Sunday, December 6, 2015

Waking up to the Mourning Sun - Playwright Antu Yacub and Theatre 167

"I wanted to do something to educate those of us here about it so the conversation would begin."
- Playwright/Actress Antu Yacob

How do you describe the Mourning Sun? 

Mourning Sun is a love story that follows childhood sweethearts across two continents, navigating young love faced with an irreversible fistula. (An obstetric fistula occurs during an obstructed labour when emergency care is unavailable. See more below.)

What was its specific inspiration? 

My sister who's currently a physician, volunteered at the Addis Ababa Fistula Hospital several years ago as a student. After she shared stories of the women she encountered at the hospital, I watched a documentary called A Walk to Beautiful. Having never heard of fistula before this, I was heartbroken and angry that 1) I didn't know about it and 2) it's a condition that doesn't need to exist. I wanted to do something to educate those of us here about it so the conversation would begin.

According to the Freedom From Fistula Foundation, "an estimated two million women in Africa are suffering from obstetric fistula caused by obstructed childbirth. Women suffering from obstructed labor often struggle until the baby dies.  During this agonizing process, loss of circulation causes tissue to die, leaving large gaps between the birth canal and bladder or rectum, causing incontinence.


Most women and girls suffering with obstetric fistula are ostracized by their families and communities as they smell and are constantly wet, leaving them to live as outcasts.

Fistula is all but eradicated in the developed world. In contrast, it occurs to thousands of women and girls in Africa every day and they have no-one to help.

"
Arlene Chico-Lugo and Fadoua Hanine
Photo © Elana Goodridge
What are your hopes with the play? 

My hopes are that it continue to educate people who see it about this condition and move them to contribute however they can to organizations like Freedom From Fistula that work to heal and educate fistula survivors and their communities on a global scale.

How did you come to playwriting?

I'd always written short stories as a child. When I was in high school and undergrad, I wrote a lot of poetry. As a grad student in an actors training program, I was immersed in plays. After my first touring gig as an understudy for Danai Gurira and Nikkole Salter, who were actors touring a show they'd written, In the Continuum, the playwriting seed was planted in me.
John P. Keller and Arlene Chico-Lugo Photo © Elana Goodridge

What is your writing schedule?

Being an actor, teacher and mother to a 7 year old, my writing schedule might seem unconventional. I just get it in when I can. I get the most writing done when I join a writers group of any kind and it's mandatory because the procrastinating gene is strong in me.

How did you meet Theatre 167?

John Keller who plays the characters True and Dr. Wells in Mourning Sun, is Co-Producer of a community arts organization based in New Jersey called CoLab Arts. John had done a few readings of Mourning Sun and he was very committed to finding a way to get the story heard from the beginning.
Kevis Hillocks and Arlene Chico-Lugo
Photos © Joel Weber
Earlier this year, CoLab Arts was doing a 48 hour Musical Festival to raise funds for Elijah's Promise, a soup kitchen in New Brunswick. John and CoLab Arts Co-Founder and festival director Dan Swern, teamed Ari Laura Kreith, Theatre 167's Artistic Director and I up to create a piece about gentrification. I was the writer, Ari directed and we collaborated with a great band called Red Giant to present the piece in 48 hours. John had told Ari about Mourning Sun, and after our performance, Ari asked to read the play. The rest is history.

What was the process like working with director Ari Laura Kreith?

Antu Yacob, Kevis Hillocks, and Charles Everett
Photo © Joel Weber
Every collaboration has its own vibe. No two artists work the same. Ari had a strong desire to tell this story and I love how brave she was in her pursuit to tell it.

There were many challenges that presented themselves throughout the rehearsal process, and she really was a maverick about things. Anytime a "no" or block popped up, she planted her feet in "yes" and "I don't know how, but we're going to get it done". I admire that type of faith, conviction and resolution in a director and a theater company. It's absolutely necessary when you're working as an indietheater company.

What's next?


Antu Yacob
Photos © Joel Weber
I'm filming a serio-comic web series I wrote and am acting in called Some Funk Actually Does Smell Good about an Ethiopian-born, American-raised woman balancing both cultures, attempting to take the "high road" of personal development throughout the chaos that is life. We'll be running an indiegogo campaign for that starting December 15th, so folks should look out for that! Also, I invite people to visit my website www.antuyacob.com for more and updated info.



