Jerome Fellow Deborah Yarchun is at the Playwrights’ Center this week, workshopping her play Tectonic Mélange with director Jeremy B. Cohen and actors Michelle Barber, J.C. Cutler, Emily Kitchens, and Michael Wieser. The public is invited to a reading of the play at 3 p.m. on March 20. No RSVP is necessary. We asked Deborah a few questions:
What are you looking forward to this year, artistically?
I’m looking forward to working on several ambitious projects: including a new play titled Tectonic Mélange, an EST/Sloan commission about a petroleum geologist hired by a small town in North Dakota to interest investors in their mineral rights. I’m also beginning work on a folk musical about the life of my favorite Jewish songwriter.
What is your writing process like?
Each play seems to require its own process. I usually trick myself into writing plays by spending a lot of time gathering notes. As I research, I find I’m sketching scenes. So much so—that by the time I officially start writing, the play’s almost already written. I think writing is a lot of learning to play the right mental tricks on yourself. I also find deadlines incredibly useful.
What playwriting/theater advice do you have for others?
There’s a moment in The Last Crusade when Indiana Jones is at the edge of a cliff. He takes a step into air and a path appears that he hadn’t seen from the angle he was standing. I think that a career in the theater is a lot like that. Constantly. Every line you write, every time you send out a play, every day—is a leap of faith. But if you keep stepping forward, a path will appear.
What kind of theater or art excites you?
Theater that has an idea that the playwright seems to have felt more than thought—plays generated from a place that feels honest. Even if the play is a mess, if I believe in the mess, it’s exciting. Theater that makes me feel, but also makes me think—and laugh—in a way that I have no idea what hit me. Plays that hit me in places I didn’t know existed in myself.