, Mississippi 

Current Town: Atlanta, Georgia

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Two projects. One is LADY OF THE HOUSE, a play for one actor (the audience is the other character; this isn’t a monologue or memoir play—it unfolds in real time, and the audience is critical in that unfolding, not because they have dialogue or duties, but because they are present in the room). It’ll have a developmental workshop at Actor’s Express in the spring. It’s set in the future. It’s mysterious and theatrical and funny. It’s about revolution. But mostly it’s about life and death and female rage and empathy and the transcending power of art. Just, you know, the easy, everyday stuff. It’s my soul response—rather than a political one—to what’s going on the country at the moment. Not in a didactic way, but more of a visceral one. Geez, that sounds pretentious.

And the other play is SAFETY NET—it’s what I’m working on in my residency at the Alliance Theatre this year. It features three women in small-town Alabama coping with the opioid crisis. The main character is a fire chief and first responder. The others are her mother, who is in chronic pain, and a friend from her childhood, who is in recovery from heroin. I’m a strong believer in putting-ourselves-in-someone-else’s-shoes as a way to fix, well, pretty much everything. So this play sets out to educate in some ways, but mostly to create empathy for people struggling with addiction.

In both cases, I’m working on the plays as an actor as well.

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

A:  Lordy, I don’t think I’ve got one tidy little story. It’s such a piling on of little moments I’m STILL recognizing. But it’s all about the south. It’s all about being a woman in a place where family and femininity are paramount. Where high expectations come from within because they’re not really coming from without. And I’m talking about the cultural landscape, not my home. Both my parents were college professors (big formative factor for me as writer/human), and they made sure I knew there weren’t any limits.

So my plays all feature strong women bucking systems while also trying to find connection. Using humor where maybe it’s not considered appropriate (I mean, as far as I’m concerned, it’s ALWAYS appropriate). Being “non-feminine,” whatever the hell that means. Not necessarily having traditional relationships or female family roles. But making their OWN families and roles in ways that are truthful to who they are.

Also, many of my plays are set in the south because I’m still trying to figure out what that place is. The wondrous things about it, and also the things that made me run away from there as soon as I graduated high school. Its bull-headed conservatism and lyrical language and kindness and passive-aggression and air thick with religion and heat and beauty and song and food and complicated-as-hell race relations. Its literary ghosts. Its real ones. And how the world outside of the Deep South thinks they understand what they never can.

Notice that, though I ran away at 18, in my 30s, I came back. And I ain’t left since.

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

A:  To have it be more inclusive of “the masses.” Theatre has such a capacity to change hearts and minds. To introduce complicated ideas in a way that makes us not shut down but actually run out and want to learn more. To show us all how similar we are, rather than different. But audiences are a tiny percentage of the make-up of the country. The world. I wish we could tell our stories to EVERYONE.

I know plenty of theatres are working with their own ideas on how to make that happen—lowering prices, creating community engagement, trying to use hip marketing platforms and throw theme nights and events.

How do we make theatre not feel like this separate, exclusive thing, though? I don’t think it’s with gimmicks. I think we have to do even better at telling stories that show ALL people we SEE them and VALUE them. And to have more people in the plays AND the audience who look like them.

And also, you know, we need to prove to them that theatre’s funny and wild and accessible and relevant and inclusive and different from both Netflix AND old-timey Shakespeare.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  The THEATRICAL kind. That’s number one. Take advantage of the medium, the space, the magic, the immediacy.

But AWESOME STORYTELLING also excites me, and that can be in a living room.

Ultimately, though, I just feel like a piece in the theatre should ONLY be able to happen in the theatre.

Magical realism has gained popularity in recent years, and when that’s done well, that is f**king life-changing. I saw the theatricalized version of Brief Encounter at St. Ann’s Warehouse back in 2010, and here we are going along rather naturalistically, a man and a woman meet, and there’s a connection and attraction. And then THE MAN SUDDENLY IS LIFTED OFF THE GROUND AND FLIES INTO THE AIR as a physical expression of his soul. Honestly, it changed so many things for me as a writer, that moment.

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

A:  

* There are no shortcuts for hard work. If you don’t love spending time with yourself and words, find something else to do. Because Lawd knows you aren’t going to get rich from it. And there will be a lot more heartache and disappointment along the way than there will be success and fulfillment. But if you can fulfilled simply from solving a tough moment in a script, and there’s no one but the cat to celebrate with you in that instant, and you still feel a rush and giddy sense of artistic growth and accomplishment, this is the life for you. If you can’t NOT write plays, this is the life for you.

* I have made playwriting my side hustle. My main hustle is graphic design for professional theatre. That’s how I’ve made 90% of my contacts and how I got three of my plays produced and how I pull all this off without an agent. I feel having playwriting as my side gig also keeps me from hating it when it’s hard or punishing or I get a bad review. Because I can take a psychic break from it.

* TAKE BREAKS.

* SEE THEATRE OF ALL KINDS.

* MAKE FRIENDS WITH ACTORS AND HAVE THEM OVER FOR TACOS AND TO READ YOUR DRAFTS ALOUD.

* BUILD RELATIONSHIPS with theatres. Get to know their missions, their audiences, their successes and failures, their tendencies, their artistic staff (even if that’s not personally, but just in terms of who they are and where they’re coming from). Then choose places you feel like you and your work could thrive. Then write plays with those places in mind.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Public reading of LADY OF THE HOUSE is in April. That’s all that’s officially on the docket at the moment. Expecting at least one production in the 2019-2020 season. God, those dates just made me feel the weight of the end of the world. Or is it the beginning?
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