A note from Theatre 167:
Fadoua Hanine, Arlene Chico-Lugo,
& Kevis Hillocks
 Photo © Joel Weber

We’ve explored different ways of partnering with charitable organizations, for example trying to find someone to match number of tickets sold. At our opening night, one patron agreed to give a dollar to the Freedom From Fistula Foundation for every seat we filled. At the box office, we thought she’d ask how many were in attendance. But instead she handed us a check made out to FFFF for $75, a dollar for every seat, filled or not. Then after watching the play she said, “I haven’t done enough. I want to pay for a whole surgery.” And at our opening night reception she pledged enough money to pay for a full operation. (An operation costs on average between $450 and $600 depending on which country it occurs in.)

Antu Yacob
Photos © Joel Weber
The following week, Louisa Boyle, the development director from FFFF, came to speak after the play. It's a great organization because their overhead has already been subsidized so every dollar you give goes directly to medical support to solve the problem. One audience member was so moved by the play that night he wanted to finance an operation too, and agreed to send an amount to that group commensurate with ticket sales our final weekend. He returned to see the play a second time and asked us to announce his donation anonymously last night while he was in attendance, so audience members would know that just by going to the play they were helping the cause.

So far we have raised enough for over three operations.

Ways you can help:

1. Come see the play! If you buy tickets the final weekend, it will help the cause.

2. Seeing how well the play raises awareness and energizes people about the issue, Louisa Boyle, the development director of FFFF, wants to get Mourning Sun seen by United Nations groups. We are currently raising money to tape the final performance and make Mourning Sun have an international impact. To give a tax-deductible donation to help that project go forward, click here.

3. To give directly to FFFF, click here.  Just tell them Theatre 167 sent you!

4. Donate to Theatre 167 so we can continue to do plays that change lives.

Antu Yacob was born in Dire Dawa, Ethiopia and raised in California and Minnesota. Her plays include Mourning Sun, Love in Submission and The Firsts. Her work has been featured in Project Y Theatre’s New York New Playwrights Festival, Crossroads Theater Company, NowAfrica Playwrights Fest and Alchemy Theatre Lab. As an actor, her theater credits include Stepping Out of the River at Dawn, A Jew on Ethiopia Street and Pilgrims Musa and Sheri in the New World (Mixed Blood Theatre), In the Continuum (Primary Stages original national tour), Holiday Jubilee (Crossroads Theatre), The House That Crack Built (Pillsbury House Theatre). Film & television: Law & Order: SVU, Walking in Circles, Fine Art and Inspiration. MFA-Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. www.antuyacob.com.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Playwright Charlotte Miller on Thieves, L.A. and Collaboration

Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson
Charlotte Miller and I spoke about her new play "Thieves" which premiered in Los Angeles last spring at the El Portal's Monroe Forum Theatre, produced by Rising Phoenix Rep, Weathervane Productions and Rattlestick Playwrights Theater.

"I'm going to scoot into a room with less people that I love," laughs Miller, "less distraction."

She had been living in L.A. with some of the creative team behind the production which included actors Sarah Shaefer, Samantha Soule, Addie Johnson, Chris Bellant, and director Daniel Talbott.

The other cast members, John Wojda and Macleod Andrews were living close-by.

"I kinda loved it."

ONE WHEN DOOR CLOSES...

Thieves started out being a play about a wedding and ended up...about a funeral.

"Ten days before we were scheduled to rehearse, I was working on a draft of the play that was driving me crazy. I was hitting my head against the wall and it was really, really hard, and then I got a call that one of our lead actresses had to drop out."
Photo Credit: Ryan Miller
For a variety of personal and logistical reasons, Miller and Talbott decided to kill off the character.

"Wendy Vanden Heuvel, who was playing the part, is one of my favorite actresses, so it was out of this place of not being able to replace her.  We were sad to lose her because it was written for her. It became a play about a funeral, and inherently much darker."

SITTING SHIVA
or
HOW TO DO AN 8 DAY REWRITE

"I went over to Daniel's house and drank a lot of tea and was like, 'help me storyboard this', so we knocked around the trajectory of the first five scenes - sort of writers' room style - and then I went home, and wrote, and brought back what I had. We kind of figured out the structure of the thing together. I finished the last scene the day before we went into rehearsal, and then we had to totally break it apart and, in another eight days, totally rewrite it."

Photo Credit: Ryan Miller
The play is described as a gritty portrait of a family in struggle and upheaval. Miller's inspiration for the play came from wanting to explore the underbelly of something that is inherently light.

"I had been to my cousin's wedding, and it was a nice wedding, but no matter what, weddings can bring up old tensions. People just kinda misbehave and I found that really interesting."

