An Interview with our Playwrights

2016 Summer Reading Salon
David Jacobi - Ready Steady Yeti Go

Q: This is our first time getting to meet you... Tell us a little about yourself! 

A: I'm a playwright living in Philly. I just finished a year-long residency at Pig Iron, and I'm sticking around for the theater community and the cheap rent. 

Q: You received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in dramatic writing.. did you always have it in mind to be a playwright? What really solidified it for you?

A: I always thought I wanted to be a screenwriter. When I was at SUNY Purchase for Dramatic Writing, we had to take playwriting along with screenwriting. While I loved screenwriting, I found it confining. I had the good fortune to learn playwriting from Kathleen Tolan, and the more I learned about the craft, the more I realized that it was the best outlet for the writing I wanted to do.

Q: Your work has been performed all over the US and even in China, so where's your favorite theatre community? What do you connect to there?

 

A: Oh man. China's great, but it's kind of like a never-ending Fringe festival; if you want your work to be seen, you've got to do most of it yourself. I'm still new to theater, and I've been bouncing around. I'm starting to dig Philly. it's a pretty vibrant scene. 

Q: Ready Steady Yeti Go features adults playing children, who often also in turn portray adults... what are you hoping to unwrap in presenting this story through these layers of representation?

A: This play explores the effect adults can have on kids when it comes to race. I really want to dig deep on our "big ideas," and explore what thoughts are our own, and what thoughts were imprinted on us by others. 

 

Q: Your piece deals with questions of race, identity and finding a sense of "belonging," yet does so in a way that maintains an incredible level of humor and innocence - what brought you to wanting to explore these issues in this manner?

 

A: When faced with something like race, I think laughing is the only way to prevent yourself from crying until you die. And I don't know if "innocence" isn't really a thing, especially when it comes to kids (and my preteen protagonists). I think kids run on a kind of primal autopilot. They often get things right because they're not thinking too hard about it.

 

Q: You're a Shank Fellow with Pig Iron Theatre Company, a group well known for genre-defying theatrical works - how has your time with them influenced your aesthetic or how you approach creating art?

 

A: Pig Iron has been blowing my mind apart. Trying to capture their aesthetic is like staring into the sun. Being in a room with them has been transformative in regard to how I think about collaboration. The things I've witnessed there are still unravelling in my head. I'm looking forward to the day I'll be able to fully activate it.

Q: I have been asking our playwrights who their favorite playwright is or what their favorite play is, and last week's playwright, Chris Braak, brought an interesting reframing to the question... Instead, I shall ask... what play is out there that you secretly wish you had written? Why/what resonates so deeply with you about the play?

 

A: I wish I wrote "The Aliens" by Annie Baker. I can't really explain how that play works on me, but I think that's what makes the play so great. 

I also wish I wrote Hamilton, because I really like money.

Q: Stories are everything to us here at March Forth, so why do stories matter to you?

A: I'm going to have to quote Alan Moore on this one:

 

"You piss off a bard, and forget about putting a curse on you, he might put a satire on you. And if he was a skillful bard, he puts a satire on you, it destroys you in the eyes of your community, it shows you up as ridiculous, lame, pathetic, worthless, in the eyes of your community, in the eyes of your family, in the eyes of your children, in the eyes of yourself, and if it's a particularly good bard, and he's written a particularly good satire, then three hundred years after you're dead, people are still gonna be laughing, at what a twat you were.” 

 

 If that doesn't get you excited about the power of stories, I don't know what will.

David's play, Ready Steady Yeti Go, will be read on August 22nd as part of the 2016 Summer Reading Salon.

To attend please RSVP to rsvp@marchforthproductions.org

 
CHRIS BRAAK- The Erlking's Daughter

Q: We're excited to be bringing you in from Philadelphia for this reading. Any major similarities or differences that you have noticed between the scenes in Philly and NYC?

 

A: Well, I don't know a whole lot about the New York scene, and to be honest I'm not really deeply immersed in the Philadelphia scene either.  One thing I will say is that the Philadelphia scene is much smaller -- I'm sure in New York it feels like everyone in the theater knows your business, but in Philadelphia everyone in the theater knows your business.  And there's advantages and disadvantages to that.  It's a very close-knit, very supportive community, and I don't think there's any doubt about how that can help especially an early career playwright.  But that close-knitted-ness means that your plays are usually vetted by people who are already committed to supporting you, and that can mean that some questionable choices end up in the final production.  It also means the scene is slow to change; here's an example:  Philadelphia as a city is predominately black, and the Philadelphia metro area has the second-highest black population in the country, but because of the, I guess you'd call it the resilience of these community networks, black theater is still often a niche theater or sort of peripheral to the "main" theater season.  I think this is criminal under the best of circumstances but it's really ludicrous in a place like Philadelphia; again, though, it's a side-effect of this adaptive strategy -- for small theaters and for new artists and new playwrights, we built this tightly-knit community that is immensely helpful at being supportive, and it's only very slowly and very painfully is opening itself up to what I'd say are its larger cultural responsibilities.

