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1100 Playwright Interviews

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Oct 3, 2022

I Interview Playwrights Part 1114: Emma Goldman-Sherman


photo by Melinda Hall @snappynyc

Emma Goldman-Sherman

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Current Town: New York City

Q:  Tell me about FUKT.

A:  FUKT was written in a few days from a prompt from Aaron Sawyer when he was the AD at Red Theater Chicago and ran the Write a Play a Day for the month of November back in 2017. For anyone who has forgotten what happened in October of 2017, a lot of women came forward in the news with histories of sexual abuse, and the world questioned their veracity.

I like to write fast, especially hard material, and then revise slowly. I think it's important to get to the end of the arc and then figure out what's missing. It feels more honest, unconscious and unplanned. The prompt was "Self as Villain, No 4th Wall." Most of the play just fell into my head the minute I opened the prompt on October 31st. The first reading was November 9th at the Dramatists Guild Foundation with the 29th Street Playwrights Collective. I was afraid if I didn't get it into the world in front of some colleagues, I would hide it away forever.

FUKT is a dark comedy about my own personal journey healing from traumatic memories. It's meta and immersive. It sits between Slave Play and What the Constitution... I developed it with New Circle Theatre Co and Dixon Place. I appreciate all the love it gets on NPX. FUKT was a finalist with BAPF and Unicorn. I'm producing it at The Tank in NYC this fall. It will live-stream and be live in person. So anyone can have access. October 27 - November 13th.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I'm working on a commission from Experimental Bitch about the history of medical misogyny. Tanya's Lit Clit is a phantasmagorical musical - a comedy with ballet and burlesque - about autoimmune disease and how women, especially Black women, are mistrusted by the medical establishment. I'm also working with EmptyRoomRadio.com on Tamar (The Two-Gated City) about raper culture in the Bible, in particular about a woman who isn't heard in court.

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 fell in love with theatre early. As an abused autistic child with chronic illness, I took everything literally. So when I saw TinkerBell healed from collective applause, I realized, and fully believed, and still believe today, that theatre holds a kind of magic that gives audiences agency to create our own transformations. I had to find a way to do that.

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

A:  Access! Who gets to tell the stories that create the culture we live in? Who gets to decide who gets to tell these stories? I am part of a lost generation of women who are never taken seriously by the gatekeepers. Lit managers look right past me. It's extremely disheartening. I'm a member of the advocacy organization Honor Roll! to try to change how older female artists are seen. If a theatre takes public funds, it should have a mandate to represent the lived experiences of its public. Why must we watch the same revivals over and over again? How does that provoke change?

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  too many

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theatre that is conscious of its audience. We have enough walls and screens between us.

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

A:  Find a supportive community! Join me in www.BraveSpace.online

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  
MORE ABOUT FUKT: https://www.fukttheplay.com/
GET FUKT TICKETS: https://ci.ovationtix.com/35658/production/1138125
More about Brave Space https://www.bravespace.online


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Jul 26, 2022

90 New Monologues




I tried writing some new things the last couple of years. The jury is still out on what will happen to the YA novels I wrote. But another thing I tried was writing new monologues. For about three months last summer I wrote a monologue most days in the morning.


Most of my plays have monologues in them and there has been a steep uptick in the past five years in the number of actors doing my monologues in auditions and acting classes.


I thought I would lean into it and put even more monologues in the world. So I wrote these 60 monologues and I sent it to applause and they liked it and asked me to write some more. And I did. So now there are 90 or so monologues collected in a book coming out in early 2023.


And it is now available for preorder. So maybe you know an actor or an acting teacher who would like it. Maybe you could ask your local library for it. Maybe you could buy a bunch of copies and donate them to a theater program.


Anyway, pitch over. I'm super happy about this and proud of it and glad it worked out. If applause said no, there aren't a lot of other publishers of monologues, so I'm feeling very lucky. And I'm sure this isn't a moneymaking endeavor. It's the theater person's version of writing a bunch of poems. So more than anything it feels like I wrote this gift for you. (Although the book does cost money.) But I think you'll like it. And I love the cover.


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Jul 7, 2022

I Interview Playwrights Part 1113: Isaac Byrne




Isaac Byrne

Hometown:

Oh, I grew up moving constantly. If you get count all the times I lived with extended family, I think I moved about 21 times by the time I was 18. I was born in Riverton Wyoming, but I grew up mostly in Louisiana and Texas. If I had to pick a “hometown” it would probably be Austin, Texas. Good music, easy vibes, and great breakfast tacos.

