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L O S  A N G E L E S  -  INTERIVIEW - Sheila Callaghan 

        

LOS ANGELES, CA - Sheila Callaghan is an accomplished award winning playwright. Currently, she has three of her plays being performed. Scab is being seen in Seattle. The world premiere Crawl, Fade to White is performing to rave reviews at the Theatre of Note, and premiering October 8th at the Los Angeles 7th Annual Edgefest is Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake).

Maestro Arts & Reviews correspondent Adrian Rennie jumped at the chance for an online chat interview with Sheila Callaghan; regarding her work, her passion for her craft, and to get a glimpse of an individual who is making her dreams come true. The individual, who lives a life with humor, utilizes abilities, and shares wisdom with others, becomes the genuine role model.

Adrian : Hi Sheila, so nice to meet you. Thank for taking some time out to chat with Maestro. First thing first, congrats on having two plays simultaneously in Los Angeles.

Sheila : Thanks!

Adrian: How long have you been writing plays?

Sheila : Gosh.  I suppose professionally since I left grad school in '97... I wrote some really REALLY silly and derivative little things in college that my little theatre club threw up, but back then I was a lot more serious about poetry and prose than I was about writing plays.

Adrian : What made you want to be a playwright?

Sheila : It was the meeting point of my two loves... I loved writing and I loved the theatre.  I used to act a little, not very well, and so I knew I couldn't have a career in theatre ON the stage, so working behind it (or above, below, beneath) made the most sense.

Adrian :  *smile* Tell us about the first play you wrote. What was motivation behind it?

Sheila :  My FIRST play... my first SERIOUS play, or my first play? 

Sheila Callaghan

   

   

   

CRUMBLE

Playing Oct. 7 - 23, 2005

Pictured: Lily Holleman
Photo by: Paul Amendt

   

       

Adrian : The first play after college, or more specifically - the first one where you were most nervous on opening night

Sheila :  Ooh.  Those are two different plays.  My first serious play was called The Hunger Waltz.  I was reading a lot of Gertrude Stein at the time and I wanted to try to simulate a "continuous present" on stage... I was also trying to investigate the idea of sexual autonomy in a theatrical setting.  The play takes place over 600 years and follows a woman who arrives in three different centuries, each time working through her relationships with her clueless and somewhat abusive husband and her manipulative but super-sexy girl lover. In the end the woman sheds both relationships, aborts a child, and winds up on an island, alone.  Some saw it as bleak, but others viewed the woman as powerful-- finally in control of her destiny at the expense of those who loved her.  And some found it completely baffling altogether.  It's not my most produced play... :-)

Adrian :  *smile*

Sheila : The play I was most nervous about was probably Scab, because in writing it I drew a lot upon reality and it was painful/exhilarating/terrifying to watch.  THAT is my most produced play.

Adrian :  I curious to see the Hunger Waltz now. *smile* The Scab is currently being performed in Seattle. Have you traveled to that production?

Sheila :  Not that one, unfortunately... it's the first Scab I'm going to miss.  But I just could not work it in, with the two plays in LA and my two weddings this fall (one small thing in Brooklyn and one larger Greek thing in Florida)... they are taping it for me so at least I'll get to see it on the little screen...

Adrian : Weddings? Exciting! Congrats again!

Sheila : Thanks!

Adrian : What were some of the obstacles you had to encounter and overcome, in terms of playwriting?

Sheila : The biggest obstacle I find is to keep doing it.  I just wrote a little something about this actually, if you don't mind me quoting myself here...

Adrian : Please do

Sheila : And I quote:

Adrian : *smile*

Sheila : The other day I was re-visiting my original impulses for making a career out of theatre, and I thought of myself sneaking out of class and breaking into the tiny theatre in my high school and sitting on the empty stage in the darkness and just swelling with joy at all the possibilities to be carved out in that darkness. I still have that feeling sometimes, like the first time I enter a rehearsal room with a stunning group of actors, or when I walk into a theatre as the set is being built, wood sawed, flats painted... it's like falling in love. But that feeling is so fleeting, while this gnawing feeling of low-grade failure is pretty constant.

I'm trying to come to terms with it. The art of this business is not in the making of art, which is chiefly instinctual. It's in the aggressive re-discovery of one's love of magic. Because quite often there isn't much else to go on.

