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What is the most thrilling artistic experience you've had in the last year?

What are you currently working on?

What are you looking forward to in the upcoming year?

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you've ever received?

Why do you write for the stage?

Who or what inspires you?

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

PlayLabs

PlayLabs is the Playwrights' Center's acclaimed national festival of new plays. Now in its 29th year, PlayLabs gives writers 30 hours in one of the nation's most intensive play development labs—and gives you the chance to see their newest work brought to life in a series of free, intimate, hold-your-breath staged readings. More »

The Ruth Easton New Play Series

See what else is developing after PLAYLABS with our Ruth Easton New Play Series, where professional staged readings debut all winter long. From December through April, join us on the first Monday of each month to witness the gripping, moving, daring new works being developed at the Center this year.

Jerome Fellowship

Jerome Fellowships provide four emerging American playwrights with funds and services to aid them in the development of their craft. These nationally selected fellows receive $16,000 fellowships, an additional $1,500 in development support, and spend a year-long residency in Minnesota. More »

McKnight Advancement Grant

McKnight Advancement Grants recognize two established Minnesota playwrights whose work demonstrates exceptional artistic merit and excellence in the field. Each recipient receives a $25,000 grant, as well as additional funds of $2,000 that can be used to support a play development workshop and other professional expenses. More »

Many Voices Fellowship

Many Voices Fellowships are awarded annually to two early-career playwrights of color. In the current fellowship year, two Minnesota-based playwrights of color received a $5,650 stipend and an additional $1,250 to be applied toward the cost of developing new work. The Many Voices Fellowship has been dramatically expanded for the 2013-14 fellowship year. More »

Many Voices Mentorship

Many Voices Mentorships are awarded annually to two Minnesota-based beginning playwrights of color. Mentorships provide a $1,000 stipend as well as a curated package of services including classes, seminars, and dramaturgical support intended to aid the participant toward the completion of a play script. More »

McKnight National Residency & Commission

The McKnight National Residency & Commission aids in the commissioning and development of new works from nationally celebrated playwrights. The recipient playwright receives a $12,500 commission and up to $5,000 in workshop funds to support the development of the play. More »

Core Writer program

The Core Writer program offers significant resources intended to further the careers of 25-30 professional national playwrights. Core Writers are selected for three-year terms, during which they are granted access to new play development workshops in the Playwrights' Center's Lab as well as other professional opportunities. More »

Christina Ham

Christina Ham

McKnight Advancement Grant

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

The most thrilling artistic experience I have had in the last year was having my first full-length play for adults (Crash Test Dummies) produced locally by Red Eye Theater after 16 years of writing plays.

What are you currently working on?

Rewriting two new full-lengths; a commission for a producer; a television pilot; an adaptation of a short story for a feature; and an original children's musical about Ruby Bridges who, at the age of six, was the first African-American child to attend an all-white elementary school in the South. It will be produced by SteppingStone Theatre in 2013.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I'm looking forward to doing something creatively that I've never done before. I'm looking forward to stepping outside of my comfort zone to break barriers in the field by bringing stories from an unexpected perspective and forging collaborations with new artists that I haven't worked with before.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

The best playwriting advice I've ever been given was to be fearless. It's important to understand that the audience knows when you're holding back and when you're lying.

Why do you write for the stage?

I write for the stage because I believe it's what I was put on this earth to do. If I weren't a writer I don't know what else I would be.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by the questions that life puts in front of us, and attempting to find the answers to those questions through theatrical exploration.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

I've been interested in little-known anecdotes in history. Over the summer I've found myself steeped in a lot of varied research through which I've found a number of different nonfiction stories that I think might make for fascinating theater. If I ever have enough time it'll be fun to dig into some of these stories.

Cory Hinkle

Cory Hinkle

McKnight Advancement Grant

What are you currently working on?

Writing a new play about a love triangle of visual artists. I wanted to get at the messiness and heartbreak of marriages falling apart, partially because marriage is so much on everyone's minds now - the question about who deserves the right and how different people value the institution in different ways. The characters are artists, which creates a parallel between the beauty of the things people create in art and in relationships.

Who or what inspires you?

Documentary film. I am really into the idea of bringing documentary film technique onstage. Recently, Victoria Stewart, Jeremy Wilhelm and I collaborated on Clandestino, which played at Mixed Blood - we did a lot of research on an immigration raid that occurred in Postville, Iowa in 2008. We created a form for the play based on documentary. This method has stuck with me and it's something I'm continuing to use in my work.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

I've discovered the Moth storytelling podcast and there are so many stories I find inspiring on that show. In many cases, I prefer someone standing behind a microphone telling an excellent true story to a lot of plays with sets, costumes and huge budgets. It's not necessarily that I'm interested only in telling stories that are "true," but I would like to tell stories that connect more directly and emotionally with an audience.

