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Aug 30, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 977: Sandy Asher

Sandy Asher

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Current Town: Lancaster, PA (after a 36-year detour to Springfield, MO, where my husband taught history at Drury University and I was writer-in-residence.)

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  "Death Valley: A Love Story," for adults, a tale of love, loss, grief, and recovery based on real-life journals. Also, several plays for youth and family audiences: "Win-or-Lose Stanley"; "Stuff! A Curious Collection," "Chicken Story Time," and "Princess Bee and the Royal Good-night Story," all in various states of development, production, or disarray.

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

A:  My second grade teacher, Mrs. Lomozoff, used to read us excerpts from "Arsenic and Old Lace." I can still see her pretending to blow on a bugle and charging up the aisle toward San Juan Hill. We loved it! She also had beautiful rod puppets that we used to act out the "Blue Willow Plate" legend. She encouraged me to create and perform playlets with my classmates and sent us on tour through the school. I am of a generation that was expected to grow up, get married, and raise children. Period. I did all that, and I'm glad. But my teachers, Mrs. Lomozoff and many who followed, helped me become so much more -- the writer and person I am today.

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

A:  The constant money pressure that causes scripts that feed the soul to be by-passed all too often in favor of those that pay the bills.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  The drama and dance teachers at Allens Lane Art Center Day Camp whose names I've forgotten, but whose spirits have never left me. The late Dan Rodden and Jean Williams, director and choreographer at the La Salle College Masque, who believed in me and taught me so much. And every playwright, director, actor, and designer who has ever filled me with gratitude for being alive, human, and present to witness their work.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  No one kind. I'm open to happy surprises. But I do like the intimacy of a smaller space, and I prefer story over spectacle and actors over special effects.

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

A:  Get inside theaters and get theater inside you. Read and attend plays, of course, but get physically, mentally, and spiritually immersed. Act, sew costumes, paint scenery, sell tickets, usher, sweep, whatever, so you can look, listen, and reflect. Let the art and the business of it seep in through your eyes, ears, lungs, skin. Network, and if I may paraphrase President Kennedy, not by asking what others can do for you but, rather, what you can do for them.

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

A:  Pilot G2 pens of various colors and legal tablet, or pens and printed-out drafts of script. I love to cross out and scribble in.

Q:  When on computer, what's your font?

A: Times New Roman, mostly.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A: My latest full-immersion play for the very young, CHICKEN STORY TIME, based on my picture book of that name, is scheduled for a run at Pollyanna Theatre in Austin, TX, in November, 2017; a tour by Trike Theatre, Bentonville, Arkansas, in March and April, 2018; and a tour by Eastern Michigan University's Theatre of the Young in June, 2018. Also, I've received a grant from the Children's Theatre Foundation of America to develop "American Theatre for the Very Young: A Digital Festival," scheduled to debut via Vimeo on March 1, 2018. A related American Alliance for Theatre and Education symposium will take place here in Lancaster in January, 2019. And more. Details as they reveal themselves at http://sandyasher.com.

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