 

I don't know if New York has that problem, I hope not.

Q: You're a novelist as well as a playwright - which came first for you, the stage or the page? What prompted you to explore the other form?

 

A: I think I'm probably not unusual as a writer in that it's hard for me to pinpoint exactly when or how I became a writer -- there was a long period of undifferentiated story-telling: plays and short stories and poetry and "novels" when I was a kid, who knows exactly.  I didn't make a real try at either plays or novels until I was in college, and for me they developed at roughly the same rate.  My feeling has always been that different ideas include the medium that they should be told in; usually when I get an idea for something, I know right away, based on how I want to tell it and what I want to examine, whether it needs to be a book or a play or what. I wish I had a better answer for how I know the difference, but that part at least is very intuitive -- it may even be nothing at all, just that I was thinking about plays when the idea was nascent, and so a play is what it grew up into.

  

Q: We were particularly compelled by your fusion of classic folk tales, urban legends and contemporary horror & suspense in The Erlking's Daughter. What compelled you to want to explore ancient German folklore in such a manner?

 

A: So, a thing that I think is really interesting, something that I come back to a lot, is this idea of holes in a cultural narrative.  We've got a lot of these really big, really broad cultural narratives, narratives that you might call "totalizing": these systems for understanding the world that are meant to include every aspect of history and experience. Christianity in the West is a totalizing narrative, so is Scientific Materialism.  In the US, the American Dream is a totalizing narrative, in the sense that it forces us to address everything about ourselves in relation to it.

 

But for all of these totalizing narratives, these other, small narratives, outside the scope of the broad narrative, still persist.  And so, that suggests to me that they're still doing something -- I think all kinds of storytelling, from the huge narratives down to the small ones, all of them serve a kind of purpose; they soothe perturbations of the spirit or help reconcile conflicting ideas or something like that.  And so I think these smaller stories persist because they solve some kind of problem, and I think that even though we treat fairy tales as being "cultural artifacts", like they're produced by a kind of collective spirit of a culture or drawn directly from a shared subconscious pool, a way they might be working is on a particular, personal level. So I was very interested to look at the gaps in totalizing narrative -- fairy tales, urban legends, horror --- as a space through which you could sort of see this very particular, very personal experience.

 

My educational background focused very heavily on fairy tales and myth as storytelling device, so I guess I'm sort of primed to look at human experience as being mediated by narrative.

Q: Your piece deals quite heavily with the stress and strain that can be put upon a family, and particularly a primary caregiver, when confronted with debilitating physical and mental conditions - how did you come to the decision to tackle such issues through drama? Why is it important to you to have this kind of representation and conversation?

 

A: I don't want to oversell this -- my experience on this subject is limited and I don't want to present myself as any kind of an expert.  I will say that one thing I was trying to focus on and maybe shed some light on -- one area where maybe our regular cultural narratives, to me, look like they're falling short -- is not just on the difficulty of being a primary caregiver for a disabled person, but on how the social narrative around caregiving can be an aggravating condition to that.  In America, we have really strong ideas about productivity, sacrifice, about who has value in the world and why, and about how we're supposed to treat value -- the specific difficulties of a disability aside, these social values can become a tremendous difficulty for both caregivers and the disabled, and they also inform the support systems that we build into our culture.  Something I do have experience with is public welfare in Pennsylvania, and I can say that between the difficulty of getting support from the state in the first place, and the parsimonious nature of those benefits, getting any kind of support at all is it's own kind of special nightmare.

 

Q: What kind of theatre excites you? How do you see your work being influenced or influencing this style?

A: I've always had a deep affection for Brecht's notion of the Epic Theater -- complex, intricate, reaching out for these big ideas and trying to portray them in an intellectually-engaging way.  A thing where I think I'm very outside the bounds of most people who participate in the theater is that at the end of the day, I'd rather be interested than I would be moved.  I don't think there's anything wrong with that, or anything wrong with being the other way around, it's just how my priorities have organized themselves -- I like theater with big ideas.