Betty Shamieh

Betty Shamieh

McKnight National Residency & Commission

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Working on my play Again and Against in Russian translation in Moscow. The project was organized by the Lark Play Development Center and the U.S. State Department. As often occurs when I work on my plays in other countries, this experience strengthened my belief that theater artists across the globe make up their own "tribe" in ways that feel somehow more significant than mere religious or national affiliations, perhaps partially because this identity is chosen.

What are you looking forward to this year?

My McKnight commission play titled Veritas. Within a decade of the establishment of Harvard University, it ran into financial difficulties. In an effort to attract funds from wealthy missionaries, Harvard changed its charter, and committed itself to "the education of the English and Indian youth of this country." In this play, I aspire to illuminate the story of Harvard's first five Native American students, only one of whom would live long enough to graduate in 1665.

Who or what inspires you?

I am inspired by writers who manage to both keep writing plays for several decades and maintain a sense of humor about the theater business. Bitterness is the enemy of creativity. It also makes you a person that others avoid at parties, which invariably results in more bitterness. I am inspired by artists that continue to evolve over time, who create wildly ambitious plays that experiment in content, form, and tone from their earlier works.

Alex Lewin

Alex Lewin

Jerome Fellow

What are you currently working on?

The Founders Project. I've co-authored this play with the journalist Laura Flanders. It's a historical-documentary play that uses primary texts from throughout American history - including the writings, speeches and correspondence of the men we usually call our "Founding Fathers" - to dramatize the debates and discussions (taxes, role of government, individual liberty) that have been endemic to the United States from the very beginning.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Tightening the screws on a political thriller called The Envelope. The stage supersedes all genres, so the task of constructing an unabashed thriller for the stage, while exciting, is remarkably different from the tasks of the novelist or screenwriter. I can't look to Agatha Christie or Alfred Hitchcock as my models. Frederick Knott and Ira Levin can help me a little bit, but, basically, I have to build my own foundation.

Why do you write for the stage?

In an attempt to answer this question I almost wrote, "It's the only thing I'm good at." But that's not true. Not at all. What is true is this: It's the only thing I have the potential to be great at.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

Stories that are in conversation with events and achievements that are actually happening in the actual world. Art isn't only about who the artist is - it's about what s/he sees. The purpose of art is not self-expression; i.e, self-expression is not an end - it's a means to an end. Art is not about you (the creator of the art) - it's about us.

Anna Moench

Anna Moench

Jerome Fellow

What are you currently working on?

A yet-untitled musical about astronaut Lisa Nowak, commissioned by the EST/Sloan Project; Freedom House, a play about freeganism and survivalism commissioned by NYU Grad Acting, and sifting through some ideas to find my next play!

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

This wasn't given directly to me, but I once heard Harvey Fierstein give a speech when he was honored at a theater organization's gala event. His advice to the playwrights and artists in the room has stuck with me.

"Don't f**k around."

Who or what inspires you?

One of my hobbies is bike touring - taking long road trips and camping along the way. I meet so many generous, bizarre and fascinating people on these adventures, and often am invited into their homes. Those experiences, of diving into foreign worlds and learning a little bit about a totally different way of life, are incredibly inspiring to me. This summer I biked across the U.S. prior to starting the Jerome Fellowship, and a few amazing people I met have triggered the start of a new play.

Joe Waechter

Joe Waechter

Jerome Fellow

What are you looking forward to this year?

Workshopping and sharing my play PROFILES with an audience as part of the Ruth Easton series, collaborating with Workhaus Collective on their season, kicking off a new performance salon for interdisciplinary work (location and times TBD), and canoeing somewhere in the boundary waters of Minnesota.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

Erik Ehn once cautioned, "Be yourself in this business." Not only did these words inspire all sorts of existential questions, like who am I as a person, as an artist, and as a professional, but it also forced me to be specific about what is this "business," and in what sort of "business" do I want to create work. It's become a guidepost for me, and helps me navigate difficult artistic and professional decisions.

Why do you write for the stage?

Because through a combination of language and silence, abstraction and empathy, the grotesque and the sublime, you can create an experience that is immediate and political, that incites an audience's imagination, resonates with their hearts and minds, and moves them towards greater awareness and intrinsic change.

Martin Zimmerman

Martín Zimmerman

Jerome Fellow

What are you currently working on?

A commission for the Goodman about an aimless young man who finds what he considers to be his best self while in combat in Iraq, and how he tries to recapture that sense of purpose once his deployment ends. Also, a piece I'm co-writing with Rebecca Stevens about an American teenager who discovers her parents are deep cover spies working for Russian Foreign Intelligence. And I'm about to start a brand new play!

Why do you write for the stage?

I love brushing up against the constraints of the stage. There is so little that you can actually render realistically onstage, and I love that. I love trying to tell huge, imaginative stories that are impossible to render realistically. I love the challenged of figuring out how to do simply, searingly, theatrically.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

Stories with characters who are forced to question their identity and how they define their sense of self. Are they their past actions? Their present actions? Their unrealized potential? Are they defined by the relationships to their nuclear family? Can they re-define who they are? If so, how?

