Tuesday, August 22, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 969: Samantha Charlip





Samantha Charlip

Hometown: Ft. Lauderdale, Florida

Current Town: Brooklyn, New York

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A midwestern ghost story that's both a meditation on relationships and a sort of small town mystery. It's a play that deals with the ghosts of our old loves. The ghosts of our old selves. The ghosts of our choices and the people we once were. It's really warm and fuzzy.

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 young kid, my mom told me a story about a man she met sitting on a bench. He was dressed in a business suit and he sat down next to her. They got to talking and slowly she began to realize he wasn't making much sense. That's when she looked down and realized he wasn't wearing any shoes. He was homeless.

This isn't some kind of parable with a lesson at the end, but it does have a certain sense of the absurd that I appreciate. And it represents something my mom also taught me about perception and deception: Someone doesn't always reveal their true selves until you sit with them a while, look a little closer. It makes me wonder if all of us aren't just sitting next to each other on benches, trying to impress with our suits, but wearing no shoes.

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

A:  I've never been a big fan of "issue theater." Straight-forward plays about popular news stories or public figures. It makes me feel like I'm watching a book report rather than seeing a mirror held up to life. I know there are good plays of this type out there, but these days it feels like all you need to do to get a production is slap on a recognizable name or subject matter.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  Samuel D. Hunter, Lisa D'Amour, Amy Herzog, Anne Washburn, Annie Baker. I love small character-driven plays where the movements are emotional and internal. I think the best plays are those where not a lot happens but inevitably everything changes.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  I'm a pretty excitable person by nature, but the theater that really gets me thinking are these ducks on the water, lots going on under the surface, subtly absurdist plays with unexpected locations and lots of silence. There's so much we say by saying so little.

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

A:  Be observant. Spend a lot of time listening to the way people speak or don't speak. People lie a lot when they talk. They embellish. They play up or down their strengths. They trail off. You could learn so much about a person just by writing down exactly what they say, word for word. Every ellipses. Every hard stop.

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

A:  Crooked scrawled notes on napkins with a pen from my purse.

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A: Samantha Charlip is award-winning New York based playwright and Writer/Producer for television networks including A&E, Turner and Viacom. She is a two-time O’Neill Finalist and has also been recognized as part of the Source Festival, Susan Glaspell Award, Leah Ryan Fund for Emerging Women Writers, Ingram New Works Lab, Athe Award for Excellence in Playwriting, Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship, Princess Grace Fellowship, nuVoices Play Festival, Play Penn and The Kennedy Center, among others. Her play, Futurama, made the 2015 Kilroy’s List of best plays by female playwrights.

Samantha’s plays have been read and produced as part of The NewWorks@TheWorks Festival, Glass Eye’s Fresh Produce’d Series, Obligatory Theatre’s New Works Series, Strange Sun Theatre’s Greenhouse Project, AboutFace’s NEWVember New Plays Festival, Centenary Stage Company's Women Playwrights Series and the Great Gay Play Contest.

Samantha is also a television writer whose pilots were selected as second-rounders in the Sundance Episodic Series Lab and the Austin Film Festival and twice as semi-finalists in Storyboard TV’s pilot competition. She is a graduate of NYU's Tisch Dramatic Writing MFA program where she was awarded the Full Tuition Departmental Fellowship.

https://newplayexchange.org/users/2621/samantha-charlip

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Jack And Jill Plays - Part 6 - You and Me



About Jack and Jill Plays:

I'm going to do something new.  Post a short play every day as long as I can.  This does not mean that I wrote this play today but I might have.  (My life is not always my own what with work and a 4 year old running around so maybe I wrote it today or maybe it was stockpiled in preparation for the days I can't get in writing.)  My goal is to do at least 100 of these or maybe more but probably 45 or 50 is the length of a full length play so even that would be good.  100 would be better.  300?  amazing.  500?  Does anyone want 500 of these plays?  Anyway, the goal is consecutive days.

The normal things about plays apply-- don't produce or reproduce this play without my permission.  I wrote it so I own it.  Etc.