Current Town:

I live up in Holmes NY, but I’m in NYC constantly.


Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  Too many things!

I’m in the middle of directing Under the Dragon’s Tail, four short plays written by….me! It’s terrifying and exhilarating to be putting myself out there like this. I’ve been developing new plays for almost 20 years now as a director, but this step feels like skydiving into the abyss. I wrote these plays in Erika Phoebus’ playwriting class (it’s incredible!) as a series of exercises in between working on full length plays. As I worked on each of them, I started to realize I was writing about the grief, loss, and the absolute comic absurdity of the last 4 years of my life. What started as unrelated little scenes grew into these interrelated, funny, and frequently scary examinations of mental health and emotional coping mechanisms in extreme circumstances—both physically and emotionally.

I’m rewriting my first full length play, Outlaw Wedding, which was inspired by my mother’s illegal lesbian wedding in Texas eleven years ago, which had drag queens, Muslims, and some local religious and police interference. That play used to feel like a bit of a period piece, and I’m sad to say it’s starting to feel unsettlingly timely again.

I’m also finishing up the first draft of a wild fever dream comedy about a group of actors trying to rehearse Miss Julie and Doll’s House over and over again—Think a satirical 15 Minute Hamlet/Noises Off that explodes into a haunted house of misogyny, revenge, and buried ghosts.

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 7 years old, I convinced a group of would be bullies to leave me alone because “I knew karate!” I scared them off, and they left me alone. I didn’t know karate, but I had watched Karate Kid a lot. I guess I was pretty convincing. They were the tough older kids, and they harassed everyone in the neighborhood. But they left me alone after that. That was when I realized that sometimes a make believe story could save your life.

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

A:  Oh, so many things should be changed. Stop making artists jump through so many hoops just to work. Someone who writes a great artist statement, isn’t necessarily the best playwright. Look past the “best schools” and look at the actual artist. I’m so sick of classist gatekeeping. I guess that’s the main thing for me. I didn’t come from a well to do family. I didn’t go to an Ivy League school. There’s a lot of long overdue upheaval and shift today towards a more diverse group of theatre artists, and I am all for it. But I still don’t see economic class being part of that change. We need to shift how theatre gets made, and make sure it’s not just a new different looking group of trust fund kids that get to make theatre.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I love Lanford Wilson and Marshall Mason. I got to meet both of them. 16 years ago, I stood outside of Phebe’s with Lanford and talked theatre with him for hours one night while he bummed cigarettes off of me and told stories about Cafe Cino. It was amazing. Right now, Jackie Sibblies Drury is writing on another level. Every play she writes blows my mind a little. I love Anne Washburn’s weird strange plays, they’re so deeply satisfyingly…unsatisfying. I love them.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  Risky theater is what I love. When the audience starts to look around at each other with wide eyes and a real sense of danger in their body. Whether if it’s because something is emotionally dangerous or because there’s a new wild idea happening in front of us that disrupts what we think we know.

When a play feels like it’s dangerously close to careening off the rails, that’s when I fall in love with it.

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

A:  Write the thing that scares you. The scene that you write that you think will embarrass you and make everyone hate your play? That’s where the good stuff is. Write the thing that you’re scared will ruin your play. It’s where you’ll find the real heart of it. And if no one is producing your work, produce it yourself. Find a way. Don’t let other people decide your career for you.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Under the Dragon’s Tail opens at the Matthew Corozine Studio Theatre July 20th and runs till August 14th.

Snakes, mythological heroes, cosmonauts, self help, and philosophy collide and hijinks ensue!

You can find out more about it here at www.theatre4thepeople.org

Or just buy tickets here!

https://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/5487859

Also take Erika Phoebus’ writing workshops!



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Jun 8, 2022

I Interview Playwrights Part 1112: Jake Brasch





Jake Brasch


Hometown: Denver, CO

Current Town: New York, New York

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  This morning I cleaned the freezer. It was the most difficult project I’ve taken on in quite some time. A haunting expedition into the land of questionable past choices. Impossible to chart the dramaturgy of the thing. Harrowing.

