Who are you, what do you do?
I’m Daisy Foote. I’m a playwright, and screenwriter, owner of dogs, and wife of an actor.
Is it in that order — playwright first, then screenwriter?
I definitely feel like my heart is in playwriting. It depends on what I’m working on at any given time, but I’d say that my spirit is definitely in playwriting.
I think I’m better at it, that I understand it a little better. I also think that, as a form, it has less artifice to it. It can have artifice, but it’s more connected to the real human experience. When you write a movie, plot rules in this way that can sometime feel arbitrary. Sometimes you push believability to make things happen.
As a playwright, what sort of dynamics are you drawn to?
More family drama. I’d say in the last few years I’ve started getting interested in larger ideas, larger themes, but the family always finds its way back in.
Why do you think you’re drawn to that?
I’ve never been a huge fan of polemic writing. I like writing that maybe has a political message, but is very much framed in domestic life.
People often note that I write about class, but I don’t go out writing about class. [ Willa Cathet ] said that what you would write about would be determined when you were eleven years old. I never used to quite agree with that, but I think there is something at the center of everyone’s work that is grabbed by the time they’re eleven.
What do you think grabbed you at eleven?
I don’t think it’s anything you’re cognizant of. But we were talking about the class thing: eleven was around the time that we moved to a small town in New Hampshire. I felt a difference in terms of where we had been — the suburbs of New York City where my father was an artist and my parents and their friends were all artists — and suddenly we’re in the middle of this small town. The people I became friends with — not necessarily who my parents socialized with because they kept to themselves, not that they were snotty, they had friends, but they were always a private couple — they were all very working class people. And then I became aware of how that town changed, and I think that’s always stayed with me.
What are you here to work on?
Today, I'm working on a rewrite of a play called PEARL, which we read some pages of at the beginning of the summer. I had finished it, but now I’m doing a rewrite on it for a reading we’ll be having at New York Stage and Film in October. It’s a lot of work. It’s rough.
I also started a new play here. It’s called SCOTLAND and we’ll be reading a few pages tomorrow night at the Roving Dinner. I finished the first act. It’s so far from being done, and I’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot to figure out, but that’s what I started.
What’s the rewrite process like for you?
I tend to be a very wordy playwright. I think I try to push too much information and don’t trust the mystery enough, so rewriting for me is a lot of extracting while trying not to do too much damage. I mean the way I write is the way I write — I have a very distinctive way of writing — so the challenge is to go in and make the play feel less burdened while at the same time knowing that I’ll never be a spare writer.
I used a lot of monologues in PEARL that provide a lot of information. I’m finding that there are places where they really work and places where they’re not working. I have to find a way to take all that information and somehow layer it into the play.
Do you have any trouble killing your darlings?
Not really. In the process of editing and workshops it becomes so apparent [that they need to be killed]. If anything I have the opposite problem, which is why I'm very careful about the directors I work with: if somebody asks me a question or I'm confused about something or they don’t think it’s working, I'm just like, ok let’s just throw it out! So if anything, I have to be a little more protective of my darlings.
So, looking beyond October, what’s next for you and your work?
If I can finish a fairly decent draft of SCOTLAND, then I'm going to submit it to Sundance. I think it would be a great play to develop further there. I finished a screenplay, which really needs a lot of work so I'm going to go back to that. And then I have a few ideas that I'm trying to develop pitches for. I’m supposed to be going out to LA in January to pitch some TV ideas, so I have to get very rigorous about that. It’s not my favorite thing to do, so I need to really have a script before I can go into the room. And then just living my life — taking care of those dogs and that actor husband!
In that order still, I notice.
That’s very telling.
My father used to look at my husband and say, “Tim,” and he used to take such delight out of this, “If there was a fire and Daisy had to choose between saving you and saving the dogs, who do you think she would choose?”
Where on Ryder Farm do you like to work?
I like working in Kay Hall, at the table. It’s interesting because today, everybody was in there and it was kind of weird. Yesterday, I was all by myself — me and Eliza [Bent]. Both energies feel great to me.
Like when I was here two weeks ago. Ryan [King], Cusi [Cram], and James [Tyler] were here. Well, James works in his room a lot. That week was a hard writing week for me. I got a lot done, but it was hard. So it was really nice to look around and see other people kind of going “oh god.” —It’s sort of like, ok, I’m not the only one!
Today was a very different story. Everybody was duhduhduhduhduh [she gestures typing] at their typewriters — I mean at their computers. At one point I thought, this could get really annoying, because I was having a hard time, but then I kind of got into it.
I’ve also worked here [in the barn] and several times in the chicken coop. I like all those places.
If you could be any farm animal, what would you be?
I’d have to say a horse. I had horses growing up.