 

Q: Stories are everything to us here at March Forth, so why do stories matter to you?

 

A: I kind of mentioned this early on, but I think that narrative is the essential building block of personal identity, and, because of that, the foundation for really all, if not most, of our culture -- it takes a lot of engineering and science and hard physical labor to build a skyscraper, for instance, but no one's building a skyscraper without a reason, and that reason, whatever it is, has got its roots in the stories that people tell themselves about who they are and why they are and where they come from and where they're going.

 

So, I don't know, stories are what everything is made out of, how could stories not matter to someone?  Who knows, I don't know.  That question is too hard to answer; maybe it's too fundamental for me to see clearly.

 

Q: One last question I have to ask: what's your favorite play or playwright? Why?

 

A: I'm deeply suspicious of any writer who's only got one favorite anything; I've got a bunch of different favorites for different reasons -- or, anyway, for the same reason, which is that they have big ideas, but also for different reasons, because they have different big ideas.  I like Brecht, and how he thinks about how a person is supposed to fit into a society (on the one hand) and also for how gleefully contrarian his aesthetics are (on the other); I love Thorton Wilder --  in some ways I think Our Town is extraordinarily radical, in that it builds this huge, cosmic notion out of defiantly ordinary material; Caryl Churchill, for reasons I hope are obvious; I think the actual best play in history is José Rivera's Marisol, and that's probably the one that, if it wasn't already written, I'd wish I could write.

Chris' play, The Erlking's Daughter, was read on August 15th as part of the 2016 Summer Reading Salon.

chandra thomas - The 'End

Q: Since this is your first time with us, tell us a little about yourself!

A: Well, let's see I write plays, screenplays, performance poetry, and Twitter updates; perform on screens and stages, large and small; produce new media, film, as well as live performance projects. As an actor/writer/producer, I'm incredibly drawn to stories and characters that come from specific and dynamic voices that offer unique, fresh perspectives about the world around us. Outside of my work (which I absolutely LOVE!), I'm originally from New York, I adore travelling, am a longtime vegetarian and a HUGE baseball fan.

 

Q: Looking at your resume, it's clear you are a formidable force both on and off the stage – what compelled you to incorporate writing and producing into your artistic arsenal? 

A: That's very kind of you to say. I really consider it such a blessing to get to do what I do! When I've been asked this question before I've relayed various versions of this story: when my younger brother and I were kids we were really only allowed to watch television on Saturday mornings. So, as any reasonable kid would do, we would overload and watch ALL of the cartoons we could squeeze in for those precious few TV hours. We were totally "binge watchers" before that became a thing [laughs]. Then, shortly after watching our cartoons, we'd spend much of the afternoon making "live-action versions" of the stories we'd just watched. I was the one creating tickets for our parents to come watch the show, building hand-drawn spreadsheets with resources/materials needed for each production, as well as drafting 'budgets' for each show and building props/costumes. This Saturday morning ritual was probably my earliest 'theatre'-related experience and, interestingly enough, this early entry point was essentially as a producer. So, on some levels, it feels like I was producing and even writing before I discovered by deep love for bringing characters to life on and off the stage. I find it infinitely crucial, as a working professional, to be part of creating and orchestrating narratives that seem to be missing in theatre and beyond. Producing and writing allow me to do my part in filling this tremendous need.

 

Q: Folks should know that on top of all your other endeavors, you're also a performance poet - how does your poetic sensibility inform your usage of language and rhythm for the theatre and vice versa?

Yeah, I have written and performed much performance poetry. I have a bit of a love affair with words and musicality so performance poetry allows me to dance between the two. In the play of mine we'll be reading as part of March Forth's Summer Reading Salon (currently titled The 'End), there are several characters who speak in their everyday life in language we might describe as performance poetry. I find something particularly exciting about what the blending of language and rhythm reveals about a character to the audience.

 

Q: You're very active in arts advocacy and education, particularly for youth - why are the arts important for youth to be involved in?