Pre-freezer, I’ve been spending the bulk of the Spring hacking away at three pieces: I’ve been working on OUR TEMPEST with The Farm Theater’s College Collaboration Project. It’s a piece about Climate Change, queerness, and the perils of devised theatre. I’ve also been developing THE RESERVOIR with the EST/Sloan project, a super personal piece about Alzheimer’s disease, addiction, and what, if anything, we can do to prevent or recover memory loss. I just completed and shared the first draft of SPIN, a play I wrote with the Arthouse INKubator group. It’s a kaleidoscopic piece about reincarnated owls, birthday party clowns, the scarcity mentality, and Jewish mysticism.

I’m currently chewing on a nascent idea for a play that is about Bernie Sanders and apricot farming.

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

A:  At four years old, I staged a 90 minute “Oklahoma!” on my rocking horse. I wore a cowboy hat and Barney underwear, nothing else. My grandma played Aunt Eller, but I played the rest of the characters. You should have seen my one person dream ballet; I went so hard I broke a lamp. My parents filmed the whole thing and at several points you can hear them trying to rush me along, especially during a painfully under-tempo “Poor Jud is Dead.” I stubbornly persevered.

My auntie says I was born a 40-year-old gay man. My AOL Instant Messenger username was NathanLaneRules. Embarrassing beyond belief, but explains a lot.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theatre that scrambles you, that doesn’t allow itself to be classified, that has you laughing and crying and shaking your head in disbelief. I want to be surprised. I want real risk. I want plays to be journeys into the unknown rather than thesis statements. I want playwrights to build exquisitely weird structures that miraculously work. I want questions rather than answers. I want pain, humor, and heart all at once.

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

A:  Write. Don’t be precious. Write a bunch of bad plays. Write your way into your voice; don’t try to think your way into it– it won’t work. Focus on language, not ideas. Follow the flow. Surprise yourself. Make yourself laugh. Let the play sneak up on you.

Invite people to your apartment to hear a play you haven’t written yet. Lose your mind trying to write the play. Almost cancel the play reading several times. Miraculously finish a draft. Become painfully unsure of said draft. Share it anyway. Hear what you’ve written. Feel seen. Repeat.

Write write write stop reading this and write.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Have you tried Angie’s Boom Chicka Pop Kettle Corn??? I am in no way affiliated, but it’s so unbelievably good so here’s a huge plug for the snack to rule all snacks. It’s in a purple bag and at most grocery stores. Best advice I can give.

I share work often in NYC, especially with Youngblood at the Ensemble Studio Theatre and The Farm Theater. For the next couple years, I’ll have a chance to share work at Juilliard as well!

For up to date plugs, you can visit jakebrasch.com. To read my plays (and then produce them!) you can visit https://newplayexchange.org/users/36675/jake-brasch

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May 22, 2022

I Interview Playwrights Part 1111: Nia Akilah Robinson




Nia Akilah Robinson

Hometown: Harlem, NYC.

Current Town: Harlem, NYC.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  A play surrounding Black History Month in a New Jersey High School.

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

A:  Dancing with my parents. I will never forget it. I have to keep up with them (even still).

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

A:  Community events inspired by the show… While the show is in production?

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Currently (as of May-2022) & for vastly different (specifically personal) reasons.

Keith David
Robbie McCauley
Beah Richards
Tanya Saracho
Kit Yan
David Henry Hwang
Lee Sunday Evans
Zainab Jah
My Parents


Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:   for us to fill out.
------- theater in which------we hope----____________ gets--------to experience------____________


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

A:  
-there’s always something happening.

-if you can/ explore new landscapes.

-you are brave, new playwright.

Maybe (after research/ consideration) join a writer’s group (or ten)?!

Maybe (after research/ consideration) create a writer’s group (or ten)?!

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Please listen to my EST Youngblood podcast episode of Ebony & Nakeshia!


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Apr 12, 2022

I Interview Playwrights Part 1110: Steve Harper




Steve Harper

Hometown:  I was born in Brooklyn, NY. And we lived there (in Fort Greene) until I was 5. I grew up on Long Island.

Current Town:  I currently live in Inglewood, CA - which is just outside of the city of Los Angeles (and in Los Angeles county). It’s where the Super Bowl was this year.

