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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...

Jun 14, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1049: Carole Real





Carole Real

Hometown: San Anselmo, California

Current Town: I’ve lived in LA for twenty years but am moving back to New York City in the fall.

Q:  Tell me about your play in the EST Marathon. 

A:  The play follows a temp worker in a large corporation who is charged with the task of reading foreign factory audits. Spoiler: the factories are not great places to work. The play is both funny and disturbing.

Q:  What else are you working on now? 

A:  My latest project attempts to channel my feminist rage. Tall order!

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 fifteen, I got a job as a lab assistant for my high school Chemistry class—meaning I washed beakers for a few hours a week. The high school sent me paperwork I had to sign to get paid and one document was a declaration that I was not a member of the Communist Party. I showed it to my folks and they told me it was a holdover from the McCarthy era. I didn’t want to sign it, so I looked up the phone number for the ACLU and phoned them to ask them if I had to. The ACLU lady explained that the political climate wasn’t right to challenge this practice in the courts and advised I sign the document. I want to go back and give sixteen-year-old me a high five and a hug for knowing that requiring employees to sign such a document was wrong and calling the ACLU on my own!

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

A:  I would have all companies produce an equal number of plays by women and men and produce playwrights who reflect the demographics of the city where the theaters are located.


Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Tennessee Williams, Sarah Ruhl, The Lilly Awards and everyone who helps run a theater anywhere.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  Anything that makes me feel.

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

A:  Get smart actors to read your plays aloud.

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:  Nothing for me, but check out this new initiative to broaden the scope of theatrical criticism: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/janejung/3views-on-theater

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Jun 13, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1048: Megan Monaghan Rivas




Megan Monaghan Rivas

Hometown: I was born in Charlottesville VA but my family moved before my first birthday, so I didn't get the accent (alas).

Current Town: After a very nomadic life, I live in Pittsburgh PA now.

Q:  Tell me about Three Musketeers: 1941.

A:  It's a very free riff on Dumas' classic, with a plot built largely from historical research about the French Resistance. Set in Occupied Paris, the play focuses on a five-person Resistance cell composed entirely of women and girls. The arrival of two strangers catalyzes change - some tragic and some heroic. It was commissioned by Project Y Theatre for their Women in Theatre Festival, which runs the length of this month (June 2019) at the ART/NY Gural Theatre on West 53rd St.

Q:  What else are you working on now? 

A:  I teach in the School of Drama at Carnegie Mellon University, so right now I'm gearing up for my summer teaching there. In about three weeks, a hundred teenagers will arrive to spend six weeks trying on conservatory life - studying theatre full time, living in the dorms, etc. I always enjoy them. I'm also developing a book idea exploring the conundrum that dramatic literature shows us the worst in human nature as well as the best - but tends to rely on the worst for conflict, our lifeblood. I was inspired by an actor I've worked with a couple of times, who offhandedly mentioned that at age 21 she had already played two roles professionally that required her to portray an attempted or actual rape. How many more would she portray in her career? What earns that emotional as well as physical labor? And how would she sustain her wellness through that repetition of trauma? Further, what is it doing to/for an audience? These are the questions I'm wrestling with.

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

A:  I'm the second of five siblings, all very close in age - the eldest is only eight years ahead of the youngest. (My mother is a superhero.) Moving through life as part of a tightly knit pack who automatically turn to one another when the going gets tough, positioned me to understand the Musketeers.

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

A:  The economics. I'd make it the standard practice to pay all theatre workers living wages, guarantee retirement and health insurance for all in the industry, and settle for nothing less.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Very early in my career I connected with the great American dramaturg Morgan Jenness, who was then running the Helen Merrill Agency. I still say I want to be Morgan Jenness when I grow up.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theater that lifts off from realism and flies. Marcus Gardley's plays are a great example of this - they are grounded in profound truth, but live fearlessly in mythic and poetic dimensions.

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

A:  The same advice I have for all early-career theatre artists: make lots of work with lots of different people. The more work you make, the more you'll have to share with interested folks, and the more chances you'll have to pique folks' interest. The more artists you collaborate with, the more advocates you'll have (as well as having more folks to advocate for yourself). Don't get hung up on making one thing perfectly - engage yourself with making many things as well as you can.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  The Women in Theatre Festival is showcasing the work of more than 15 women theatre-makers for the rest of this month. Tickets can be reserved here. Also, it's Pride Month - if you're in NYC on June 17, go see the legendary Jomama Jones host the QUEER & NOW forum in the Delacorte Theatre in Central Park.


