What is your name and where are you from?
My name is Ngozi Anyanwu and I’m from Ben Salem, Pennsylvania, which is right outside of Philadelphia.
What is the project you’re working on at SPACE?
I’m working on project ‘nap’ right now, getting sleep. I’m mostly here for the mentoring through MCC, so I’m here hanging out with a bunch of young playwrights and watching them work. But I’ve actually just finished working on a play that’s going up at The Atlantic so this is really more of a recalibration, rest and relaxation work than it is ‘I’m gonna get all these plays done!’
You started in acting — can you talk about the transition to writing?
I’ve been acting for 13, 14 years, and I’ve always been writing, so it’s more about the transition to being a “playwright” about 4 years ago. So I’ve been on stage much more, my play that’s going up is my second play to go up and it’s my second play that I’ve written. So I’ve written a lot but this is the second play I’ve actually completed.
Where have you been spending most of your time at space?
In my bed. It’s the shit, I swear to God — I go to sleep, a bell rings, I wake up, I go back to sleep … Today was my first day of actually working out. I ran to the lake, I looked at it — it was only a mile run, so it’s pretty pathetic in my opinion, and I kept stopping. And then I’m obsessed with the Nike training app so I was using it in the barn. But yes, most of the time I’m in my very nice bed, chilling, learning how to sleep and how to chill. It’s been so good.
What’s coming up for you next?
I have a production of my first play being premiered in New York, The Homecoming Queen, that will be going up at The Atlantic Theatre in the winter!
How do you go about writing Nigerian accents in plays like The Homecoming Queen?
It’s interesting, we have a woman who was cast in the play and who does dialects, and so there’s a lot of me consulting with her, there’s a lot of me calling my parents and having them be my free dramaturgists, and being like ‘Mom, how would you say this in pidgin?’ Because we have a lot of stages of Nigerians, right, we have the American-Nigerian, we have the British-Nigerian, we have the women of the village who are like bush, never left the village. We have the father who may or may not have gone to America and picked up English very very well, so we have characters in all different stages of Western and/or American-ness and/or English-ness. So for me it was about trying to discern who would sound the most American, who would be the most British, who would be the most colonized, who would be the furthest from their own language in Nigeria. So there’s a lot of that still in the play, there’s a lot of diversity of English just growing up around Nigerians, even though I was raised in America. I was raised a lot around my uncles and my grandmother, so there are different levels of the ability to speak English — my parents are at different levels, and at a very different stage to my grandmother, who came here when she was 40, and they came when they were 20. It’s a lot of trying to determine how Western they would sound.
What farm animal would you be and why?
Last year it was a rooster, cause I was walking around feeling real guilty and a feeling like a chicken with her head cut off. This year I’m Nike, the freckled horse — I feel like we bonded a little on my stop on the run. So yeah, I’m a horse today.