Janaki Ranpura

Janaki Ranpura

Many Voices Fellow

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Performing at Art Basel, a crème de la crème international art show in Switzerland, on the invitation of Pedro Reyes. I improvised for the puppet of Adam Smith, in heated and catty debate with Karl Marx.

What are you currently working on?

Your Heart Is In My Mouth, a play in which a heart leaps out of its patient's chest in order to run away from its doctor.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Completing God Box, a show I worked deeply on during my first Many Voices Fellowship last year. The piece is moving ahead with some site-specific considerations, and has affiliated marionettes and a specific stage structure ... all of which create an interesting constraint on the writing. I have been working on the themes of this show for over a decade, and I hope to nail the lid to the coffin this year. although the lid is never really nailed ...

Why do you write for the stage?

I am fascinated by the electricity of a live audience. I am sure that there is some sort of kindred galvanic response in groups of people all focused on the same thing. A story onstage instantly becomes a shared story, and it is shared physically amongst the audience as well between the stage and the seats.

Ricardo Vazquez

Ricardo Vazquez

Many Voices Fellow

What are you currently working on?

A piece about the Berkeley poets in and around the Beat Movement in 1960. Surrealist images infuse this piece centered around three poets - Jack Spicer, Robin Blaser and Robert Duncan - who contributed to the San Francisco Renaissance.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Working with actors in a script I have been writing for over a year about a group of campers who unexpectedly join a beach party in the Boundary Waters that leads to horrifying moments and consequences.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

"Rise above it, dear boy."
- Charles Keating

"Every time you enter the stage you have to fully commit. If you're not ready to do that, take a moment, then attack the stage like never before."
- Laurie Carlos

Why do you write for the stage?

I love the challenge of carving space with words and movement. There is a special energy created when people give focus to a suspended period of time - it is my job to fill that time honestly and honor the momentary attention.

Who or what inspires you?

Whatever I feel like I know nothing about. This means day to day I have a new thing that inspires me. Some recent inspirations: tennis, Roberto Bolano, the architectural design of the Seattle Public Library, how to season a new tajine, chem trails versus con trails, the short film series Rabbits directed by David Lynch.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

Stories about real people in history. I have this desire to research and recreate in ways that turn and shake history from the facts. What are the facts? Are facts as flexible as the spirit generating a living being? If you ran into Edgar Allen Poe, what would you remember most - The Raven or his clothes?

Taous Claire Khazem

Taous Claire Khazem

Many Voices Mentorship

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

It's a tie between leading 18 Algerian women to writing, directing and performing in their own original pieces in Oran ... and playing a superhero, a goddess and queen in the same year.

What are you currently working on?

Assistant Directing Interact Center's next show, Madame Josette's Naughty and Nice Cabaret, set in Belle Epoque Paris. Also getting ready to perform in a new Iranian play, The Skyless City. And writing about living in Algeria.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

The best theater advice I've ever been given: My uncle Pete, a local jazz musician, said to me right after I graduated from college: "Get gigging."

Mire Regulus

Miré Regulus

Many Voices Mentorship

What are you currently working on?

A second piece in a series about black women and fairy tales, a group of poems, a production company, and an idea for a conference about performance art.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

1) Trust what shows up, even if you don't know where it belongs or what the point is, especially if it makes you uncomfortable.

2) Recognize your process and learn to enjoy it. (Still working on this one.)

Who or what inspires you?

1) The stories we can use to transcend our small, unrealized selves into our whole and flexible selves: fairy tales, myths, superheros and legends.
2) My son.
3) My developing green thumb.

We can always learn and move outside the limited and limiting places we may have put ourselves.

Christina Anderson

Christina Anderson

Core Writer

What are you currently working on?

I'm currently working on two commissions - one for Lincoln Center and the other for Yale Rep. I'm in the "sponge" phase of creation, meaning I research themes to see if I can cultivate a story. Two books on my reading list: Scotch Whisky: A Liquid History and Armed America: The Remarkable Story of How and Why Guns Became as American as Apple Pie.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

As an ambitious college freshman, I was ready to devote my whole self to playwriting. I met Mac Wellman my first semester, who essentially told me to take it easy. I can't remember his exact words, but I do remember: "You have your whole life to be a playwright, don't cut yourself off from different experiences and opportunities." I carry that advice even today. Playwriting is only a piece, not the whole pie.

Why do you write for the stage?

I love the immediacy of it. Each moment is filled with the power of language, flesh, image, gesture, and emotion. The stage offers a rare opportunity to play, to pretend. It's an incredible (and enjoyable) challenge to create for the stage. Every time is the first time. That's a humbling experience.

Trista Baldwin

Trista Baldwin

Core Writer

What are you looking forward to this year?