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Jun 12, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1047: Larissa Marten




Larissa Marten

Hometown: Born in San Francisco. Grew up in Jersey. College in Michigan.

Current Town: New York, NY

Q:  Tell me about I Killed the Cow.

A:  The development process for I KILLED THE COW began 4 years ago with a set of my own journal entries. In these entries, and what can be said for the original thesis for I KILLED THE COW, I wanted to do two things: work through my own sexual assault and prove my hypothesis of how people are shaped by their past partners. Those journal entries took various forms; drawings, bits of dialogue, articles I found. I taped the various pages to the walls of my apartment in Berlin, Germany, where I was living at the time, and formed the scene structure for the first version of I KILLED THE COW.

25 performances and a dozen drafts later, myself and the director of the show have crafted I KILLED THE COW to serve a far different purpose than the one we originally set out with. Because we quickly learned that we didn't want to continue performing the show in traditional theater settings. If we were going to talk about sexual assault we needed to stop preaching to the choirs of New York audiences who were mostly agreeing with us.

Now, the show has been crafted to fit in a suitcase in order to tour across the country using humor and metaphor to talk about sexual assault. The show tours to businesses, non-profits, and educational institutions, furthering understanding in the realm of sexual assault by combating misinformation and stigma. Through the performance and post-show talkbacks, I KILLED THE COW opens up digestible conversations about sexual expression and violence.

Since I perform the show as well, it's definitely tested my adaptability as an actor. I've performed the show in conference rooms, outside, in living rooms, and just about anywhere where a group of people can sit comfortably for an hour. But with the majority of the show breaking the fourth wall, it brings me the utmost joy to interact with people from all walks of life and unite as we move toward a more constructive understanding of the causes of sexual violence.

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

A:  I was horrible at sports growing up but I was forced to do all of them. I could end this right here and I feel like that would explain enough. I could never wrap my mind around why we were being competitive about a ball made out of rubber. I'm a competitive person, but I'm more analytical than I am competitive which was my first flaw in the sports world.

One day I was on the field for a little league soccer match. I always played defense because you had to stay behind the midway line when your team's offense had the ball on the other side. Not as much downtime as goalie, but not as much pressure. You know I analyzed all of this to get that perfect position.

My teammates were playing superbly that day and were on offense for minutes at a time. I laid down to take a break. I remember looking up and noticed the curvature of the Earth for the first time. It was in that moment that I realized how small we are and how much of the universe there is to explore. Yet here we are chasing rubber. Since then, I've always wanted to explore it all. And I'm pretty sure that's why I'm in the arts.

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

A:  Accessibility. I want to create work that generates community and promotes accessibility. In the age of black mirrors, these ideals sit almost opposite on the spectrum. However, finding the common ground between seemingly paradoxical notions is the crossroads for innovation.

In projects for the screen, progress in accessibility has been continual. Today the latest films, TV, and new media content are available through streaming services. However, this progress in accessibility has conversely led to a decline in community. Societally, we hide behind devices companionless while watching the latest projects, instead of joining communally for screenings.

In projects for the stage, community is strong. Across America, regional pockets surrounding theaters frequently gather to watch the latest shows. However, accessibility is at an all-time low in the theatre. Audiences are maturing faster than they’re being replenished by younger generations, largely because ticket prices have sky rocketed. With the national debt high and the average income below age 35 low, it’s no wonder why Millennials and Generation Z would rather spend their money on Netflix and Hulu. Or just use someone else’s password.

Community and accessibility are common cravings. They are vital for our survival. However, in order to have both, compromise will be necessary. And the theater needs to be more accessible.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  People who find theatricality in the everyday. Taylor Mac. Erykah Badu. Caryl Churchill.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The kind of theatre that figures out how to be accessible without sacrificing craftsmanship.

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

A:  Don't listen to advice. Trust your gut.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  If you're interested in bringing I KILLED THE COW to an organization near you, please get in touch at www.ikilledthecow.com or @ikilledthecow across social media. Follow me on social media @larissamarten.

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Jun 11, 2019

Upcoming Productions of My Plays

PRODUCTIONS


Production #1 of The Wooden Heart
Lafayette, LA
Opens September 6, 2019.

Clown Bar 2
Production #1 of CB2
Majestic Rep
Las Vegas, NV
Opens May 20, 2020

Production #9 of Kodachrome
Actors Bridge Ensemble
Nashville, TN
Opens July 12, 2019.


Production #21 of Marian
Spirit Gum Theatre Company
Winston Salem, NC
Opens October 11, 2019.