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I’m working on few things (I’m always juggling a few things). Several years ago, I collaborated on a piece (two monologues) - I wrote one - about police profiling black people. The play is called Black Lives / Blue Lives. I kept writing and now my monologue has morphed into several others (based on interviews) with police officers and black people (and black police officers). So, now there’s an entirely new piece comprised of the new monologues. The play doesn’t have a name yet. It’s fascinating to dive into this kind of intersectionality on an issue like this. I’m excited to see how it develops and how it lands on audiences. I’m also working on a new (original) piece for TV that I can’t really talk about yet. I’m developing a few other TV things that will hopefully see the light of day. And there are a few plays that are waiting in the wings, haunting me.

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 went to Catholic school as a kid - my father was Catholic and we were raised that way even though my mother was Episcopalian but never went to church. Mom was (and is) obsessed with true crime and serial killers as well as horror novels (Stephen King was her favorite). So I was always fascinated by the notion of what was lurking around the corner - things / beings / entities we could see and things we couldn’t see. I zeroed in on what I call the invisible things. And today, I write about those things (sometimes there are ghosts and spirits in my work, sometimes it’s about race or sexuality or politics or religion). At one point, maybe in 4th grade, I went through this period where I was always telling on my older brother when he did something a bit sketchy (my brother had a rebellious streak and I was a rule follower). At the time I thought I was saving his soul, though I was really just annoying him. (And he stopped hanging out with me because of it). But I think it was also me trying to be transparent - to tell the truth about what was happening. I’m still trying to do that - tell the truth about stuff - in what I write. (Hopefully the results are entertaining and not as annoying as I was in 4th grade.)

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

A:  More diverse storytelling and more opportunities! I was an actor before I was a writer, and I remember being in acting class and trying to find scenes with parts that I would actually get cast in. But we were doing all those “classics”: O’Neill, Miller, Williams, Chekov. Solid plays, but not a black person in sight. We still recycle those classics - and it makes American theater more challenging for students of color and professional actors trying to make a living. That’s one of the reasons I wanted to put out an anthology of short plays - to give those actors and artists some fresh material with diverse characters. It is much better now thanks to some amazing playwrights of color, but it’s not solved. It’s still pretty easy to find those classics recycled and new plays by white writers with few diverse roles. And, as a black playwright, there are only so many opportunities. A theater may have one person of color slot - so we all have to fight to get that one slot. And we’re fighting with the talented prominent black writers. One slot and they have to choose among Lynn Nottage, August Wilson, Dominique Morriseau and lesser known writers (like me). It’s challenging to find those opportunities.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  I think Lynn Nottage is amazing. Her plays are so visceral and moving. And they are so different. I’m a big fan of Angels In America - Tony Kushner has so much going on in his work. There are a handful of writers: Lorraine Hansberry, Katori Hall, Richard Greenberg, John Guare, Suzan-Lori Parks, Tarrell Alvin McCraney, Charles Fuller (who is a cousin on my mother’s side). I met James Baldwin when I was in college (I was in a production of his play The Amen Corner). I didn’t know that much of his work then, except that play, but read a ton of his writing later - and it floored me.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I like theater that makes me feel something. And makes me think deeply about my life. I grew up watching so many kitchen sink plays - and I dig the realism, but I want to have some magic, too. And people of color. And furniture. I’m not a fan of plays where the director takes all the furniture out and makes the actors mime things and imagine the world around them. I want to see walls!! Nothing too abstract and heady. I want to SEE the world and the people and get the resonance when they bump up against each other. I guess I enjoy seeing American homes - the ones that have people of color in them. I’m a fan of plays that feel like they’re happening in someone’s living room and you’re just eaves dropping on their joy and their agony.

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

A:  Find your peeps. Make stuff. Don’t wait for people to put on your plays. Do it yourself. The system is broken. You’ll repair it by giving yourself permission to reinvent. And be gentle with yourself and each other. Find ways to nurture yourself. Everything happens little by little and there’s only one you. And then - teach. Anything you learn is something that you can pass on.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  My new anthology: A Few Short Plays to Save the World is coming out (May 1st) published by Laughing Panda Press (and available all over). My two-monologue play: Black Lives / Blue Lives (written with Bill Mesce Jr.) is being presented by The Theater Project in New Jersey for community groups and schools. My play Urban Rabbit Chronicles will receive its world premiere at Georgia Southern University April 20th - 24th. 


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