A very diverse group of projects. Researching the history of cheerleading (and writing original cheers!) for the History Theater. A screenplay adaptation of American Sexy that feels like dropping acid in a frat house. Kill Me Don't Go with Workhaus Collective is a bloody, crazy comedy about marriage. Angel Fat, about money and fertility and female power, feels like walking into a house of mirrors. It's a really exciting year of writing.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

A director said, on the closing night of our show, "Create Worlds that only you can create." It was a reminder that we not only write characters who speak and take actions that compel people to watch, but we create Planets, and invite people to visit.

Why do you write for the stage?

Because the possibility for human connection in a live theater experience is much greater than any other medium. The breathing, sweating actor in front of an unsuspecting audience, with a mouth full of me/my text: the mysterious animal nature of physical communication mixed with the solid, opaque nature of words. In its best moments, theater can move us to a personal yet communal revelation.

Who or what inspires you?

Bad theater. Because it sends me into this tunnel of depression about this art form I've committed myself to, and I have to fight to find the light. Bad theater makes me want to break everything. It makes me want to risk it all.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

I continue to explore the revolution of gender dynamics that is taking place. Many subjects compel me, but we are in such a tumultuous time - good and bad - for women in this country. I am reinvigorated to write about what's happening with us - in relation to men, in relation to each other, to having children - and what is shaping our sense of who we are and what is valuable.

Lee Blessing

Lee Blessing

Core Writer

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

Arthur Miller's serious answer to a silly question. When asked what animal he'd be if he had to be an animal, he responded, "an alligator." "Why?" the interviewer asked. "Because alligators can digest bicycles," Miller said.

There are more bicycles than ever for playwrights to digest these days. Learn that skill.

Why do you write for the stage?

I forgot to learn how to do anything else. No, seriously - I forgot to learn how to do anything else. Oh, and I teach playwriting as well. To be serious, drama is clearly the medium in which I can be the most articulate. Drop me anywhere in a play and I feel confident I can write my way out.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

Stories about mankind's capacity for optimism in the face of so many profound threats to its very existence. We're almost idiotically upbeat, considering how relentlessly we work for our own destruction. Also, I want to write more comedy.

Andy Bragen

Andy Bragen

Core Writer

What are you looking forward to this year?

Seeing Wallace Shawn's new play, Grasses of a Thousand Colors, at the Public. I'm glad someone is finally producing the piece, which I find to be wild, brilliant, and refreshingly terrifying.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

Many years ago, Tina Howe, who was my teacher at the time, told me to focus more and work harder. I don't always succeed in that regard, but I know she was right.

Who or what inspires you?

The writers of the 60s and 70s, who continue to work diligently and write exciting new plays: Guare, Howe, Albee, Shawn and Shepard among others. These are the lions of American theater, our "greatest generation." I also want to mention the great Maria Irene Fornes who isn't writing anymore, I don't believe, but who taught so many of us over the years, and whose voice still echoes in my head.

George Brant

George Brant

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

A tie between a reading tour of Grounded (thanks to Generous Company, New Harmony Project, NNPN/Unicorn Theatre and Bay Area Playwrights Festival) and the premiere of The Mourner's Bench at Trinity Repertory Company.

Who or what inspires you?

Work that believes in itself. Work that is fearless. Work that lives in the awkward silences. Work that allows its characters the full spectrum of their humanity. Work that does not take my presence for granted.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

Stories about the here and now. I haven't often written work that takes place in the present day, but I've been finding it exhilarating, while requiring an extra leap of faith that the play will find a home before its present is past.

Carlyle Brown

Carlyle Brown

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Post-show discussions around three of my plays this year; a production of The African Company Presents Richard III at Oregon Shakespeare Festival; a workshop production of Dartmoor Prison at the Goodman Theatre in Chicago; and my own company's production of Are you now or have you ever been ... presented at the Guthrie Theater here in Minneapolis. These proved to me that American theater audiences are smart, engaged and love direct engagement with playwrights and theater artists.

What are you looking forward to this year?

A development workshop of Nobody, No Time, a play with music about the last night in the life of Bert Williams, the celebrated Negro entertainer of the Ziegfeld Follies that uses classic American comedic forms and performance styles to explore the inner conflicts of an African-American man who made his living exploiting the proliferation of the Negro stereotype.

Why do you write for the stage?

I love its aliveness and its immediacy, its direct engagement with the audience and how it demands from them suspension of disbelief, imagination, empathy, attention, awareness and all the natural, archetypical desires that remind us of our collective humanness. It gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.

Constance Congdon

Constance Congdon

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Performing in my own solo piece Is Sex Possible? at Dixon Place in NYC and then for a four-performance run at the KO Festival of Performance in Amherst, Massachusetts this summer.

What are you currently working on?

A play about the Daniel Shays Rebellion, called No Little Rebellion, for the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and Shakespeare And Company; an opera libretto for Lew Spratlan called Sheherezade.

What are you looking forward to this year?

My new play about romantic love beyond middle age, Cupid and Psycho, a new opera libretto for Lew Spratlan, and a new play for Theatre Novi Most called Something About a Bear.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. Keep writing. Oh, and go to plays. You can learn a lot from ones you don't like and from ones you do.

