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1100 Playwright Interviews

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Oct 10, 2015

I Interview Playwrights Part 797: Sofya Weitz

Sofya Weitz

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Current Town: Brooklyn, New York

Q:  Tell me about LADY.

A:  LADY is a play loosely based on Countess Elizabeth Bathory, a powerful woman in the 1500s in Hungary who allegedly killed over 600 young girls and bathed in their blood to preserve her youth, making her the most prolific serial killer in history. My play takes an anachronistic approach, looking at her last days with her two remaining servants. It's a power play, exploring the lengths we go to for beauty, sex and power, and really revolves around these three characters and the way they destroy and rebuild each other, with some blood in there of course.

Q:  What else are you working on now?

A:  I am helping my boyfriend (Will Arbery, who is the director of LADY) produce his short film, Your Resources, which is really exciting. I recently started a new play about women who have been executed in the U.S. I'm also working hard on revisions for my play The Gleaming which I developed with Steep Theatre in Chicago. Finally, I'm developing a television series that deals with a Jewish American family living in modern day Berlin and explores the mounting anti-Semitism in Western Europe.

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

A:  What immediately came to mind is that between the ages of 8-10 or so, if my family had our friends over for a holiday or dinner or party, I would spend the whole afternoon previous planning a performance for all the kids who would be attending. One year, I remember I wrote a short play, cast every kid I knew was coming, made separate binders for each of them with their scripts, designed costumes and the set from what I could find around the house, basically forced them to rehearse and learn their lines when they arrived, directed and blocked them, and ultimately performed for all the parents. I'm pretty sure the play was about a writer who wasn't spending time with her friends and they devised ways to try to get her to come outside and hang out with them. Oh, and I played the writer.

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

A:  The main things I want are in some ways a contradiction. I want theatre to be able to be accessed by everyone. I really want to contribute to diversifying audiences, in many different ways. I want non "theatre" people to see and love theatre; I want everyone to be able to afford to see the shows they want to see and have access both tangibly and ideologically (by offering up varied viewpoints). And on the other end, I want people who care about contributing to the theatrical world to be able to be paid for what they do, to afford to make art, and to be able to make that a large part of their livelihood.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  My professors from my grad program at Northwestern University that I finished this past June with my MFA really inspire me. Rebecca Gilman, Zayd Dohrn, Thomas Bradshaw, Brett Neveu. They're all continuing to contribute so vastly to the theatrical world all the time, but remain inspiring teachers and mentors. I am drawn to that authenticity; they are all doing what they do not only incredibly well, but they are doing it unapologetically, consistently, pairing hard work with unique talent and passing those skills and that advice to us. I also have been completely obsessed with Charles Mee's plays (especially his Greek adaptations) for many years, and I love the work Beth Henley does (I wrote my first play for her class at my undergrad, Loyola Marymount University.)

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love theatre that feels immediate, that takes risks and assumes the intelligence of its audience and characters. I love rawness and a feeling of pressing importance, which doesn't always mean a contemporary show. For instance, I saw Luis Alfaro's adaptation of Medea in LA last month and was so inspired by the fresh blood he pumped into that story, which I already loved on its own. Alternately, I just saw The Flick and am consistently impressed with Annie Baker's ability to challenge her audience's attention spans and make this magnificently beautiful piece of theatre in a collection of small but incredibly tragic moments. I crave authenticity when I see plays and I love theatre that uses all its elements to pull me out of my own paradigm and experience for a couple hours.

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

A:  Make your own work. Put it up yourself, however you do it, do it as best you can, and get people there. People are always more excited about coming to see something than reading pages. But more importantly, it will keep you excited about the work you're doing and keep the momentum moving forward. It's so easy to get burnt out with rejection, but as long as you always have something you're working on, it doesn't feel as crushing. And if you're making it yourself, it feels more real, and that's even better.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Come see my new full-length play LADY at the American Theatre of Actors running from October 28th-November 1st as part of the 2015 Araca Project! Sex, beauty, violence, blood, power play, existential questions. All the good stuff. You can get tickets at https://www.artful.ly/lady.

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