The rehearsal process began in San Francisco where Miller and the creative team lived, cooked and collaborated together before moving to Los Angeles.

Photo Credit: Ryan Miller
"The L.A. theater community has been so generous and so responsive. We were nervous because you can really strike out and people won't come, but someone from the Actors Studio came the first week, because Daniel and I are part of the playwright/director's unit here in New York, and this sweet thing happened where all these people from the Studio showed up and really liked it. I found that community so supportive."

Miller, like most artists, does a variety of things to make ends meet.

"It's great not having to babysit and work at the Farmers Market and constantly worry about money. It's great being in warm weather during the winter. I just wish my New York friends could see it."

Photo Credit: Ryan Miller
Her wish may come true. "Thieves" is continuing to be developed in New York while Miller juggles several other projects which include a screenplay and TV pilot.

When asked how she deals with the end of a production - a funeral of its own sort - Miller answers, "Usually I try to get into something new right away, but there's no out-running that grief when a play ends. With this one, I didn't plan anything. I'm just going to go to Hawaii to visit my dad and cry." (She laughs)

Charlotte Miller is a Brooklyn-based playwright and performer. Other plays include Raising Jo (PLAYPENN 2010), Favorites (Rising Phoenix Rep), Rocks (the tank), Barn (Rising Phoenix Rep), among others. She has had reading/workshops with Rattlestick, Rising Phoenix Rep, Labyrinth, the Flea, IAMA, Hudson Stages, and the People's Light Theater.

Photo Credits: 
Charlotte Miller: Jody Christopherson
Productions Photos: Ryan Miller

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Emily Lerer on Directing Cecilia Copeland's R Culture

Emily Lerer
"This material ...was something I felt deep in my bones needed to be expressed and discussed."
-Emily Lerer
-Director
 
What is R Culture about?
Most simply put: R Culture is about the intersection of ouR culture and Rape Culture.
 
How did you get involved with the project and Cecilia Copeland?
A little over a year ago I was looking for my next project. I really wanted to get involved from the ground up with something meaningful dealing with Rape Culture. I want to say that it was around the time of (insert blank messed up thing the political parties were saying about women and rape at the time), but there are too many. I felt an overwhelming need to do and say something about it on a large scale. I spoke with several friends in the theater community about the play I was hoping to direct. Several pointed me in the direction of Cecilia and the rest is history.
 

What has the development process been like?
Jennifer Harder
For a while at the beginning, Cecilia and I would email back and forth about scenes and ideas. She’d send me them in chunks and I would sit down to read them. Eventually full scripts were sent. We held readings of the material at ART NY and The Lark Play Development Center.
 
Every step along the way was very much a part of the journey to spark the discussion of this topic. I’ve heard so many personal stories. I’m so grateful to these women for sharing their hearts and histories with me along the way. At auditions we had one actress come in nearly in tears expressing how much of a lovely and sadly necessary environment we had created with this play.  Ladies in the hallway of auditions were sharing with each other their personal connection to the material. The readings and rehearsal process followed suit. I'm really lucky to have such a supportive team in my playwright, actors, design team and stage manager. Now that we’re up and running the play has done the same. 
 
Why did you commission this play?
I needed to do something that both frightened me, excited me and was topical. This material I commissioned of a play dealing with Rape Culture was something I felt deep in my bones needed to be expressed and discussed. Its all around us and its something worth noting if we ever want it to change.
 
You have partnered with Safe Horizons, Crime Victims Treatment Center, Beth Israel Medical Center: Rape Crisis and Domestic Violence Intervention Center, and We End Violence for this production. How did this partnership come about and how have they helped or are helping the production?
Jennifer Harder
I reached out to various advocacy organizations pretty early on. Some I found while looking to connect with the organizations specifically and others I found while doing research on the topic. We’ve also recently added Party With Consent to this list of advocacy groups. The reason for the partnership in the first place was to have the expertise and support with talkbacks. I really wanted to create a safe space for discussion and questions post show with this material.
 
How did you come to directing?
I have more of a formal acting background than a formal directing background. I spent 3 years in a BFA Acting program at the end of it decided I really didn’t want to be an actress. I’d spent more of my time in the acting program working on original work as an Assistant Director or Director. I’d have my classmates coming to me to look at their monologues even when their acting talent and instincts far surpassed my own. I’d see the picture at large fairly easily. I love telling stories and the point of view of the director more aligned with my view of the plays. I’m still very early on in my career but really feel like directing is my calling.
Rachel Collins, Jennifer Harder and Romy Nordlinger
 
Do you always commission the projects you want to work on?
This is the first play I’ve ever commissioned. I’ve self-produced and directed on a small scale but with established work. This is my first time working with a new play on what is a fairly large scale for me. We’re at an Off-Off Broadway theater doing a full length piece.
 