 

A: I have said it before and I'll say it again—as a young person, the arts absolutely kept me from many of the distractions that can easily derail youth. I am still so incredibly grateful for the growth, critical-thinking skills, friendships, pure joy, life hacks and grounding I got from my early and often arts education. And seeing what the arts can do for young people, even more so now, really fuels so much of my advocacy for arts access and education. For example, I co-founded viBe Theater Experience (an arts and education non-profit organization dedicated to empowering teenage girls through the collaborative performing arts in New York City) in 2002 and served as Director of Programming until 2012. The young women we worked with during that time came from all over New York to create their own plays, solo shows, music and the like. Most had never stepped on a stage before and few had ever experienced theatre, with rare exception through school field trips to the occasional Broadway play, or a production at their school or a religious institution. These young women would come together in their respective groups to develop and perform original works that spoke from an often raw, always truthful place in their writing and performances that were pointedly influenced and colored by the world immediately around them. It was incredible to witness our young women (re)write their own stories and then see the continued ripples of that brave action in their lives outside the rehearsal room and off the stage.

 

Q: The 'End deals heavily with ideas of racial representation and identity, issues which are steeped in tragic news recently, yet somewhat buoyed by artistic celebrations such as Hamilton  - what is your vision of the racial landscape in the arts and society at large for the future? How do you see your work shaping or fitting into this dialogue?

A: It feels like the conversation around issues of representation and identity in relation to ethnicity pops up with some regularity in the arts, and these days, in the greater society, but it often feels less regular that we see much discernible actions and substantive changes. We've read the articles and seen the blog posts and attended (and even spoken on) the panels about this very complex subject. As I was saying to a dear artistic colleague the other day we, as artists, are perfectly poised to help drive the dialogue beyond just lip service. Of course, Hamilton has been a cultural landmark that goes far beyond the theatre. But I also look at, for example, Hands Up: 7 Playwrights, 7 Testaments by the incredible team at The New Black Fest (a theatre festival committed to celebrating, advocating and showcasing diverse and provocative work of Black theatre artists from throughout the African Diaspora). In light of the police shootings of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri and John Crawford III in Beavercreek, Ohio, among others, The New Black Fest commissioned seven emerging playwrights to write short works that explore their feelings about the state of being Black in a culture of institutional profiling. The playwrights, Nathan James, Nathan Yunberberg, Idris Goodwin, Nambi Kelley, Glenn Gordon, Dennis Allen II, and Eric Holmes with the curatorial hand of playwright/artistic director Keith Josef Adkins, developed this theatrical event that speaks from the personal and political voice of the artists, as well as actively engages the audience in dialogue about the themes and questions explored throughout the work. The evening of works has been presented on stages outside of the New York theatregoing crowd; it's such a clear example of how the theatre can help shape and inform this kind of dialogue. For me, as an artist, contemporary and urgent narratives are what I'm excited to continue to create and contribute to the groundswell of rarely seen/heard stories that are expanding our understanding of ourselves and each other.

 

Q: Stories are everything to us here at March Forth, so why do stories matter to you?

 

A: Stories and food are two of the greatest tools we have to bridge gaps between people. Stories, especially the specific and dynamic ones, have the ability to tug at our universal truths and reverberate to the very foundation of our humanity.

 

Q: One last question I have to ask: what's your favorite play or playwright? Why?

A: This is a really hard one—I know of and have experienced so many INCREDIBLE plays by absolutely astounding artists. (And I've already started naming names in response to an earlier question here which is always a tricky practice!) I'm profoundly inspired and challenged and heartened and energized by, honestly, innumerable plays and playwrights. And this is perhaps because of some of the themes and characters of The 'End, as well as your earlier question about theatre and performance poetry, but I find myself thinking of Ntozake Shange's seminal play, for colored girls who have considered suicide when the rainbow is enuf in this moment. The use of language. Stories that hadn't made it to the theatre before this play. Characters presented as raw and unrefined. A play that I deeply, deeply appreciate.

chandra's play, The 'End, was read on August 8th as part of the 2016 Summer Reading Salon.

Wk 1: FRAN DORF - The Angel of Forgetting

 

 

Q: You're quite well established as a novelist, however this is your first foray into writing a full length play. What made you want to take the leap from the page to the stage? 

 

A: Psychology and writing are my top two interests, and both are about mining, understanding, and illuminating true human stories we can all relate to. Whatever form my writing takes, I long ago realized that I write to understand and try to make sense of the chaos of life. When a story calls to me, I eventually have to find a way and a form to tell it. Writing is my addiction, my religion, and my solace, even though at times I’ve tried to run away from, beat over the head, and even murder my creative muse.  As with all my creative endeavors, I didn’t actually become fully committed to and engaged in working in this form until I began doing it, studying it, immersing myself in it.