You and Me
by Adam Szymkowicz

(JACK and JILL in bed.  JACK reads.)

JILL
And then I sang a song, Jack.

JACK
What?

JILL
So then I sang a song. The light fell on me and all the hairs on my body stood up and I opened my mouth and the most amazing song came out.

(JILL is standing now in a spotlight, electrified.)

JACK
Okay.

JILL
It went like this:

(JILL sings.)

JILL
ALL MY HATS ARE NEW HATS
ALL MY THOUGHTS ARE GOLD
WE WILL NEVER EVER WANDER
WE WILL NEVER GET OLD
WE WON'T THINK ABOUT THE FUTURE
DON'T DO WHAT YOU ARE TOLD

I AM JILL!

I DON'T CARE ABOUT YOUR SOCIAL NORMS
DON'T GIVE A FUCK ABOUT
ANTI SOCIAL POEMS
DON'T TELL ME WHERE TO GO
I'LL JUST STAY AT HOME

I AM JILL!

(JACK puts down whatever he's reading and stands and sings.)

JACK
THE COURSE OF OUR COARSE LOVE
WAS NEVER FINE TO ME
I CARVED OUR INITIALS
ON EVERY SINGLE TREE
I DIDN'T KNOW WHAT TO DO
TIL YOU TAUGHT ME HOW TO SEE

JACK and JILL
YOU AND ME
LOVING FREE
IN A TREE
S.E.X.T.I.N.G

JACK                                                         JILL
I AM JACK!                                 I AM JILL!


(Blackout)


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Monday, August 21, 2017

Jack And Jill Plays - Part 5 - Dream House

About Jack and Jill Plays:

I'm going to do something new.  Post a short play every day as long as I can.  This does not mean that I wrote this play today but I might have.  (My life is not always my own what with work and a 4 year old running around so maybe I wrote it today or maybe it was stockpiled in preparation for the days I can't get in writing.)  My goal is to do at least 100 of these or maybe more but probably 45 or 50 is the length of a full length play so even that would be good.  100 would be better.  300?  amazing.  500?  Does anyone want 500 of these plays?  Anyway, the goal is consecutive days.

The normal things about plays apply-- don't produce or reproduce this play without my permission.  I wrote it so I own it.  Etc.



Dream House
by Adam Szymkowicz

(An architect's office.  JACK has entered.  he speaks with ARCHITECT)

JACK
Great, so, thanks for seeing me.  So I want you to design a mansion for me.

ARCHITECT
A mansion?

JACK
Like a small mansion.

ARCHITECT
Okay.

JACK
Like a victorian with flourishes.

ARCHITECT
What kind of flourishes?

JACK
Lots of towers.  An indoor pool.  Tunnels.  Secret passageways.  A moat.

ARCHITECT
A moat?

JACK
Maybe not a moat.  Bushes shaped like dragons.  Large steel sculptures.  And in the backyard, Stone Henge.

ARCHITECT
You want me to draw all that up?

JACK
Yeah.

ARCHITECT
And then, you'll build it.

JACK
Someday.

ARCHITECT
I see.

JACK
When the money comes in.

ARCHITECT
I'm not cheap you know.  Even drawing this up will take a lot of time.

JACK
Okay.

ARCHITECT
Maybe you should pay me before I do it.

JACK
Haven't you ever had a dream?

ARCHITECT
Of course.

JACK
This is my dream.

ARCHITECT
Sometimes you can just dream your dream without going to the drafting table.

JACK
I don't think so.  No.  I don't think so.

ARCHITECT
Or you could draw it yourself.

JACK
Maybe.  But I can't really so I called you.

ARCHITECT
Will it be beautiful.

JACK
Of course.

ARCHITECT
I want to make something beautiful  What about fountains?

JACK
I love fountains.

ARCHITECT
I thought you might. What about a courtyard in the middle of the forest? With café tables and gas lanterns?

JACK
Yes!  How about canals like in Venice.

ARCHITECT
Wonderful!  do you like gargoyles?

JACK
Who doesn't like gargoyles?