What's next?
I’m not sure. Is that fair to say?  I think that’s half the excitement of this whole crazy industry. I’m between 6 or 7 different ideas. I’d like to find a really badass female director who needs an AD on a project. I’d also love to continue working on very evocative theater as a director myself. I feel like I’m always drawn to works of a topical and political edgy nature but after this intensity I’d love to do something exploring friendship, or romance.
 
 
R Culture is in residence at IRT Theater, located at 154 Christopher Street, through November 24th 2014 at 8pm. Tickets can be purchased here.

Photo Credit: Jody Christopherson
Cast: Jennifer Harder, Romy Nordlinger, Rachel Collins. 

Friday, October 17, 2014

Solo Performer Gardiner Comfort on the Elephant in Every Room...

Gardiner Comfort
"It's my story, but I also want to pay it forward for some young kid who is just starting his or her life with this confusing disorder."
- Gardiner Comfort
Writer / Actor

What is THE ELEPHANT IN EVERY ROOM I ENTER about?

The show is about a trip I took to Washington DC to attend the Tourette Syndrome Association National Conference, in April of 2014.  Being down there was completely mind blowing because I had never been around that many people with Tourette's, a disorder I was born with which has defined my entire life.  So we use the week down there as a literary anchor to tell the story, which includes all of these break out stories about my own life.  I tell stories about growing up feeling different, having a terribly hellish time, and also just random stuff that I remember. 

How has it been developed?


Kel Haney and I developed the story in the Mabou Mines Residency this Spring by simply talking for hours and hours.  She recorded me as I just went on and on, both about the week in DC and also about all the random nonsense that goes through my mind on a daily basis.  Then Nora Ives, our assistant director, transcribed every goddamned word!  We went back and I read that, which was pretty meta!  Then we recorded my reading the transcriptions, and Kel made all these edits based on what seemed to work and what didn't.  It has continued to be very malleable.  

How did you meet your director?

I met Kel through my wife, Colleen Werthmann, who happened to run into her.  They got to talking, and Colleen learned that Kel was directing solo artists and I happened to be looking for a director for my other solo show, YOU'RE NOT TOUGH, which Kel directed at Dixon Place last fall, and then again at HERE this summer.

How have you and Kel worked together to develop the piece?

I kind of touched on this above but to add, we've mostly gotten to know each other really well.  Frankly, she's gotten to know the bizarre way my mind works and has learned how to harness all of the wild (some might say genius!!!) ways in which unfiltered, manic thoughts come to me and just need to be expressed.  She's been sort of the conduit for the electricity going through my brain.

What have been some of the challenges on developing this piece?

Challenges have been many.  It's pretty damn hard to produce your own work, even with so much help from a whole slew of people working hard.  Also, it's not a typical play or solo show, where, as an actor, I have a character to hide behind.  I'm just playing myself, standing there telling a story that's true.  I'm interacting with the audience a little and just baring all.  So it's pretty demanding emotionally.  Not to mention physically.  I do quite a lot of dancing and running around screaming and yelling.  It's very hard.

What have been some of the unexpected surprises and rewards?

The other night I found myself so connected and in the moment during a point in the story when I talk about a young boy with TS whom I met at the conference, that I really teared up when I told about not knowing what would happen to him.  It was beautiful and I don't usually have that experience, especially in something like this when it's my story.  It was a gift.  Also, I've been really blown away by how many people have come and liked it.  We've had all types of press and the Tourette Syndrome Association has come out in full force and spread the word, so that's awesome.  That's the whole point.  It's my story, but I also want to pay it forward for some young kid who is just starting his or her life with this confusing disorder. 

How did you come to theater/performing and doing solo shows?

I started acting when I was in high school and got into it pretty quickly.  I studied Theater pretty aggressively in college and then in grad school and have a pretty eclectic resume.  Solo performing is something I've dabbled in since 10th grade, when I performed this monologue I wrote where I just listed things I hate.  From baby backpacks to Republicans.  It was a trip.  I was very influenced by solo artists I had the chance to see at places like PS 122:  Danny Hoch, Eric Bogosian, Sarah Jones, Nilaja Sun, and a lot of people in the Hip Hop Theater Festival.  It was a goal of mine to do my own.




