Friday, April 29, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 827: Kristin Idaszak



Kristin Idaszak

Hometown: Western Springs, IL

Current Town: Minneapolis, MN

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I’m working on a new play called Lovelier Lovelies, in which a woman tries to adapt a novel about Polish slaughterhouse workers for the stage. (The novel is loosely inspired by Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle.) She fails, and the play gets cancelled. The writer’s forced to present a makeshift slideshow about the Chicago stockyards. What we learn is that in trying to explore her Polish identity, and her great-grandfather’s death on the slaughterhouse floor, she’s actually written a play about a traumatic event in her own past. It’s written half as the presentation and half as rehearsals from the play within the play. The play explores the way narratives get co-opted, and how sediment of identity accrues over the course of generations. And it also asks about staging things that are intrinsically impossible to stage—whether that’s a cattle stampede or an act of sexual violence.

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 comes to mind is more a kaleidoscope of images than a single story: I remember building sets with my dad for the local community theatre. I was the only girl in the scene shop. I remember going to class with my mom when I was off from school but she wasn’t. She was a chemical engineer when I was a little kid, but she went back to school to become a pharmacist. I realize now how brave that was. I remember, for my birthday (maybe my sixth or seventh) I got a detective kit. You could break codes or detect invisible ink. I carried it around everywhere, looking for mysteries to solve.

These fragments explain some of my obsessions, at least, and perhaps circle around who I am as a writer and a person.

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

A:  I’d like to see gender parity across the board—writers, directors, designers, actors, technicians, everybody. But there’s so much work to be done, not only in terms of gender, but also in terms of race, ability, and economic inclusivity. There’s a long road ahead of us.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  First and foremost, my teachers—Naomi Iizuka, Deborah Stein, Adele Shank, Carlos Murillo, Dean Corrin, Coya Paz. These are artists in their own right who have guided me in finding and strengthening my own voice. They’ve helped me understand that teaching is also an artistic practice. Other artists I find heroic are Taylor Mac, Caryl Churchill, and Maria Irene Fornés, to name a few.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I love spectacle. I love simplicity. I love plays that go by in a heartbeat and plays that last eight hours. I respond to ambitious, unapologetic, impossible theatre—work that is formally inventive and questioning itself. I love when I see something that challenges what theatre can be or do. These days, I’m most excited when I see something that engages with me as an audience member—it needs an audience to be complete. Sometimes that’s immersive or site-responsive work, sometimes it’s in the style or the presentation of the story.

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

A:  Find what nourishes you and cultivate that. The body and the mind are inextricable, so take good care of your physical self. I also think that the greater stability you can create—the quiet spaces, a sanctuary within your own life—can allow you to do the deep tissue work of writing.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  You can see my play Second Skin on the beach in Santa Monica until May 15. http://www.theflagshipensemble.com/

The Last Tiger in Haiti by Jeff Augustin at La Jolla Playhouse http://www.lajollaplayhouse.org/tiger-haiti

King of the Yees by Lauren Yee at The Goodman Theatre
https://www.goodmantheatre.org/press-room/2016-2017/King-of-the-Yees/
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Thursday, April 28, 2016

I Interview Playwrights Part 826: Emily Feldman






Emily Feldman

Hometown: Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia

Current Town: San Diego, CA (for a couple more months)

Q:  What are you working on now?

A:  I’m in rehearsal at UC San Diego for a play called GO. PLEASE. GO. It takes place in an empty, beige, shag-carpeted box. It follows two young lovers over 70 years and has a repetitive form that’s inspired by Beckett and Thornton Wilder. It has a few dance numbers and a tap break— which you can’t hear because of all the carpet.

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 92 year-old grandma died at my Bat Mitzvah. I was reading from the Torah and she put her head on my sister’s shoulder and didn’t wake up. I couldn’t believe that something so sad could happen on a day that I had looked forward to for so long. It must have been most difficult for my Dad, who lost his mom while his friends were doing the electric slide.

