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1100 Playwright Interviews

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Sep 4, 2017

I Interview Playwrights Part 982: Tori Keenan-Zelt

Tori Keenan-Zelt

Hometown: The Inimitable Pittsburgh

Current Town: Harlem

Q:  What are you working on now?

A: I’m about to start rehearsals for my new play SEPH, going up at the Araca Project in October. It’s about growing up on the crack between life and death and how to become a goddess in a broken world. I’m excited that this version will bring together some of the brilliant NYC and Nashville collaborators I’ve been working with.

I’m also writing a pilot about whether it’s cool to fix an oppressive society by helping a bloodthirsty countess become queen and a play about a recently divorced nanny who moonlights as “The Most Assassinated Woman in San Francisco.”

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 mom is a musician and minister, and my dad is an evangelical surgeon who paints. They divorced when I was 2, so I spent half my childhood in hospital waiting rooms, at Jesus camps, in woods, and the other half in the back row of strangers’ funerals, on suburban rooftops, and smuggled into bars. I paid attention.

That’s not really a story. Um. OK -- one time, my mom took a picture of me totally embodying the Virgin Mary while cradling a baby rabbit, which, we discovered, happened to be having a heart attack. She got a full Victorian funeral. I still have the lock of hair.

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

A: Less like church and more like a total solar eclipse.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes? 

A:  Shakespeare at first and forever. But then – shit – OK: Caryl Churchill, Sarah Ruhl, Rajiv Joseph, Paula Vogel, Tina Howe, Wendy Hammond, Nate Eppler, all actors, all musicians, all puppeteers, don’t even get me started on designers

Q:  What kind of theater excites you? 

A:  The kind with blood in it.

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

A:  The play you’re writing now is really about the play you’ll write in three years. Make this one, then make that one. But love them both all the way.

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

A:   I’m all about the composition books and any smooth pen I can smell. But also, have you heard the good news about Frixion?

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

A:  Helvetica – hell yes!

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  SEPH Showcase @ The Araca Project October 5-9 https://www.sephtheplay.com/

AIR SPACE Staged Reading @ San Francisco Playhouse November 6 https://www.sfplayhouse.org/sfph/play-reading-series/

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