Salty or sweet?

Sweet.  Always.  What the hell does that mean?

What's next?

Next is rest.  Hopefully in the interim before doing this show somewhere else.  We want to take it Off-Broadway, or on the road, or across the ocean, or into space.  Wherever there's boring theater, we'll be there.  Wherever a creative child practices accents in front of her mirror, we'll be there.  Wherever there's a slew of hilarious and brilliant characters waiting to be immortalized on stage, we'll be there.  I don't know.  We just want to keep moving, like sharks!

The Elephant in Every Room I Enter is created by Gardiner Comfort and Kel Haney and is presented at The Club at La MaMa in NYC thru October 19th on Fri-Sat at 10pm, Sunday at 6pm. To purchase your tickets, go here.


Friday, June 13, 2014

Playwright Steve DiUbaldo's Boomer's Millennial Hero Story

 "Everything grows from the people."
- Steve DiUbaldo
Playwright

What is your play about?

Boomer’s Millennial Hero Story is about a down-home, piano-playing American Storyteller of the Boomer Generation who guides us through the "heroic" first twenty-five years of “Millennial” Montgomery Walter’s life.  From a childhood full of trophies and medical over-diagnosis and self-esteem building, to 9/11 to the market crash to Occupy Wall Street, this raucous vaudevillian journey takes a dark absurdist look at class, generational cause-and-affect, and American folklore in a world where ideas never truly die.   

What was its inspiration?

I moved to New York City in the throes of Occupy Wall Street.  I spent a lot of time going down there and reading about the movement from different perspectives.  It became a thirty page one-act, set in 2011, culminating in the movement.  Once I got this opportunity with TerraNOVA, I expanded the play to begin in 1986 and move through 2011.  I had begun reading a lot of literature about the generational divide between Boomers and Millennials, and found most of it to be rather funny.  I always felt there were blind spots in the assignment of blame and the blanketing of a group of people born around the same time.  From both sides, I found the points were often valid and short-sighted.  I also became fascinated by how we tell and digest stories, specifically American stories.  There’s a lot of satire about that, and a lot about money and race, along with lots of other zeitgeisty things that came up on New York City subways.    

What has its development been up to this point?

I wrote the first draft during my first year of the MFA program at NYU.  The play had golden toilets on stage and shit fell from the sky onto the poor people.  The metaphors were pretty on-the-nose and the play
Director Jenna Worsham
was pretty bad.  My friend in LA was looking to direct a one-act, read the play, and we agreed to really dig into the heart of what it was about.  So I developed that new draft with one of my favorite people in the world, Abby Pierce, who directed the play out there after rewrites, and we made big progress and got a lot of laughs.  A few months later, I submitted the one-act to TerraNOVA with a pitch to turn it into a full-length.  And they took me in and have helped me through the last 18 weeks of exploring and rewriting.  The reading is coming up on June 16th and Jenna Worsham, another favorite of mine, is directing.  And here we are!

How do you like to develop your work?

It truly depends on the play.  I love the daydream phase before you've started.  I love the solitary time of working through the first draft.  I’m not a “rush to share this with everyone” type of person.  Still, the great reward remains sharing it with actors and a director and working through it with a team.  If they are excited, I get really excited.  Actors are my favorite people and I want them to have a good time and tell me their thoughts.  Recently I’ve formed an annoying habit of putting extensive music into my plays, and am beginning the journey of collaborating with composers.  I find music to be the most rewarding and universal of forms for myself as a consumer, but that’s probably because it’s not the one I work in every day.  In terms of the writing, it always starts with character.  I've never written anything I liked that started with an idea and not with a character, or characters.  Everything grows from the people.

How do you like to work with your directors?

I feel like the best writer/director collaborations have an intimacy about them that allow both people to openly talk about the play stuff as easily as they talk about the life stuff. I like consistent face-to-face chats, and when those chats grow from being about art into being about life… that’s my favorite, and it always ends up enriching the play and the process.  Trust is crucial.  In the room, I try to be available as the writer but allow the director to execute the vision we’ve already been talking through.  I love directors with a dramaturgical eye who ask a lot of questions rather than offering a lot of answers.  And I’m always learning how to get better at communicating about the work, and I look for that in the directors I work with as well.  

Salty or sweet?

Salty.  I could eat Pistachios for days.

What is your writing schedule (if any) and where do you write?

