What are you working on while at SPACE?
I’m working on a play that is currently untitled and in a very rudimentary stage. It’s for this company called Theater Breaking Through Barriers, I’ve written some short plays for them before. They’re an off-Broadway company that does work primarily with actors who have some kind of disability. From my work with them, I got to know two actors really well—Shannon DeVido and David Harrell—and I really enjoy writing for them. They came to me around a year ago and asked me to write a full length, so I said yes. It’s one of those things where I had this very distinct idea of what the story of the play could be, so being confident in that I set it aside for a few months to work on other things. By the time I got back to it, I looked at the material I had and thought—this is all architecture. It fit together, but that was it. And I thought, why am I the playwright who needs to write this? So last time I was here I wrestled with that idea for three or four days and then finally abandoned it. So I just started writing a scene with Shannon and David in it, other people started to enter and a few days later I had around 50 pages, a skeleton of a play I was more excited about writing. It’s in part about the Christian Science faith—I visited the mother-church in Boston and met some people and it is really fascinating. They’re into faith healing, which I think is fascinating and beautiful—the idea that the visible world is not real; the spiritual world is the only real thing. And so that’s why you can pray away illness. I thought that interacted in an interesting way with a whole bunch of people who had disabilities.
Does the company ask for work about disabilities?
No. The company does do work that is About Disability, capital A capital D, but it also does plays that have nothing to do with it whatsoever—I think the last play they did was an Agatha Christie play. I guess what I’m trying to do is something in between. When disability isn’t a part of the play at all, that seems like a choice in and of itself. But I also don’t want to write a topical play about something I’ve never experienced. So what I’m trying to do now is write a play where these characters just have some sort of disability, it’s given circumstances, but it’s not in any way about disability.
Do you still feel fear when you premiere a new play?
Oh, yes. It’s one of the most vulnerable things ever.
I guess sometimes you think repetition would quell some things.
There are some things you get used to, definitely. You start to learn that reviews are just never going to be what you want them to be. That doesn’t mean they don’t hurt, of course they hurt. If you’re writing plays from a personal, vulnerable place, they’re always hard to give up. And it’s a complicated thing—when people start talking about your plays in the public sphere and they start pointing out their flaws, you just want to say yeah, I know! It’s flawed! I never said it was perfect! But look past the flaws—what do you see there? Let’s talk about that.
Do you have a favorite place to work on the Farm?
I love working in the main room, and here in the parlor. And then sometimes I just go into my room and shut off all the lights.
And you’re always in the Ambrose Room, right?
Yeah I’ve never stayed anywhere else. I actually went upstairs for the first time ever the other day. I was like oh wow!
If you could be reincarnated as a farm animal, what would you choose and why?
Here on Ryder Farm I think I would be one of those sheep. They have friends and they get to run around, and they have one very distinct task—to be chased by dogs every now and then. It would be a nice life.