I’m here with Emma Goidel! Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I’m originally from Atlanta, and then I lived in New York for a time while I was in school. I moved to Philadelphia three years ago, and I’m still there now. I commute to New York about once a week for playwriting things, like ARS NOVA which is the group I’m here with now.
You’re here as a part of ARS NOVA; what are you working on at SPACE?
I am rewriting an old play that I wrote four years ago. It’s a story that I really love and believe in, and I’m producing the play with my playwrights collective in Philly in December. I needed to go back to it as the writer that I am now. I’ve grown and changed a lot in the last four years, so my task here is to excavate this story and surround it with the craft that I have now, that I didn’t have at twenty.
What’s the play about?
It is about an American sociology student who goes to Senegal, which is a small country in West Africa, to create the first scholarship on female homosexuality in Dakar, the capital. I wrote this play after living in Senegal. When I was there, I became friends with an underground community of lesbian -identified women. Coming out of that experience, I had so many questions about what it is to, as an American, enter an underground community of queer people where being gay is illegal. Senegal is a predominately Muslim country, and because it’s small, the legal system reflects the religion, though culturally the country is West African. There’s an Islamic revival going on in Senegal right now, but also the Internet is there. Young people are more connected to other ideas about sexuality than ever before. So, there’s a growing awareness of the presence of homosexuality in Senegal, but part of its West African cultuel is that it’s communalistic. The individual identity is not as important as how you fit into the community. Being gay, or practicing a gay sexuality, threatens the communal identity because there’s no accepted path for creating a life as a gay person. Being gay strays so far from what’s culturally acceptable. I’m glossing over it right now, but that’s the short version.
Why were you in Senegal?
For school. I was a dramaturgy student. I got to Senegal, and was a closeted queer person there trying to navigate what that meant. So, I wrote a documentary theater piece about the community of local lesbians I met, and after writing it I realized I had to write plays! And then I wrote this play.
What’s it like coming back to an old play?
It’s challenging. I’ve tried to do this before and felt unsuccessful. There’s so much in it that’s beautiful. I see my young self and this time in my life that was so distinct and informative. I want to honor that, but also it was the first full-length play I ever wrote. I’m not a senior in college anymore, and I have a different perspective on my writing, and on my craft.
Besides writing, what else have you been spending you time doing at SPACE?
It’s been really great to hang out with the Play Group people. We see each other once every two weeks, but we haven’t had a ton of time to just be social together. ARS NOVA is actually great about creating a social environment, but when we meet in New York, we’re reading plays and working. It’s such a good group of people; everyone is cool, nice, smart, and so talented. There are so many different perspectives and work being made. It’s been nice to just be in that. Also, I think today I’m going to go down to the lake, and I’m excited for more corn hole challenges.
If you could be reincarnated as any farm animal what would it be and why?
I think I’d want to be a farm dog. Dogs are so happy, and have unconditional love for people. You’d get to roam around the land, but then go snuggle with your people at night. Seems like the best of both worlds.
Interviewed by Leigha Sinnott.