 

In a way, I backed in. In 2007, after a long period of muse-beating and a long absence from writing, I went back to school to finish a masters in social work. Once I got settled in the field, the creative muse seized me again with a new story—my own.  I’d experienced a bout with breast cancer, and started working on a funny/tragic memoir, partly to try to make sense of the ridiculous amount of “tsuris” (misfortune) I’ve experienced. An agent said she thought I should turn the book into a “one woman show” (with me as the one woman!), so I started to work on a few scenes for the stage. This led me to a theatre workshop, where I found a creative community to engage with and discovered the collaborative process so unique to theatre. Writing had always been such a lonely profession, and it thrilled me to see what great actors and directors can bring. I began to read, study, and see plays in a serious way.  All this helped me become comfortable enough with the form to listen to the call of a story that had been nagging at me for years. “The Angel of Forgetting” is my second full length play; I’m also working on two others.  

 

Q: What have you found to be the expected or unexpected challenges in writing for the stage?

 

A: Interesting question. Not surprisingly given my interest in human psychology, my novels, published and unpublished, have always been mostly about human beings in conflict with their inner demons. I think this is true to some degree about my plays so far. In a novel, dialogue, action and description can help the reader understand the psychological motivations of your characters, but you also have the tool of interior monologue. On the stage, you don’t have interior monologue unless you make a theatrical conceit of it. Instead, you have dialogue, action, and subtext as interpreted by the actors. I’ve been told by my editors and others that I have a flair for natural sounding dialogue. If that’s true, it comes from good listening and observation skills, and an atunement to the contrast between what people say and what they actually might be feeling and thinking inside. Both come out of being a student of psychology. Trying to dramatize inner lives on the stage has been a real but fascinating challenge, and I love watching actors find the subtext.   

 

I tend to overwrite and then cut, but writing for the stage requires a real willingness to “let go of your darlings” in the cutting process.  This has been a challenge. I’ve also been unexpectedly challenged by having to separate helpful from unhelpful feedback, and by receiving feedback that at first seems unhelpful, but which on further analysis proves very helpful.


Q: Your piece deals with very personal and universal issues regarding cultural identity, grief and coming to terms with your family history - what attracted you to this kind of story? Is there any personal connection to this story?

 

A: My three-year-old son, Michael, died in 1994, a few months after my second novel was published in paperback.  Grief left me unable to fulfill a multi-book contract with Dutton, and it took years before I could even think about writing again.  Eventually I wrote “Saving Elijah,” a novel almost wholly inspired by my loss, even though it features a ghost as a main character.  I’ve come to believe that writing is healing for anyone, professional writer or not, and I know that the process of writing that novel saved my life. Every creative project I’ve undertaken since has been either directly or indirectly informed by the subject of grief. Before the loss of my son, I wouldn’t have gone near it.

 

“The Angel of Forgetting” comes to a large extent out of my interactions with bereaved people in clinical and other settings, and in their and my own interactions with psychics.  A seed came just after my last novel was published.  I was invited to a party at my agent’s home, and among her guests was another client, a famous psychic medium who’d just published a bestselling book. This woman made a beeline for me, and, uninvited, said, “I see a little boy standing next to you, he wants you to know that….”   Well, I was still pretty raw, and to tell the truth, highly offended.  There was my book on the coffee table next to hers. It was obvious my agent had told her about my son and my loss; perhaps she’d even read the book, which would have told her all she needed to know to pretend she knew about my little boy from supernatural sources. As I later learned from my research, she was attempting what’s called a “a hot read.” Another time, I sat with a large group of bereaved parents listening to a psychic, and found myself amazed that what I mostly saw were cheesy manipulative tricks, while it appeared that most in the audience were completely convinced he’d made contact with their dead children, and found comfort in his steady stream of fast-talking banter.  I thought this dichotomy of reaction would be interesting to explore in a play. He also kept saying, “My mother thinks I’m crazy.” Perhaps she does. And there was a chance to explore some fascinating family dynamics.  

 

Among the other issues “The Angel of Forgetting” takes up are cultural identity, the immigrant experience, and the effect of trauma. As a way of further answering this question, I have to say that I think fiction is a soup whose ingredients are anything the writer has seen, heard, experienced, invented, imagined, read, learned, or dreamed.  A fictional play is no different. You cook up your chosen ingredients using the tools of the format, and once it’s all cooked, the only thing that’s really important is how it tastes.

Q: The lines that define reality and spirituality are blurred and transcended throughout this piece - is this a sensibility that you find yourself playing with often? How do you imagine this piece being translated to the stage?