Production #22 of Marian
The Breck School
Golden Valley, MN
Opens March 5, 2020


Production #36 of Clown Bar
Prohibition Hall
Kansas City, MO
Opens July 5, 2019.

Production #37 of Clown Bar
Elon University
Elon, NC
Opens October 3, 2019.

Production #38 of Clown Bar
University of Wisconsin,
Stevens Point, WI.
Opens November 8, 2019.

Production #42 of HLF
Edinburgh, Scotland
Opens August 3, 2019.

Production #43 of HLF
Anchorage, AK
Opens Sept 19, 2019.

Production #44 of HLF
Christopher Newport University
Newport News, VA.
Opens April 3, 2020.


Production #22 of Nerve
The Elephant British Pub
Adelaide, Australia
Opens June 5, 2019

Production #23 of Nerve
Bootstraps Comedy Theater
Dallas, TX
Opens July 12, 2019


Production #7 of Rare Birds
Unit 14 Theatre Company
Highland Park, IL.
Opens July 18, 2019.

a night of short plays

Production #33 of 7 Ways
Auburn Community Players
Fiskdale, MA
Opens July 12, 2019.

Production #34 of 7 Ways
Fountain Central Jr-Sr High
Veedersburg, IN
Opens November 22, 2019

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Jun 10, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1046: Kate Attwell





Kate Attwell

Hometown: London, UK

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about your play in the EST Marathon. 

A:  Jesus in Manhattan - I guess what feels most important to me to say, is that I want to investigate the notion of radical love, and what that could really mean for the world.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I have a premiere of my play, Testmatch, coming up at A.C.T. in the fall directed by Pam McKinnon, so there's that. Then I'm working on a musical that's a mashup of a recent news story and Medea, and a new play about the female characters from an old play trying to get vengeance for what happened to them, and another one about bears.

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

A:  I think I'd want to change the way we think about audience. I worry sometimes about the tendency of theatre and theatre companies to turn inward. To be a little clique-y. I also worry about ticket prices. Always and a lot.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I think Tim Etchells and Forced Entertainment toppled what I had thought theatre could be, at a young moment when I really needed that to happen. There's a liveness and a playful politics to their work that makes me understand presence in an emotional way, and that I still return to. Then there's Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping. I think I'm drawn to anything that teases the distinction between the stage and the world; that plays with the falseness of it all.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Any theatre that makes you want to rush and tell someone what JUST HAPPENED.


 

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Jun 4, 2019

I Interview Playwrights Part 1045: Harron Atkins





Harron Atkins

Hometown: Detroit, MI

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY

Q:  Tell me about your play in the EST Marathon.

A:  Dominick is secretly in love with his best friend. But is the feeling mutual? Fed up with the pain of harboring this secret and plagued by his need to know the truth, Dominick decides it's time for some answers. Lucky for him, there's an app for that. ;) Tempo is a play about love and longing and friendship and lots of candy corn.

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, I would recruit my friends to have full out Pokémon battles during recess, ask to be excused from class for a bathroom break that would turn into a Harry Potter-esque exploration of our "ancient" school building to uncover it's magical secrets, and sit for hours on the phone with my best friend reviewing our plans to break into abandoned buildings in Detroit and banish the supernatural spirits inside...

I think I longed for escape and adventure. Longed to access the rainbow-colored truth beyond my black and white reality. As a theatre artist, I'm still searching for that deeper truth. I still believe that there is magic in the world and in humans. And I'm still out here recruiting folks to band together, get into creative spaces, and find ways to tap into it.

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

A:  I'd make theatre more financially accessible.

Theatre should not be an elitist art. Houses should not be filled almost exclusively by upper-class white patrons.

Quality theatre should be available to everyone because theatre serves everyone.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Ntozake Shange, Tarell Alvin McCraney, Lynn Nottage, Dominique Morisseau, George C. Wolfe

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I am passionate about new voices (especially those of marginalized people) being represented on stage.

I am excited by art that takes risks and challenges audiences to re-think what theatre can do and be.

I love seeing elements of fantasy, horror, and sci-fi explored on stage. I geek out.

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

A:  Write. Write write write write write. Carve out time for yourself to sit down and just write. Make that time YOUR time and do not abandon it. You have to take yourself seriously and make writing a priority. Show up for yourself. If you can wake up for work at 5am to clock in as a cog in the machine of someone else's dream, then you can wake up at 5am to make your own dreams come true.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  On June 19th at 7pm, I have a public reading of a new play of mine in Youngblood's Bloodworks series at Ensemble Studio Theatre. Come on out! It's free!

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