Why do you write for the stage?

I love writing for actors and for live audiences. I love all the languages of the theater: words, space, the body and movement of the actor, environment, SOUND (other than the spoken word), costumes, objects, LIGHT.

Who or what inspires you?

The writing of my students, their enthusiasm and openness. Why? They have Beginner's Minds and ask me questions that keep me honest and connected to live performance.

Dan Dietz

Dan Dietz

Core Writer

What are you currently working on?

Revisions, revisions, revisions! When I'm not in the writers room for Person of Interest, I'm sharpening and honing three different plays: Clementine in the Lower Nine, American Misfit, and my latest play, Home Below Zero. It's amazing the kind of perspective a little time away can give you on a script.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

Cuts almost always make your play stronger. When in doubt, make the cut. If your play doesn't work without it, you'll know pretty much immediately.

Who or what inspires you?

Good writing. Nothing makes me want to pop open my laptop and get to work like reading an amazing script someone else wrote. I'm so lucky to know so many talented writers who inspire me all the time. Their work speaks to me, and something inside me just can't wait to answer back.

Christine Evans

Christine Evans

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Seeing Roland Schimmelpfennig's The Golden Dragon at DC's Studio Theater. A cast of widely varied ages and ethnicities played a score of roles. It was a Brechtian fugue - counterpoint lives building to a sharp vision of immigrant suffering, built in a mosaic structure whose completed picture was surprising, gorgeous and devastating.

What are you currently working on?

You Are Dead. You Are Here. It's a ghost story for the digital war age. With Joseph Megel (director) and Jared Mezzocchi, I'm developing it through the HERE (NYC) Artist Residency Program. It's a Rubik's cube to build because we're incorporating projections from Virtual Iraq, an animated environment used in PTSD rehab for us Veterans. We're collaborating with Virtual Iraq's designers in LA, which is an extraordinary venture into a parallel world for us.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Visiting the Playwrights' Center for the first time! I'm thrilled to be coming to PlayLabs with my newest play, Can't Complain. I'm also looking forward to two very different productions of my play Trojan Barbie: one at the Garage Theater in LA, and one at Georgetown University, where I've just begun a new job. And then in June 2013 You Are Dead. You Are Here. has its world premiere at HERE in NY.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

Don't pre-shrink your play to fit the stage. Imagine the whole world in all its wildness, then use your art and cunning to stage it.

Also in my mind from Erik Ehn: follow your writing. Don't make your writing follow you.

Lastly, when stymied: (from an undisclosed source) A girl needs a fresh frock.

Why do you write for the stage?

I miss playing in bands. And it's a good way to express the impractical need to do two opposite things: hide in a corner with a notebook, and connect to a packed room of strangers at full scary voltage.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

Time unravels when the past and present entwine. I'm fascinated by how the past lives in the present and by the rhythm of its recurrence. I don't mean "flashback" sort of stories, where memory purely serves the present - more a sense of wind moving over water, and the river current beneath playing out in complex counterpoint. I just read The Tiger's Wife, in which myth and memory are sparked by a rip in the present.

Barbara Field

Barbara Field

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

The farewell performance of the Merce Cunningham dance company. They decided to tour for a year after Merce's death, and then to disband the company. It was thrilling, but sad.

What are you currently working on?

Three projects: an adaptation of Main Street; a new contemporary play called Real Estate; and a fantasy based on the work of E.T.A. Hoffmann.

What are you looking forward to this year?

All of my current projects, plus revision of a mystery, a children's play and a memoir of my work with Michael Langham.

And, of course, my tax returns.

Who or what inspires you?

The Big Names: Shakespeare, MoliÈre, Chekhov, Williams, Stoppard and of course the Greeks. How did they do it? How did they make plays active; how were their characters reacting to that change?

Marcus Gardley

Marcus Gardley

Core Writer

What are you currently working on?

A musical that takes place during the Harlem Renaissance but is based on a Greek myth and uses contemporary language. I love to compare and contrast stories of the recent past with tales from ancient history and the musicality of the present. To me, this makes a work three-dimensional. I also want to speak to a diverse audience: those passionate about history and concerned about our present world.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

"... to last." A great playwright once told me, after a horrifying feedback session, "to last." She told me that writing for the theater was not for the faint of heart, but if I would persevere, if only to "see what the end was going to be," then I would own something more precious than plaques or prizes. I would have the knowledge gained from the journey. I would have wisdom.

Why do you write for the stage?

It is one of the few spaces where you can still speak the brutal truth and people have to listen. They can't get up and walk out - not before the intermission at least - and if they do, at least they heard you and were moved hard enough to move. And their exit will cost them stares, the cutting of eyes and gnashing of teeth. Theater demands a certain amount of reverence.

Keli Garrett

Keli Garrett

Core Writer

What are you currently working on?

Zebra, inspired by my reading of two great Martinicans, psychoanalyst Frantz Fanon and the writer Aimé Cesaire. It's challenging to assimilate my understanding of their arguments into a play. The play is, in fact, its own thing.

