Emily and I sat on my favorite part of the Sycamores, the window seat next to the fireplace and had a cup of coffee together.
Hi! I’m here with…who are you?!
I’m Emily Feldman!
Where are you from, Emily?
I’ve lived all over, but I’m visiting the farm from La Jolla, California.
And you live in the La Jolla?
For the next year I am. I am finishing up the masters program at the University of California, San Diego. I’m getting an MFA in playwriting.
Nice. And how many years is the program?
It’s a three-year program. So I finished my second year and have only one left.
Awesome. Where did you go before?
I went to college in Vermont. At Middlebury College. Then, I lived in Louisville for a year working at the Actor’s Theatre of Louisville. And then, I moved to New York after that. I was there a couple of years before I went to grad school.
And you’re originally from…?
I graduated high school in Philadelphia, but I was born in Baltimore, Maryland.
East Coast, nice. So what are you working on here at SPACE?
I’m working on something brand new here. We do a festival of new work at UCSD, and I’m starting the summer not knowing what I’m working on next year. So, I’m starting a whole new project!
This festival, is it in the fall?
In the spring, actually. It’s called The Wagner New Play Festival. Each of the five writers at UCSD have a production there every year, and I usually don’t start my play for the year until the summer before.
So what you’re working on now, you’re hoping to put up next spring?
Maybe! Hopefully. Maybe, hopefully. We’ll see. This has been such a good place to start something new and get over that hump of opening a new document and staring at a blank page. I think a change of environment makes that feel possible.
How do you normally start something? Is it an idea, an object?
I start with a vague idea. If I start too early, I tend to throw away that idea if I don’t like it. I start with really small things, actually. I keep a notebook of people or ideas or a sentence or a phrase that interests me, and as I sit on it for a very long time, it starts to build into a play.
Is there anything different about SPACE? What’s been your favorite part?
This is my first time here, and I’m totally obsessed with it. My favorite part about it is that everything feels so possible. I wake up in the morning and an agenda besides writing has been such a gift. I’m not thinking about my to-do list outside of here, so I feel very present. Also, I got off the train and I felt so at home. Everyone is so nice, the staff are all like you, artists in their own right, and totally understand what the artists-in-residence are doing. To be back in this environment (which reminds me so much of places I grew up in), I feel cozy and safe and invigorated to work here!
This is a great week and a really great mix.
Yeah! I’ve met new friends here. People who’s work I was familiar with, others whose I wasn’t. We’ve had some great talks…some lingering meals, which are also really fun. But that’s the cool thing about being here! It’s that the days feel so long. There’s so much time here. You can take an extra hour taking a nap or an hour at lunch and still have so much space in your day to write.
Do you have a favorite spot here?
It’s been kind of rainy, and my room has been so cozy in the rain. I’m in the Belle room. I have the cutest desk! And I have a big room all to myself. Yeah!
Any other spots you love to hang out?
Well, I read a whole book while I’ve been here which is amazing. I did that sitting out on the hammock.
Those are nice! They are brand new too!
Yeah, the work you guys are doing amazes me. The transformation of the garage, which was something totally different when I got here…now it looks like a place you want to sit it. That rapid transformation that is happening here is so exciting.
That’s what I realized this week. This place has been built on that. People who find a project and want to make “this” something. I can’t imagine where this place is going.
It’s already growing! People just wake up and think “how can I make this better” and then it’s totally different later. That’s insane to me. I don’t know any other organization that I’ve watched change over the course of five days, that’s insane.
You’ve got two more months off until the next semester. What are you going to do until then?
I’m going to spend some time in New York City. I’m going to see my family. I’m going to celebrate a friend’s wedding. I’m going to do a short play in August in NY with some friends I met at UCSD who have a company there that I’ve enjoyed working with. And I’m going to relax, and read, and write.
Take that, summer! What’s been the experience going back to school after Louisville?
At Louisville, I was a literary apprentice, which was awesome. But after spending a few years in New York, I feel like I’m appreciating school so much more now that I’ve been on my own for a bit. You really can take in the classes more after a few years off.
Totally. Did you always know you wanted to be a playwright?
No, I had no idea. I did theatre, but I moved around a couple times growing up, so I didn’t feel apart of a specific theatre community until I got to college. It wasn’t even until my second or third year of college that I really go into it. I never had an interest in acting…but then the acting course I had to take in college (to do my major’s requirements) I was just the worst! I didn’t understand that you actually had to look at the person you were supposed to do the scene with! They were like “what’re you doing?” and I was like “I thought this is how people did it!” Yeah. No. So, I went to Middlebury for their English department. I was writing short stories, which I still ended up doing, but I noticed that all my friends were in the theatre department, and they looked like they were having so much fun! So, I took a playwriting course, and a mentor thought it would be something I might be interested in something down the line. So, he introduced me to plays, new plays especially, and then in New York, I just started going to the theatre as much as possible. Then, slowly, by seeing and responding to it, I developed my voice, my taste, and my aesthetic, too.
What inspires you? What fuels your need to write?
Well, what inspired me to write for the theatre instead of just short stories is that I had such an intense experience watching my first play performed for an audience. It’s this moment of euphoria mixed with this huge kind of sadness about what didn’t go the way I thought it would go!! I just didn’t find that level of intensity in writing a short story and putting it in a literary magazine or sharing it with my creative writing class. So, the possibility of euphoria in the final project of seeing it realized is amazing. As I’ve gotten to be a little bit older, I think what I value now is the opportunity to be in a room with people making something who are people I want to be in that room with. We could be drinking in a bar or going on a hike, but we are together making a product we can share.
Is that your favorite part? As a playwright, do you like the first read or the finished product or the rehearsals?
I like all parts of the process. The hardest part for me is probably the part I have to do alone. As soon as I am in a room with people, my mood shifts, and I feel less lonely.
Yeah, yeah. Interesting. The zany question! If you could be any farm animal, what would you be?
Could I be a Golden Retriever?
Yeah!! I have three!
You have three?! I’m so jealous.
Yeah! I grew up with three. Boone, Annabelle, and Hunter.
Yeah, I want to be the big family dog that’s the center of the room. In life, one of my biggest goals is to have a golden retriever.
Oh! Absolutely. I’m a huge Golden person, so I get it. Three’s a lot, but I want one as well for sure.
I’ll start with one!
Interviewed by Mason Hensley