Where are you from?
I live in Philadelphia, but I was born in Atlanta.
What projects are you working on this week?
I am writing a commission for a theatre called Tiny Dynamite in Philly. They do this really fun series called a Play, a Pie and a Pint, where they produce 45-60 minute plays with pizza and beer included in a 15 dollar ticket. It’s really fun.
Is there a specific kind of play you are trying to write for that event?
I guess so, yeah. I’m trying to write a play that feels like a complete evening of theatre in under an hour.
How far along are you on this project?
I’m really just starting. Right now I am in the exploratory phase, I’m just starting to crack into what the beginning of the play is and from there what the rest of the play is.
How do you usually start writing a play?
I’m tempted to say it’s different every time, although that might not be true. With this play I started from an image of two people in a very small space underground. And I’ve been trying to figure out why they are there. It’s pretty clear who they were to each other but unclear what’s going on above ground and why they are in a hole in the ground.
How involved do you like to be in the rehearsal process?
I like to be very involved. I like to be an active collaborator in the room. I like to work with directors who welcome that. Being in rehearsal is really fun, and I just think there’s so much as a playwright that I can contribute to the process, that maybe we don’t always expect from playwrights. I’m not a playwright who just makes a text and then is like “there you go, I’m gonna walk away now”. I think some people like to work with playwrights like that, but I’m not one of those playwrights.
Do you do a lot of re-writes in the rehearsal room?
I do a lot of very quick small rewriting. I don’t do a lot of big changes, it’s hard for me to be like, “oh this scene isn’t working and so i need to make this major change so I’m gonna go away and do it right now”. But moment to moment stuff becomes very clear very quickly in the room. And I can pretty quickly make those changes. But I also feel that I like to be able to provide feedback, not to the actors necessarily but I like to be able to see what’s happening and be in conversation with the director about it while it’s happening. I mean, sometimes that’s not appropriate, sometimes you have to let them figure out something and then take a look, it’s a balance.
Do you usually find you are on the same page as the director?
It totally depends on who I’m working with. And it depends on why we’re working together. If we’re working together because we have collaborated before and have an opportunity to continue to work together, then yes, usually we are on the same page. But a lot of the time, you don’t get any say in who’s gonna direct your play. If a theatre wants to do your play, sometimes whoever is working at that theatre is going to direct it. And that can be challenging to walk into the culture of a theatre and try to begin an in the room collaborative relationship, especially as a playwright because I don’t think we are really set up to, maybe in New York it’s different but regionally my experience has been that the playwright isn’t really viewed as an in the room collaborator. I can’t work that way, I can’t sit on my hands the whole time and just nod. Some directors want to have that complete authority in the room which I completely understand and some people feel that’s how they need to establish a rapport with actors that is trusting, but I feel like, there is room for more. I feel more comfortable in rehearsal rooms where everyone is invited to be in a dialogue.
Do you feel like whoever is cast in your play affects how you see it or the characters?
That’s a good question. I feel like I have been really lucky in that the last two productions of my work have had superb casting. I felt like the casting was so good. But I’ve definitely been in workshop or reading situations where the casting wasn’t quite right but I don’t know, I feel like I try not to write for a temporary cast. That feels like a long term fix for a short term problem. But I do really relish the times when I know the actors and their work before casting them. And have then been able to develop character voices for those actors and then cast them. That has been really satisfying and that’s actually one of the benefits of working in a smaller town like Philly.
Have you worked with people multiple times in the Philly community?
In my last two plays, the same actor starred in both of them. They were two very different parts but I feel like there are some actors who just really give voice to the words that you write. Some actors can give voice to your text in a revelatory way and it doesn’t matter what you are writing, they can live in your work really well. I’ve definitely found that to be the case. There are a couple actors in Philly who I feel like that is true for. If I knew more actors in New York I’m sure I would feel that way too, but most of my New York stuff has been developmental where as I’ve had more production experience in Philly. It’s interesting, in a developmental process, you are so focused on the text, I have not been as much focused on performance.
Have you ever had a play produced that you were not part of at all?
Did you see it?
I wish I could have seen it. I had a play produced in Glasgow, Scotland, a year and a half ago. I wish that I had gone to see it, I regret not going.
Were you in communication with anyone there?