Why do you write for the stage?

Because it allows me to think three-dimensionally, because doing so is synonymous with thinking theatrically. In the theater there is no pretext of the "real." It's a place that allows for the creative imagination to pursue innovation.

Who or what inspires you?

I am generally inspired by artists in other genres, visual art, poetry, music ... By hearing artists, particularly writers, articulate their process and what makes them do what they do. I listen to artists who speak about making and doing work without regard to the demands of the market or trend.

Jeffrey Hatcher

Jeffrey Hatcher

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

A tie between Bruce Norris' Clybourne Park and the ad-libbed (and faux ad-libbed) parts of One Man Two Guvnors, both on Broadway in the past season.

What are you currently working on?

A stage adaptation of John Kennedy Toole's A Confederacy of Dunces, a screenplay based on Yehuda Avner's book The Prime Ministers, an adaptation of Frank Marcus' The Killing of Sister George for Kathleen Turner to star in and direct, and the book for Cuba Libre, a new musical co-written with Desmond Child and Davitt Sigerson, with George C. Woolf directing.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Writing Jeffrey Hatcher's Hamlet. It's a one-person show about my first adaptation gig: writing and directing a 45-minute version of Hamlet for my 5th grade English class. I'll be performing in the show at Illusion Theater sometime in 2013.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

The following isn't advice, but it had the same effect: I received a rejection letter from Lloyd Rose, then literary manager at Arena Stage. Of the returned script I had submitted, she wrote "While there is much in the play to recommend it, in the end we did not feel compelled to produce it."

Why do you write for the stage?

I have the knack, I like the work, and I know the territory. It doesn't matter if it's a 99-seat house off-Broadway or the main stage of the Guthrie, the one place on earth where I'm completely at home is a theater.

Who or what inspires you?

The lakes and forests around Ely, Minnesota and the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. I do not fish, camp, canoe or portage. I do zoom around the lakes in a boat. I swim (sometimes) and I stroll (slowly). I sit on docks, read, go to bed early, get up late. It's wildly relaxing, yet it always provides me with ideas for plays, none of which are ever about lakes or woods.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

Stories with characters that are recognizable human beings. Sometimes I write comedies or genre pieces (mysteries, thrillers) that feature characters drawn with broad strokes and primary colors - and it's fun - but they lack dimension. I'd like to do slightly more complicated depictions. I emphasize "slightly."

Samuel D. Hunter

Samuel D. Hunter

Core Writer

What are you currently working on?

I just came out of a workshop of The Few (the play I first workshopped at the Playwrights' Center last February). I'm also working on a commission from Seattle Rep that I recently finished a draft of (which we'll develop this fall at the Center), and I'm finishing up a first draft of a commission from Manhattan Theatre Club called Mother Tongue..

What are you looking forward to this year?

I'm really looking forward to seeing my play The Whale at a few theaters this year; it's going to be great to see it continue to grow through productions. It's opening this fall at Playwrights Horizons in New York, then at South Coast Rep in California, then at Victory Gardens in Chicago.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

To write as much as possible. My most effective strategy as a playwright has been simply to write, write, write. What you're working on may never see the light of day, or it might become your most important piece. But you'll never know unless you just sit down and write it.

Adam Kraar

Adam Kraar

Core Writer

What are you currently working on?

The Karpovsky Variations, a dark comedy about the diaspora of an American Jewish family, set mostly in their surrogate homes: airport lounges.

A commission to develop a new play with Theatre Novi Most, inspired by the tempestuous marriage of Isadora Duncan and Russian poet Sergei Esenin.

Dream of a Deer at Dusk, a lyrical drama focusing on an idealistic 15-year-old girl trying to rescue a 27-year-old autistic man from the persecution of their small town.

Why do you write for the stage?

I love the way that the electrical energy of live theater can move from the text through the actors and then through the audience, and then - transformed by the audience - pour back into the actors. The process of working toward this magic energy with my collaborators is also incredibly rewarding. What's most exciting is when a play helps audiences experience the deep, sometimes mysterious connections that exist between all people, regardless of culture or identity.

Who or what inspires you?

Trees. The whispering of a light breeze in the leaves. The wondrous scent of earth, moss and damp bark. The sound of hidden creeks, and the distant songs of unidentifiable birds. Isadora Duncan once told an actor: "Whenever you work, go into the forest. Act for the trees, the sky, the grass at your feet. You will be happy then, and happy people are always convincing."

Carson Kreitzer

Carson Kreitzer

Core Writer

What are you currently working on?

Two musicals! This is new, thrilling territory for me. Lempicka, in collaboration with Matt Gould, is a commission for Yale Rep and New Dramatists. It details the passionate, scandalous life of Art Deco artist Tamara de Lempicka. Runway 69, in collaboration with Erin Kamler, is about Strippers and Gentrification, set at the moment of the Times Square Cleanup. I am adoring working with these brilliant composers. It's such a different process, and so incredibly rewarding.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

If there is something else you can do in this world, do it. This was from acting teacher Don Nance, at the North Carolina School of the Arts, the summer of my freshman year in high school. I listened, and eventually, I did get out of acting. Not all the way to something sensible, of course. But it's good to know that playwriting truly is what I have to do.