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Sunday, August 20, 2017

Jack And Jill Plays - Part 4 - Run


About Jack and Jill Plays:

I'm going to do something new.  Post a short play every day as long as I can.  This does not mean that I wrote this play today but I might have.  (My life is not always my own what with work and a 4 year old running around so maybe I wrote it today or maybe it was stockpiled in preparation for the days I can't get in writing.)  My goal is to do at least 100 of these or maybe more but probably 45 or 50 is the length of a full length play so even that would be good.  100 would be better.  300?  amazing.  500?  Does anyone want 500 of these plays?  Anyway, the goal is consecutive days.

The normal things about plays apply-- don't produce or reproduce this play without my permission.  I wrote it so I own it.  Etc.



Run
by Adam Szymkowicz

(JACK is freaking out.  JILL enters.)

JACK
AAAahgh!

JILL
What?

JACK
I'm freaking out!

JILL
What is it?

JACK
What if I never amount to anything my whole life and it's all just a waste?

JILL
What do you mean?

JACK
I'm a failure.

JILL
Yeah but we all are.

JACK
What?

JILL
Everyone you know is a failure, right?

JACK
I know some people who aren't.

JILL
You don't know them that well though.  It's fine.  It's okay to be a failure.  Now.  Tomorrow.  For a while.  It won't be forever, probably.

JACK
But it could be.

JILL
Well you won't know for a while so relax.  Things could get worse.

JACK
I guess.  Yeah.  I guess. I just want them to get better.

JILL
Are you doing anything about that?

JACK
No.

JILL
Do one thing.  Just one thing.  Today.

JACK
Yeah.  I could do that I bet.  One thing.

JILL
Good.

JACK
Why do you have such a handle on this? You should be freaking out too.

JILL
Yeah, I know.  It's just that I ran a mile and I did it pretty fast so I feel pretty good about myself.

JACK
Should I do that?

JILL
No, don't do that.  You'll just fall on your face and then you'll feel worse.

JACK
Yeah.  You're right.

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Jack And Jill Plays - Part 3 - Snake


About Jack and Jill Plays:



I'm going to do something new.  Post a short play every day as long as I can.  This does not mean that I wrote this play today but I might have.  (My life is not always my own what with work and a 4 year old running around so maybe I wrote it today or maybe it was stockpiled in preparation for the days I can't get in writing.)  My goal is to do at least 100 of these or maybe more but probably 45 or 50 is the length of a full length play so even that would be good.  100 would be better.  300?  amazing.  500?  Does anyone want 500 of these plays?  Anyway, the goal is consecutive days.

The normal things about plays apply-- don't produce or reproduce this play without my permission.  I wrote it so I own it.  Etc.



Snake
by Adam Szymkowicz

(JILL stands over a dead snake holding a shovel.  The snake is in two pieces.)

JILL
Jack!!  Ja-ack!

(JACK enters.)

JILL
I killed this snake.

JACK
I see.  Was it--

JILL
I didn't like how it was looking at me.  Is there a rattle?

JACK
It's a-- I think it's a garter snake.

JILL
It looks poisonous.

JACK
Maybe.  I don't know.  We can look it up.

JILL
You could make boots out of it.  Don't people make boots out of snakeskin?

JACK
I'm no cobbler.

JILL
Or like a fanny pack or something.

JACK
Sure.  Maybe.  Or maybe we just chuck it out back.

JILL
It's fresh.  We could eat it.  Wanna look up how to cook it?

JACK
No, I don't want to do that.  My brother was arrested.

JILL
Oh.

JACK
Again.  Drugs.

JILL
I'm sorry.

JACK
It's fine.  I'm going to go back inside.

JILL
Should I cook this?

JACK
Please don't.  I'll make pasta.

JILL
Okay.

JACK
Or something.  I'm glad the snake didn't hurt you.

JILL
Me too.

JACK
Come inside?

JILL
In a bit.

(JACK exits.  JILL looks at the snake.)

JILL
Not today, snake.  Not today.