 

A: Yes, over and over. I am a religious skeptic by nature and yet all my novels and this play incorporate supernatural elements.  I did have one truly transcendent experience in my life (related to the creative process), and the power of that one experience is undeniable. I’m very interested in point of view, and I like to explore how different people react to the same event, particularly an event that seems supernatural to some. It’s kind of a Rashomon thing. It seems I like to ask the question: “Is this person crazy, or is she/he seeing what she thinks she’s seeing?” And then I come at the question from different points of view.

 

I think I’d like to see the realistic set as described, but I’m not married to that. I recently saw “Dry Powder” at the Public Theatre, and thought it was tremendously effective, at least partly because the set was so spare and unrealistic: shiny blue boxes the actors worked around, all rearranged with prescribed precision during the scene changes.  It might be interesting to play up the supernatural elements of “The Angel of Forgetting” on the stage with scrims and/or special audio and visual effects, but I think the play could be done effectively with a minimum of special effects. I have a vague idea that I’d like to see old sepia photographs projected onto the set, rippling across the stage, perhaps accompanying some of the forays into memory and dreams. These are all conversations I’d love to have with artistic collaborators who are as drawn to the piece as I am.    


 

Q: Chagall's painting "Over Vitebsk" plays greatly into this story - do you often find inspiration in other artistic forms? Did this piece inspire the action, or was it found after the genesis of the story?

 

A: One of my unpublished novels, called Provenance, revolved around a painting, and I drew inspiration from Abigail Washburn and Bela Fleck’s recent banjo cover of the song “Railroad” when recently working with a partner on a teleplay adaptation of my novel, “Saving Elijah.”  However, this is the first time another artistic form, a painting, has been so integral.

 

I don’t make outlines.  I seem to write scene by scene, beginning with only a germ of an idea, and usually with a scene and characters drawn intuitively out of my subconscious, or perhaps my gut. If the first scene or scenes seem compelling, I write more scenes, tweaking the characters as I go, and eventually fleshing out a plot. I rewrite constantly; most work undergoes many drafts, although often those first scenes remain largely as they were originally conceived, though their position might change. But I think plot always comes out of character and situation, rather than the other way around.

 

I looked back at the first draft of this piece to determine the answer to this question. I did follow the method outlined above.  The play was originally called “American Psychic.” The first scene I wrote—with the psychic at work and actors planted in the audience—was the scene that currently opens the play, and this scene remains almost as conceived, in its original place. The second scene I wrote was the one with the African American home health aide, and in a first draft of this scene the painting was already there, so it must be part of the inspiration.  I’ve always loved Chagall’s work, partly because it reminds me of dream, and dreams were a subject I wanted to explore here. I also subscribe to John Gardner’s idea of the “fictive dream,” that fiction does its job by creating and maintaining a dream state for the reader, and I think this may be even more true for an audience, due to the immediacy of response. Moment by moment, you can see and feel whether the audience is immersed in the fictional dream you’ve created.

 

Q: Why do stories matter to you?

 

A: As I said before, I’ve always been drawn to the call of story. I think our stories make us who we are, and that we share stories to bring out our compassion and common humanity.  I have tried in this play to grapple with the idea that only by acknowledging our common humanity will we be able to save ourselves and our planet.

 

Q: One last question I have to ask: what's your favorite play (or playwright) and why?

 

A: One?  No way.  I don’t suppose it’s surprising that “Angels in America” is at the top of my list. Some other favorites are works that show raw emotion, get deep into point of view, and dramatize inner demons, such as “’night, Mother,” “God of Carnage,” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe.” I played Inez in a college production of “No Exit” and I find that a fascinating idea and a fascinating play. I think “Cabaret” is a brilliant musical play.  I love Tennessee Williams, David Ives, some of Neil Labute’s work. I’ve not seen Ayad Akhtar’s Pulitzer winner, Disgraced, but just from reading the text recently, I have to say I thought it was just brilliant, honest, and culturally important.

 

I’ve found there can be a real difference between reading a play and seeing it in full production. Sometimes a play may not grab me in text, but when you see it in production, it’s just wow! I’m particularly anxious to have the chance to collaborate with other artists who will bring their own ideas to “The Angel of Forgetting,” in order to bring the play to full “wow!” in a production on the stage.

Fran's play, The Angel of Forgetting, was read on August 1st as part of the 2016 Summer Reading Salon.