Who or what inspires you?

My collaborator Matt Gould. He balances an incredibly active artistic life with true service and engagement with the world. This year he and Griffin Matthews won the Richard Rogers award for their musical Witness Uganda, which began as a fundraiser for The Uganda Project, which Griffin began after a life-changing trip to Uganda. They just raised $20,000 and dropped four of their students off at University in Uganda. Inspirational. Beautiful. Changing the world.

Mona Mansour

Mona Mansour

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Seeing an audience in Louisville stay absorbed by my play The Hour of Feeling as it moved into a scene fully in Arabic. It took the play to a whole new level, and the audience didn't go away at all.

What are you currently working on?

A third play to go with my two Middle Eastern plays (Urge for Going and The Hour of Feeling). Every time I think I'm "done" writing about that experience, something pulls me back in. On the other end of the world, I'm also rewriting my play The Way West, which takes place in a falling-apart California city and features a mom going bankrupt who regales her daughters with prairie stories. And songs.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Finishing new plays. Having more time to write. Making more money. Seeing more theater, which I will do because I will be making more money.

Why do you write for the stage?

Many reasons! Its parameters come the closest to how I see the world. I like that on any given night, this audience will see this incarnation of the work, and no two nights are the same. At a time when we can do almost anything remotely, no other medium demands our actual, physical presence. It's a gift, and a responsibility, to be able to shape collective time like that.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

PLACE pulls me. Last year I collaborated with Scott Illingworth on a joint-stock project for the third-years at NYU. We chose Staten Island, which has always been the butt of NY jokes. It became far more than that as we researched: a place where people, trash, and even ships got discarded to create a "greater good." When we asked ourselves how that played out within families, it took us to amazing, sad, and surprising places.

Marion McClinton

Marion McClinton

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

I would probably have to say this last one, The Brothers Size. It challenged me a lot - took my sleep away. That's as a director.

As a playwright, working on Toni Morrison's Jazz, to adapt it. Which was very, very challenging. She's such a better writer than me. You have to get past the point of "I wish I had written that."

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

Listen. Listen to the world around you, and watch it. August Wilson.

Who or what inspires you?

I'm inspired by artists who just keep doing it. Carlyle Brown inspires me. Tarell Alvin McCraney inspires me. Marcus Gardley inspires me.

Watching great acting inspires me - like Namir Smallwood and Gavin Lawrence and James Williams in The Brothers Size.

Also, reading good writing, whether it's in fiction or playwriting. What probably inspires me more than anything is reading good writing.

Winter Miller

Winter Miller

Core Writer

What are you currently working on?

I've been writing the book and co-writing lyrics with composer Lance Horne for the musical Amandine, loosely based on the true story of a young girl in raised in rural France in the mid-1800s who died on the streets of Paris as a man. We open at The Cherry Lane in NYC in early January with Josh Hecht directing. Amandine is a labor of love and I look forward to sharing it.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I am prototyping an idea tentatively titled The Monologue Project. I go into communities to conduct workshops leading participants how to creatively express their deep emotions and personal stories and share them. The goal is to create greater empathy, compassion, and enhance self-esteem. I did the first workshop in Palestine with a group of 30 Palestinian youth who are part of a theater program called Al-Rowad in Aida Refugee Camp. I welcome ideas.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

1) Just allow (stop resisting what wants to come through).
2) Torture the heroine/hero.
3) Write what you don't want to write.
4) Write what you want to tell/want to see on stage.
5) Choose your collaborators well.
6) Let your characters do ugly things.
7) Be disciplined: delete if it doesn't serve.
8) Be kind.
9) Fight for your play's integrity; choose your battles.
10) Refill your cup - go live your life and come back.

Why do you write for the stage?

It's a potent way to exchange ideas and it's provocative, in the most thoughtful sense of the word. Lately I'm leaning towards theatrical events that are outside of theaters, and have some sort of communal ritual, like dinner in the intermission. Brian Mertes and Melissa Kievman's Chekhov at Lake Lucille is an ideal situation. The artifice vanishes and theater is less an elite act and simply an opportunity to connect in the here and now.

Gregory Moss

Gregory Moss

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Having the unexpected pleasure of seeing my play, House of Gold, translated into French and performed in a beautiful old chateau in Pont-à-Mousson, as part of the Mousson d'Été International Theatre Festival. It was one of the best presentations of that play I've yet seen,a nd one that went on to be seen (unbelievably) at La Comédie Française in Paris.

What are you currently working on?

The book for a musical based on the life and work of Hunter S. Thompson, with music and lyrics by the fantastic composer Joe Iconis, for La Jolla Playhouse.

What are you looking forward to this year?