Adrian : I like that. I can relate. In college, I used to sneak out onto their empty theater stage too.

Sheila : I wrote it because I was maneuvering through the first round of reviews of the plays that are up now (folks always say "don't read your reviews" but I always find it impossible not to), and I got really down about the nature of the biz.  Success in the theatre is so arbitrary.  The stakes are seemingly low because there is no real money involved, but when you commit your life to something that has such low monetary reward I feel like the personal stakes get completely magnified... and so when it isn't going particularly well, the question "WHY AM I DOING THIS" can be deafening.  The reviews coming in are rather good right now, so I was mostly reacting to my vast relief and how sad the root of that relief is.

Adrian : What would you say is one of your greatest successes so far?

Sheila : I have no idea!!  Isn't that odd?  My first instinct was to say "my son" but I don't have children.  That's what folks usually say...

Adrian : That is a great success if you ask me

Sheila : So I imagine it WOULD be my son if I had one.

Adrian : I read you are teaching playwriting at the University of Rochester. How is that coming along?

Sheila : I love teaching. I really really do. I love being able to get excited about theatre in front of folks who don't have any real experience in career-theatre, because I can be totally idealistic and doe-eyed about it and no one will look at me like I'm smoking crack.

Adrian: Haha. *smile* I wish you the best on the that. I have great respect for people who have to opportunity to give back in that manner. What are some inspirations for writing?

Sheila : But again, teaching playwriting is low-stakes... I've also taught Composition to a room full of thirty adults, none of whom had English as a first language... that kind of teaching feels like survival teaching. My inspirations...Hmm..My playwright inspirations....  I have a list.  Erik Ehn.  Caryl Churchhill.  Lisa D'amour.  Mac Wellman.  Maria Irene Fornes.  I feel like this is a typical list... playwrights who are fearless with language and form. There are more.

Adrian : *smile*

Sheila : It's a strange thing to boil down though, because there are things that happen to me each day that are inspirational.  Travel inspires my work a lot.  Love and torment do.  Family.  The internet.  Vh-1.

Adrian : Where do you see yourself in five years?

Sheila : Hm.  I have two answers. 1.  Living in Los Angeles writing for an edgy, quirky HBO special that I nailed because one of my plays suddenly and unexpectedly caught the imagination of the masses and made me wildly popular without compromising my aesthetic. 2.  Living in a college town somewhere in easy commuting distance to a bigger city, working in a tenure-track position as an English professor and continuing my playwriting habit on the side. 3. I lied, there are three.

Adrian : A playwright is never done, I always say

Sheila : 3. Touring with my newly formed band (the soon-to-be infamous Sagapo) with my husband, a few stalwart musicians, and my brand new baby son named "GS" (short for "greatest success").

Adrian : *smile* Sheila, once again. It's been a pleasure to chat with you. I wish you the best of success in playwriting and in the classroom. Thank you taking the time to answer a few questions. Any words of wisdom to share with our readers?

Sheila : Hee.  Floss?  I'm such a dork.  But floss.  Everyone floss.  It's never too late for floss.

Adrian : Haha. You are far from a dork.

Sheila : Not as far as you might imagine... Thanks, this was fun!

Adrian : And hope the weddings are joyous and not too stressful. Thanks again Sheila! *smile*

Sheila : Thank you!  Those are very good wishes indeed, I shall take them. Have a lovely evening!  And good luck with the online mag and your acting...

Printable View

Websites to explore

http://www.sheilacallaghan.com

Crawl, Fade to White

Running through October 30, 2005

http://www.theatreofnote.com/ 

Maestro Review

Crumble (Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)

Running through November 6, 2005

http://www.edgefest.org 

http://www.movingarts.org/nowplaying.html 

SCAB

Running through October 16, 2005

http://www.livegirlstheater.org/ 

Return to Arts & Reviews Main Page

Adrian Rennie, staff writer and editor for Maestro Arts & Reviews, is an actor and Los Angeles area playwright. Having received great reviews for his plays, The Seven Lessons of Life and Only a Phone Call Away, he continues to write and act in Los Angeles Theater, Television and Film.

 

 

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