My best friend wore the same purple dress that I wore and I wish I could say that at that point— it really didn’t matter who wore what dress— but I was twelve.

Something about this family heartbreak on a day that was supposed to be filled with joy has infiltrated my writing and my sense of humor. I’m sure that if I ever get married it will rain on my wedding day.

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

A:  I’d like there to be more places for longer forms of theater criticism. Writing that isn’t a thumbs-up or thumbs-down kind of review—but an inquiry into the intentions of the artists and the style of the performance. I think this is happening in a couple of places, but I’d love for more playwrights to write publicly and in-depth about the plays they see— the way that novelists review or blurb each other’s work.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  Reading Beckett, Ionesco, and Chris Durang when I was in college got me excited about writing plays. Karen Hartman was a great mentor to me when I was living in New York and trying to balance work and playwriting. My heroic playwriting teachers/women who give me excellent advice are Naomi Iizuka and Deborah Stein. I think Adam Greenfield is also a theatrical superhero.

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  I get excited by plays that move like dances—that are beautiful and that make inventive use of space and bodies. I love when design and text and performance play like instruments in a symphony and when making theatre looks like painting on a canvas— every element placed in a specific relationship to everything else. David Greenspan’s Go Back To Where You Are at Playwrights Horizons was one of those experiences for me. I saw it four times.

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

A:  Naomi Iizuka always reminds me to be kind to everyone I meet working in the theater. Everyone is there for the love of the game and today’s intern could be tomorrow’s artistic director. And you never know who will end up being a great ally or whose couch you might need to spend a night on. I’m haunted by that thing George Saunders said at a commencement in 2013: “What I regret most in my life are failures of kindness."

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  If you’re in Southern California in May, come see the Wagner Festival of New Plays at UC San Diego! http://theatre.ucsd.edu/season/WNPF2016/index.htm

And my love Jeff Augustin’s beautiful play The Last Tiger in Haiti at La Jolla Playhouse, directed by my BFF Josh Brody! http://www.lajollaplayhouse.org/tiger-haiti


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Wednesday, April 20, 2016

UPCOMING THINGS I CAN TALK ABOUT PUBLICLY



Hearts Like Fists

Production #30 of Hearts Like Fists
Shadow Horse Theater
Minneapolis, MN
Opens May 27, 2016

Clown Bar

Production #16 of Clown Bar
Springs Ensemble Theatre
Colorado Springs, CO
Opens May 13, 2016




Production #11 of Pretty Theft
James Madison University
Harrisonburg, VA
Opens April 26, 2016

Rare Birds (workshop production)

The Chance Theater
Anaheim, CA
August 4, 6, 7, 2016.


7 Ways to Say I Love You 
(a night of short plays)

Production #4 of 7 Ways to Say I Love You
Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep HS
Sacramento, CA
Opens May 11, 2016

Production #5 of 7 Ways to Say I Love You
Portland High School
Portland, ME
Opens May 12, 2016


PUBLISHED PLAYS

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Sunday, April 10, 2016

825 Playwright Interviews



Dear friends,

For about 6 years I've been doing these interviews.  In total, I've probably spent somewhere between 200-400 hours of my life in service of these interviews.  I love that people read and enjoy them.  I'm glad they exist.  But I know I won't be able to keep doing this forever.  If you want to help out, please consider a small donation.



A
Sean Abley
Rob Ackerman
Liz Duffy Adams
Johnna Adams
Tony Adams
David Adjmi
Keith Josef Adkins
Nastaran Ahmadi
Derek Ahonen
Kathleen Akerley
Ayad Akhtar
Rob Askins
Chiara Atik
Forrest Attaway
David Auburn
Hannah Bos
Leslie Bramm
Benjamin Brand
Jami Brandli
Jennifer Fawcett
Joshua Fardon
Caitlin Saylor Stephens
Ariel Stess
Vanessa Claire Stewart
Kate Tarker
Jona Tarlin
Judy Tate
Roland Tec
Cori Thomas
Matthew B. Zrebski 

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