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Friday, August 18, 2017

Jack And Jill Plays - Part 2 - See



About Jack and Jill Plays:


I'm going to do something new.  Post a short play every day as long as I can.  This does not mean that I wrote this play today but I might have.  (My life is not always my own what with work and a 4 year old running around so maybe I wrote it today or maybe it was stockpiled in preparation for the days I can't get in writing.)  My goal is to do at least 100 of these or maybe more but probably 45 or 50 is the length of a full length play so even that would be good.  100 would be better.  300?  amazing.  500?  Does anyone want 500 of these plays?  Anyway, the goal is consecutive days.

The normal things about plays apply-- don't produce or reproduce this play without my permission.  I wrote it so I own it.  Etc.



See
by Adam Szymkowicz

(JACK and JILL are standing knee deep in snow.  It is snowing lightly.  They look at each other but say nothing.)

JACK
He'll come back.

JILL
What if he doesn't?

JACK
He'll get hungry.  He has to eat.

JILL
What if he was hit by a car or what if he just lied down and froze to death.

JACK
I guess.  I don't know.  Why would he do that?

JILL
Hypothermia?

JACK
Yeah.  I told you we should have gotten a goldfish.  A goldfish wouldn't do this.

JILL
You don't see me.

JACK
What?  Where's that coming from?

JILL
It's like you know I'm here but you don't see who I am.

JACK
I know you.  I've known you for a long time.

JILL
You don't see me.

JACK
Okay, but no, you're wrong.

JILL
Do you think I have an addictive personality?

JACK
Only when you're depressed.

JILL
I see you.  It's not fair.

JACK
Spot!  Spot!  He'll come back.

JILL
I'm not losing another one.

JACK
Spot!

(THEY stand there looking at each other.)

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Jack And Jill Plays - Part 1 - Purpose


About Jack and Jill Plays:

Today is my 40th birthday.

I'm going to do something new.  Post a short play every day as long as I can.  This does not mean that I wrote this play today but I might have.  (My life is not always my own what with work and a 4 year old running around so maybe I wrote it today or maybe it was stockpiled in preparation for the days I can't get in writing.)  My goal is to do at least 100 of these or maybe more but probably 45 or 50 is the length of a full length play so even that would be good.  100 would be better.  300?  amazing.  500?  Does anyone want 500 of these plays?  Anyway, the goal is consecutive days.

The normal things about plays apply-- don't produce or reproduce this play without my permission.  I wrote it so I own it.  Etc.




Purpose
by Adam Szymkowicz

(JACK enters carrying a bucket.  He tries to hand it to JILL.)

JACK
Here you go.

JILL
What's that?

JACK
A pail.

JILL
A pail?

JACK
A bucket.

JILL
What's it for?

JACK
We could carry water in it.

JILL
For what?

JACK
I don't know.  Things.

JILL
I'm not going to drink water from your bucket.  I have water glasses.

JACK
Or we could keep things in it.

JILL
Like what?

JACK
All sorts of things.  Nuts and bolts.  Snakes.  Chains.  Water.

JILL
Okay.  Just put it somewhere I won't notice it.

JACK
It'll be really useful sometime.  I promise.

JILL
Yeah, okay.

JACK
What's wrong?

JILL
Do I have a purpose?

JACK
Sure.  Sure you do.

JILL
What is it?

JACK
Oh I bet there are lots of things you do every day.

JILL
Yeah but to what end?

JACK
Like a mission statement?

JILL
Or something.

JACK
We can come up with one.  Come with me.

JILL
Where?

JACK
Up the hill.  I want to fill up this bucket.  Make sure it doesn't leak.

JILL
Okay.  We'll find out what my purpose is.

JACK
Yeah, totally.  We'll both find our purpose.  Purposes.  Purposi.

JILL
No.

(They exit with bucket.)

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Tuesday, August 08, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 968: Pete McElligott




Pete McElligott

Hometown: Lemont, IL.

Current Town: Brooklyn, NY.

