Hey Becca! How’s it going?
Heeeeeey! It’s going good…it’s going really good. Yeah it is, yeah, I’m like ahead of schedule, so.
Yeah it is. It’s very exciting. I’m really thrilled.
Okay, so what are you working on while you’re here?
Um, so I had a couple of things that - basically I have four things that were like my objectives with like certain priorities - which is also not - I wouldn’t necessarily recommend that, because sometimes it’s just better to focus on one thing. But I had all of these things up in the air that I really wanted to finish and haven’t been able to - so the first thing was the magical realism play that we’re going to read tonight. I wanted to just - I had very little left to go on it and I just wanted to go through it and give it a polish before we read it tonight, so I finished that yesterday.
And that’s the one that takes place in a barn?
Yes, that’s the one that takes place in a barn! And then, I have what I worked on this morning which is um this - for me it’s like “the Christmas play?” So it’s a three - well I guess it’s like it’s - a little backstory - so I started writing it my last year of graduate school, because I had this teacher who was very into studying big, classic American plays and most playwrights (you know, at least for me) when they’re younger, they’re told not to write anything with more than three characters. Don’t write anything with more than one set, ya know, because you won’t ever get it produced. Which is actually a good lesson, because it teaches you how to contain stuff and not get too - like, out of control?
And be pragmatic.
Exactly! Yeah. Um but uh, so she was like, “I want you to forget all that and I want you to write whatever” so I started writing this big American Christmas play that’s set now. So I have the first two Acts - same thing - I really wanted to finish the third act of that. So after putting it aside for a really long time and feeling determined about where I wanted to go with the third act, I pulled it out again. I just wrote the first 20 pages.
That’s super awesome. So what has your routine been since you’ve been here?
I’m using the meals as kind of like break times. So usually getting up an hour before breakfast just kinda warming up my body. Either stretching, or this morning I took a shower, which was nice. I haven’t had warm water in my apartment for two weeks-
-because our gas meter wasn’t properly installed. So this was actually my first warm shower here on Ryder Farm in two weeks, which is kind of hilarious.
Oh good - so really it just actually gets the juices flowing
Yeah- yeah - because it really hasn’t happened in a while! And then eat breakfast with y’all and yeah. Just now I wrote for two hours and then took a quick break. I’ve been carrying around my music cuz I will use that to break my mental focus off a little bit. And just kind of break it up - go back. I feel like I’m working like - Sometimes I’ll work in two hour spurts and then like - take a little break. Come back for 40 minutes, take a little break. So it’s been - and then using the meals as - you know - I’m going to write up until lunch and then come back from lunch and I’m going to write for however long I can - break it up, so. I was telling Nick yesterday - it’s such a blessing to have this unlimited amount of time to work, but the stamina of it is challenging. You have to figure out how to keep yourself going throughout the whole day.
What is your writing process usually like at home?
Lately I’ve been doing a lot of train writing. I have about an hour commute - I feel like that’s what I’ve been doing lately. It’s kind of gotten thrown off again, because I started a new job not too long ago. So yeah it’s mostly been doing it on the trains, I feel like. And I’m the kind of playwright that I like meditate and think about my plays on a fairly consistent basis, but then me actually sitting down to write them feels much more sort of rare and special and really utilizing that full hour commute time for its maximum potential and that kind of thing.
But it’s a much longer day here - because that’s all your focused on.
Yeah - that’s all your focused on - you’re not doing anything but that. And it’s great - at least for me personally I haven’t been carrying my phone around with me - I haven’t had any distraction.
So you’re part of the P73 writers group - how has that been for you as a writer?
Fantastic. It’s been really great. Part of my application was really focused on that I kinda felt like - this is kinda weird - that I needed a bit of a confidence boost? And I needed to get back in a room with other writers and I thought it would actually really help me to get back on my feet again, because I kinda had a rough experience at the end of graduate school. So getting into that group has been really phenomenal. Both in the sense that it’s really nice to be around these really smart, really sweet writers. And the people who run the program - Rachel Karpf and Michael Walkup are really incredible and really smart about plays and really patient and very generous with themselves and their time. And having that routine - of like every two weeks I’m going.
And you have a deadline - I assume, if you’re sharing or
Yeah - my deadline’s coming up actually when I come back in about a week and I’ll be sharing pages again.
So you’re working on The Barn Play, The Christmas Play, and you said you have two other projects - or two other goals that you are trying to finish while you’re here?
Two other slight goals, yeah. One of them I at least want to meet. I’m writing a short musical with one of my best friends - a modern adaptation of Jonah and the Whale. I’m writing the book for it and she’s writing the music and the lyrics, so I just wanted to write the first scene. Cuz a couple weeks ago we mapped out the entire thing and determined where I’m going to be writing the book and where she’s going to be putting the songs. So I’d like to break into that. And then the other thing - I’ve also been working on a YA novel - which is like 70-80 pages in and I’d really love to push out some more of that if I can. That’s really challenging for me on a whole different level, just because I’m not really a novelist. But I really wanted to write it and I was just like - this needs to be a book - so yeah!
