: The first play after
college, or more specifically - the first one where you were most
nervous on opening night
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... :-)
: 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.
curious to see the Hunger Waltz now. *smile* The Scab is currently
being performed in Seattle. Have you traveled to that production?
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...
: Weddings? Exciting! Congrats
: What were some of the
obstacles you had to encounter and overcome, in terms of playwriting?
: 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...
: Please do
: And I quote:
: 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
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
: I like that. I can relate. In
college, I used to sneak out onto their empty theater stage too.
: 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
: What would you say is one of
your greatest successes so far?
: 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...
: That is a great success if
you ask me
: So I imagine it WOULD be my
son if I had one.
: I read you are teaching
playwriting at the University of Rochester. How is that coming along?
: 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.
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?
: 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.
: 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.
: Where do you see yourself in
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
: A playwright is never done, I
: 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").
: *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?
Floss? I'm such a dork. But
floss. Everyone floss.
It's never too late for floss.
: Haha. You are far from a
: Not as far as you might
imagine... Thanks, this was fun!
: And hope the weddings are
joyous and not too stressful. Thanks again Sheila! *smile*
: 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...
Websites to explore
Fade to White
October 30, 2005
(Lay Me Down, Justin Timberlake)
November 6, 2005
October 16, 2005
to Arts & Reviews Main Page
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.