I was in communication with the director. He asked me about what I found most successful for the casting when it was done in Philly and then one other question later on about something happening in the script but that was basically it. I saw pictures and I heard from him during the run and I sent them chocolates but that was it.
How was that experience?
It was really exciting, it was my first, and, so far, only international production. So that was really cool, it was weird but fun to read the reviews and see that they felt the play was very American, in a good way. I think because I didn’t see the work, I didn’t really have any feelings about it. The pictures were gorgeous, it looked like it was great.
What’s your relationship with ARS NOVA?
So I was here at SPACE last summer. I am in the Ars Nova playgroup which is a two year writers group. Each year they bring in a new class of playwrights and this is my second year. So I have had my culminating workshop and reading already, and I will finish in December. They provide an amazing environment to meet other writers, encounter other new work, and to receive feedback and responses to your own writing. So basically you have an opportunity to bring a full length play to the group four times in your two year tenure. And it can be whatever you want, the same play or new ones every time. So we meet about two times a month and we read one play every time we are together. And then in your second year you also get a 29 hour workshop with a public reading. So I will share one more play and be done.
How many plays have you written since you’ve been with them?
I have written one new play in that time. I spent a lot of time in the last year rewriting other plays because I had two premiere productions within like three months of each other, in Philly, which was awesome, but crazy. I was writing, doing rewrites, and workshopping three plays kind of all at the same time. So now I’m starting this commision.
How many plays have you written total?
I started earnestly writing plays in the fall of 2011, and I have written 3 full length plays, one one act play, a bunch of scenes and short plays, and a full length play in collaboration with two other playwrights.
What’s it like being at SPACE?
It’s amazing to be here. It’s so luxurious, I feel so happy because you have the space and time to write at your own pace. It’s lovely. It’s so nice to feel this expanse of time laying out ahead of you and to feel like you can write whenever you want for however long you want. It takes a lot of pressure off.
Do you have a favorite place here that you like to go?
I really like Kay Hall. Also I’m digging the chicken coop. I like to roam around, I have a really hard time picking a spot. I get dissatisfied, I need a change of scenery quite often. This place is good for that.
What’s next for you and your projects?
I’m really focused on this play. This theater has been extremely flexible, they commissioned a play for me two years ago, and produced that play and then they commissioned another play for me a year ago and then ten months ago I started working as a producer for the theater as my day job. I’ve been putting off writing this commission since I started working for the theater, and we can’t really wait any longer, because we can’t nail down a production schedule until I write it. So I’m focused on that right now, gonna try and knock out the whole first draft while I’m here. And we’ll produce it in the coming season.
What’s being a producer like?
I love it, it’s great. In 2014 I co-founded a producing playwrights collective with five other artists in Philly and that is really how I got into producing. We all pick up administrative skills just being in the industry but that’s when I really started learning in earnest how to produce theatre. And then this job opened up at Tiny Dynamite and I felt like that was the right direction for me. So I’ve been working with them since October of last year.
Do you think being a playwright impacts the way to produce shows and view the production process?
Absolutely. I feel like a have a different personality when I’m working as a producer. I think having the responsibility of managing all aspects of the production, it requires many different things from me than being a playwright. But being a playwright definitely affects the kind of work that I advocate for in the company and it definitely has affected the people that we hire. One of my jobs as a producer is to assemble the production team while in conversation with the Artistic Director. And the people I have formed relationships with as a playwright, I definitely take all that information into account when we’re looking to hire a team. I think that my feeling about the ethical side of employing theater artists has definitely been influenced by my experience as a creative artist. I feel really passionate about equitable wages and playwrights getting paid. And I think that’s not something I would have understood if I had just entered the culture has a producer. I think there are some trends in our industry that are bullshit, when it comes to how and when we pay people. And I feel like they are bullshit because I’ve had the experience as a playwright of feeling like my work or someone else’s work isn’t being valued. I feel very passionately about equitable pay.
If you were reincarnated as a farm animal, which farm animal would you be and why?
I think I would be a dog because there’s a good mixture of freedom and boundaries as a dog. If you have a good loving owner, you have someone to take care of you and tell you what to do, but you also get to enjoy the freedom of living on a farm. I like a bit of stucture. And nobody eats them.