Are you a person who juggles a bunch of projects at the same time and then you’ll set one down and continue to work on another?
That’s sort of a new development honestly. I opened up a lot of projects in graduate school that I kinda wanted to finish and even though there’s a sort of hesitancy about that, because it’s like well you should probably move on and not necessarily go back and devote yourself to those projects - and try and write something new, which I think is totally valid - but I also like… I just kinda want to go back and finish these things, and I feel like I’ve gotten now a bit of distance, and a little bit more experience and knowledge about this fucking playwriting thing to determine how to best complete these pieces and ultimately what I was trying to say with them? But that is - in the Fall - I guess about a year ago, I had all these projects pretty much - that I’ve been talking to you about, and then wasn’t working on any of them and I was working on this brand new play and I wrote that in about three months - and that was my sole focus. I wasn’t working on anything else during that time. This is kinda a new thing for me to be juggling so much, and as I said, I don’t really like recommend it, because I feel like all your energy needs go into one place, but at the same time I’m like - well you know, I wanna do this! And wanna do this! And a bunch of things are catching my attention right now, so I might as well just try and do it!
Totally - and I’m sure it’s nice to get a break from one as your energy refills for another.
Yeah. Exactly. A little bit of distance is good, but still maintaining a regiment of writing.
I know that you had a past farm experience - can you talk a little bit about that?
So I was an intern at Ensemble Studio Theatre the last summer that they were doing a retreat in Lexington, New York. It was very similar to this property; it was built in the early 1800s, there. But the farm wasn’t working the way that Ryder Farm is. But they did have a farmhouse. They had a barn with a stage. They had a hotel that was right by a riverbank, which actually we weren’t allowed in. They had like a dining hall and cabins where writers would be housed. I spent a summer up there and was kinda at a very tender moment in my, I guess, my adolescence and really was very nervous and anxious being away from home. But I really fell in love with that place… just like the air and the beautiful scenery and I read so much that summer. That was the first time I ever really - I’m a very finicky reader and I always have been. And I finally was really reading a lot and really writing a lot and was witnessing these really cool artists coming in every week doing really cool things and they… One of the really nice things about that place, too, was that they just let me observe everything for free. They let me go and listen to classes on Shakespeare and all these cool things and we’d do readings in the barn at night just for fun and so yeah I think toward the end of it I had this idea - that it would be really cool to set a play here, because I’ve really fallen in love with this place and the only thing I really missed about it was my friends. So that was sort of the impetus for the play we’re going to read tonight, which is about a group of friends in a magical realism world… that I’ve also never tried to do before… so we’ll see!
Was there anything you read or came across that summer that stuck with you?
I wrote this one-act play that was in the fringe festival a couple of years ago called 3boys. And that happened because I was up there and I was bike riding and I came across this street called 3 Boys Lane or something like that? And I was like, “that would make a great title.” And then wrote this play with that title a couple years later. So it was a very inspirational place for me.
What has it been like to write that play set sort of on a farm while living on a farm?
It’s been interesting. I keep thinking actually about a couple of things. First of all, I realize how much I’ve changed in those years. When I first got to that farm - feeling so anxious and scared - and coming here and feeling so fucking happy. Because I used to have a lot of difficultly traveling and being in new places and I would feel really anxious and I’m like, “Oh man, I’ve like grown up a lot. This doesn’t frighten me anymore.“ And that’s a really great feeling. It’s also weird to be coming here as a writer. Before, I was an intern. And that’s really exciting and cool and feels very grown up in a way. There are things about this place that remind me so much of Lexington in a really good way.
We have a small group this week and it seems like a lovely group of people. How is it being together with these other artists at meals and sort of ambient-ly around?
It’s great - it’s been really wonderful. You know, I’ve known Nick in my writer’s group and he went to the same school as me, and it’s been a really nice opportunity for us to bond a little bit more deeply. I think it’s great. I think they’re all really really cool, really smart.
I also get that sense!
Yeah! Heidi just cracked me up from the first… I was like, “Oh my god this woman is so fucking funny,” so it’s been really good. It’s nice to have that… after you’ve spent a full day in isolation to come back and be with people who understand your plight, and who are going through their own plight, but are still really engaging with you.
What are you hoping to get from the reading tonight?
That’s a good question. What am I hoping to get from the reading tonight? A couple of things I guess. One of my biggest challenges as a playwright is clarity. So a sense that the audience understands what they’re reading. Because, as I said, it’s magical realism and it’s the first time I’ve ever really done that, so it’s kind of a challenge for me and seeing if I’m painting that world effectively. And if they have fun with it. This play is a comedy, and I’ve never really written a comedy before. I wrote a ten-minute comedy a couple years ago, but I never felt like I ever could write a comedy before and it’s so fucking weird and wacky. I did a reading of the first 50 pages with a very close group of friends of mine a couple weeks ago and they were very supportive. And I was thinking tonight - this is a new group of people who I don’t know, who don’t know me… are they going to have the same kind of experience with it? Are they going to find the same kind of things funny? How is it going to translate to the new group? So I guess I’m seeing how it will translate.
Well thank you for sitting down with me!
Interviewed by Jen Fingal.