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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...

Feb 5, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1023: Sanaz Toossi

Sanaz Toossi

Hometown: Irvine, California

Current Town: NYC & Southern California

Q:  Congrats on P73! What do you plan on working on during your fellowship?

A:  Thank you! I’m planning on finishing my commissions with the help of the wonderful people at P73.

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 five, I was completely enchanted with our Lysol air freshener. It was my favorite toy. It was this beautiful teal with little illustrations of gardenias on the can and it smelled so, so good. So one day, I sprayed it directly into my mouth.

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

A:  Okay, so this isn’t theater’s most pressing issue but it’s something I think about often so I’ll pretend your question was “if you could change something about theater": I wish we would expand the way we think about intelligence. Kindness is intelligence. Emotional honesty is intelligence. Intelligence is not only knowing the canon and knowing Aristotle. Intelligence is also knowing when there’s lying on the page.

Quiara Alegría Hudes’ piece in American Theatre Magazine a few months ago encapsulated this perfectly: "Remember how glorious that was—immersion in an experience you didn’t necessarily understand? Why do grownups cling to “getting it”? What a small, unadventurous parameter for experiencing art."

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Heidi Schreck (for teaching me a lot about what honesty looks like in a play)
Mona Mansour (for her intelligence; for writing a Middle Eastern play and defining her own parameters of what that is supposed to look like)
Leila Buck (for being a badass)
Heather Raffo (for infusing immigrant stories with poetry and beauty)

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I know this sounds weird but I’m really interested in theater that leaves you shaking in your seat. And not because you’re hungry or terrified. I went to a reading of FALLING DOWN THE STAIRS by Mona Mansour and Tala Manassah at the Atlantic last summer and something about it left me shaking. More of that.

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

A:  I am pretty fresh-on-the-scene so take this with a grain of salt, but I think you should put all your eggs in one basket: give your whole heart to one play. Be with that play for a long time. Make that play as close to yourself as you can, and make it really good so you can blast it out and feel okay about rejections. Don’t build a portfolio just yet. You have a whole career to build a body of work.

Plugs, please: I would really like to plug MAIA. Not only are they a great resource for MENASA artists, but they’re a fantastic resource for institutions that might want to engage with MENASA work but maybe don’t know how. Don’t be scared of Middle Eastern work!

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