Q:  Tell me about In a Little Room:

A:  I used to work in the radiology department of an emergency room when I was younger, and the thing I remember most about it was how it was simultaneously way too real and yet incredibly unreal. Way too real in that there is death everywhere with a little bit of birth and at least one Starbucks. Just incredibly unreal in that most people there have had their lives stopped. "I broke my ankle!" "My kid ate a poisonous plant!" "I think I'm having a baby!" All the patients and friends and family are just frozen in this strange purgatory of mortality where their life is not in their hands anymore. It doesn't feel like anywhere else. So I wrote a comedy about it! Which is to say, I wrote a story about what happens when two strangers who have both suffered a great loss bump into each other in a waiting room and try incredibly hard to act like normal human beings. They don't succeed. And it's kind of sad. But it's also really absurdly funny.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm working on an adaptation of Three Musketeers for The NOLA Project in New Orleans. I've adapted Alice in Wonderland and Don Quixote for them and both were a blast so I'm really looking forward to it. I've also written a ten-minute play that's about to get a production at the Stella Adler Studio. It's about how Santa Claus is actually an 18 year old girl. I had a lot of fun writing it so I'm excited to see the actors have fun with it.

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

A:  First off, I'm a twin. Which probably explains a bit of me. I remember when my twin brother and I were very little and we were convinced that at some point we were going to be forced to be married. I don't know why we became convinced of this, but we did. Clearly this was the way the world worked. People were born in pairs. One magically transformed into a woman. They got married. The cycle continued. That was fact. So we would argue over which one of us was going to be transformed into the woman. Imagine two five year old twin brothers, convinced of the certainty of this world, arguing vehemently over why the other one was the one that had to be magically transformed. That's pretty much what my brain as a writer looks like. I pick a topic, hand those five year olds the imaginary circumstances, and then just transcribe their passionate discourse.

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

A:  The audience's expectation of it.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I'd say the biggest one is probably Tom Mula. My parents were pretty fantastic in terms of making sure that I got out of the basement and actually did something with myself as a kid. And every year they would take us to see A Christmas Carol at The Goodman Theater in Chicago. And every year we went it was Tom Mula playing Scrooge. And that guy was just so good. And I remember the year we went and it wasn't him anymore. And I remember walking away thinking, "There is an art to this. Because that wasn't good." It was the first time that I actually started to think beyond just good and bad and start to think about why. What was it that Tom Mula did that this new guy didn't do? Or was it the director? Or was this a different adaptation? The following year we saw "Jacob Marley's Christmas Carol," a one man show written and performed by Tom Mula. Seeing that show and seeing James Sie's adaptation of "The Snarkout Boys and the Avacado of Death" pretty much started my career as a very young writer. They were just too creative and fun for me to not want to join in.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I think of theater the way I think of food. Seeing a movie is like watching Food Network (and I love Food Network). Seeing bad Theatre is like going to a Wendy's. It's a guilty pleasure with no focus on experience (and I say that as someone who loves Wendy's). Great Theatre is like a fancy restaurant. They're thinking about the audience's palate. What's happening now is meant to change how you reflect on what happened before and what's about to happen next. They're trying to communicate something. They make sure that the audience is getting different flavors, different colors, and most importantly they're trying to get the audience to experience things they know, or think they know, in a new way. So to finally answer the question, theater that excites me is theater that plays like a tasting menu. It challenges my assumptions a little, it gives me something I'm unfamiliar with, gives me something that I'm excited for, and it offers me something I may or may not actually like. All building towards a specific experience. And maybe it comes with wine.

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

A:  I wrote two plays right out of college. One that was for me and one that I thought would get produced. The one that was for me had an insane plot and impossible stage directions and would have cost a lot to produce has been produced across the country. The one that I wrote because I thought it was producible hasn't.

Q:  Plugs, please: 

A:   Come see "In a Little Room" at the Wild Project starting September 9th! It is my wife's favorite show of mine. And she's a woman of very good taste. Tickets are available at www.tenbones.org. And if you're in the New Orleans area next summer, Three Musketeers is going to be a pretty funny adventure. Keep an eye on The NOLA Project. www.nolaproject.com

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