Completing commissions for Playwrights Horizons and Clubbed Thumb. Getting more new, different plays out into the world. Continuing to hone my craft and challenge my range as a writer. Meeting more fellow travelers, deepening existing partnerships, building the internal network of support and artistic community while reaching out to broader and more diverse audiences.

Why do you write for the stage?

I love the excitement, danger, and possibility of an event unfolding in real time. I love the sound of engaging, crafted language spoken out loud. I love costumes, and dress up, and fakery. I love feeling a collective (though not always unanimous) response ripple through a room full of strangers.

Qui Nguyen

Qui Nguyen

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Getting the chance to choreograph a fight sequence against a giant five-headed dragon in my play She Kills Monsters. For the effect to work perfectly, the entire sequence was carefully constructed by all the designers in the room including puppets, sets, lights, costumes and sound to create a monster that was both massive in size yet swift in movement. It is one of my favorite stage tricks I've put together. Killing dragons is fun.

What are you looking forward to this year?

The birth of my second child. Which my wife and I have nicknamed "Electric Boogaloo." If you see me in April and I'm pale, unintelligible and drooling, you'll know why. Well, it's either that or I'm a zombie. Either way, I'd recommend running the other direction. Grumpy writers bite.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

Don't be afraid to write the impossible. Which I often do. Most of my shows feature moments like car chases, robot battles, aerial dogfights, etc. Mainly I do it because I love figuring out how to execute these huge effects onstage. Because when they work they can be real moments of theatrical magic and inspiration. And when they don't work, they're still pretty friggin' hysterical to watch. And who doesn't like a good laugh?

Kira Obolensky

Kira Obolensky

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Can I list more than one? I loved seeing Christian Marclay's video piece, The Clock, recently in Canada; and the most engaging/inspiring theatrical experience was Ten Thousand Things' Il Campiello at Hennepin County Men's Prison.

What are you currently working on?

I've been collaborating with three other artists in the formation of The Gymnasium, which connects artists with other creative risk takers outside of the arts (www.thegymtc.com). Also, writing a novel called Lune and a new play about Suffragettes.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I'm looking forward to seeing some former students' work in productions in California and elsewhere. I'm hoping to finish my novel, Lune, and a new play about Suffragettes.

John Olive

John Olive

Core Writer

What are you currently working on?

iPad apps: bedtime stories from my book Tell Me A Story In The Dark read by voice actors. In collaboration with David Grant, a young adult version of our story about young Abe Lincoln's raft trip to New Orleans. Finishing my own young adult novel, Smartass. Reviews, articles and interviews for HowWasTheShow.com. Two plays for Seattle Children's Theatre. Finally, a play on the greatest subject in history: the end of the human species.

What are you looking forward to this year?

I have two plays in place for Seattle Children's Theatre's 2012-13 season. In both projects I will "opening up" picture books, making them playable. We will be workshopping both shortly.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

1) Make sure it's honest. You can get away with the most outlandish choices imaginable, so long as you are honestly creating a character.

2) Don't do it.

What sort of stories have you been interested in writing about lately?

... Stories about a subject that has so far been completely ignored - by the international media, by Hollywood, producers for the stage, etc. - the biggest and most important story of all time: the end of the human species.

Mat Smart

Mat Smart

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Cleaning toilets in Antarctica. I was a janitor at McMurdo Station for almost three months and it provided me with enough material for the rest of my life.

What is the best theater or playwriting advice you have ever received?

I asked Minneapolis acting extradonaire, James Craven, how he has had such a distinguished and prolific career in the theatre. His answer: "I only work with people I like."

Why do you write for the stage?

I believe we have to get together in person, away from dumbphones and TVs and monitors, and hear stories that can inspire us to live more honest, more daring lives.

Victoria Stewart

Victoria Stewart

Core Writer

What is the most thrilling artistic experience you have had in the last year?

Working on the bilingual workshop of Clandestino at Mixed Blood. It's a play that I co-wrote with Cory Hinkle and co-created with Jeremy and David Wilhelm (as well as the cast of the play) about an immigration raid in Postville, Iowa - the largest workplace raid in U.S. history. We presented it for two weeks at Mixed Blood in June and I was gratified and moved by the audience's response. Amazing cast, amazing audience.

What are you currently working on?

An adaptation of Hamlet told from Ophelia's point of view. I wrote a play for the Guthrie's B.F.A. program which had an extended fight sequence staged mostly with women, and the actresses were so excited to jump in and learn stage combat. I realized there need to be more classical roles for women where they get to kick ass, so I decided to write some. Yes, sad mopey Ophelia is gonna kick some ass!

What are you looking forward to this year?

The premiere production of my play Rich Girl, which will be co-produced by George Street Playhouse in New Jersey and Cleveland Playhouse in Ohio in the spring of 2013. My play 800 Words is getting a third production in Pittsburgh in the fall of 2012. Also, I'm really looking forward to the birth of my new baby sometime around Thanksgiving 2012!

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