DiUbaldo's Workspace
I usually write in the afternoons or at night, but dream of being one of those people who wake up really early to work.  I am nomadic writer.  I do the occasional coffee shop or bar, but I LOVE to write outside whenever I can - rooftops or patios or stoops or benches.  I’ve written outside all over Manhattan and Brooklyn.  The rest of the time, I write at the desk in my room.  Since that’s the only true consistent, that’s the picture you get!

What's next?

I am currently beginning the process of collaborating with a composer on a folk-blues album/score that will accompany my play, “Under The Water Tower.”  Next month, I’ll be going to North Carolina to hang out with my old AAU basketball team as research for a new play I’ve been working on about kids from varying socio-economic backgrounds who share a hotel room at a tournament while vying for division-1 college basketball scholarships, with the slimy backdrop of the NCAA recruiting world.  I am developing those with The Middle Voice – Rattlestick’s apprentice company – who RULE.   

Steve DiUbaldo's Boomer's Millennial Hero Story is directed by Jenna Worsham and is presented on Monday, June 16th, at 3pm at The Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, 38 Commerce Street (west of 7th Avenue). Subways: 1 to Christopher Street, A/B/C/D/E/F to West 4th.  $10 suggested donation at the door.

Boomer's Millennial Hero Story is part of  terraNOVA Collective's Groundworks New Play Series which runs through June 23rd.  For more information, visit www.terraNOVAcollective.org

The 2014 Groundworks New Play Series features the 6 new plays developed through the 2014 Groundbreakers Playwrights Group, and 2 new soloNOVA ARTS Workshops. This year’s playwrights work has been produced or developed with numerous prestigious theatres including The Public, Joe’s Pub, New York Theatre Workshop, The Old Vic, Roundabout Theatre Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Edward F. Albee Foundation, Sundance Theatre Lab and Lincoln Center.

ABOUT GROUNDWORKS: Every year, terraNOVA Collective presents the Groundworks New Play Series - a week of staged readings of work developed through our Groundbreakers Playwrights Group, and new work being developed by solo performance artists associated with our collective. The purpose of the New Play Series is to give playwrights an opportunity to have their work seen and heard by a larger audience. Each playwright works with a director and professional actors over a 12-hour rehearsal period to give further life to their work.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Playwright Alexandra Collier on Her New Play The Crying Lettuce with terraNOVA Groundworks New Play Series

Playwright Alexandra Collier
"I am obsessed with travel, dislocation and foreign locations."
-Alexandra Collier
Playwright



What is your play about?

The Crying Lettuce is about Ivy, who is backpacking in Europe where she should be having the time of her life but she’s not. Until she meets Anna that is, an anarchic Russian chain smoking gypsy. What starts between traverses continents and decades in this memory-gone-bad play.
*No vegetables were harmed in the making of this play*

What was its inspiration?

Life. Always. Well sort of. I traveled to Copenhagen in my early 20s and I encountered a homeless chain-smoking woman in my dorm room. I was lonely and out-of-place in this foreign city and when I started to write this play, I imagined from there what would have happened if the two women became friends. (Which the homeless chain smoker and I did not. One of life's greatest regrets.) I am obsessed with travel, dislocation and foreign locations and all of those things are rolled into this play.

What has its development been up to this point?

I have been developing it since January with Groundbreakers - terraNova's playwrights group. Before that the play had been kicking around in a metaphoric drawer since I started writing it at a silent
Director Jessi D. Hill
retreat a few years back.

How do you like to develop your work?

In a fast and furious way. With actors in a room, ideally. Even more ideally with actors standing up in a room and a potential production in the offing (i.e. rehearsals). I like to do rewrites quickly and efficiently based on the actors reactions/reading of the text. That's honestly the best way to work, I think. Less precious. More fun.

How do you like to work with your directors?

I like directors who understand that I am not a plotty writer. Who are interested in the weird and theatrical rather than living room sitcom type plays. I think it's best when you feel safe enough with the director to be laughing and having fun in the room. Of course, it takes time to build up the best kinds of working relationships.

Collier's Workspace
Salty or sweet?

SWEET. Licorice, ideally.

What is your writing schedule (if any) and where do you write?

At the moment, I work full-time so I try to write for an hour before I go to work and I write on the weekends.

What's next?

I am working on another play - Underland (set in the Aussie desert) - we hope to have a production in 2015. I am currently scheming about my next installation piece to take place inside a museum. That's all I can say right now.

Alexandra Collier's The Crying Lettuce is directed by Jessi D. Hill and is presented on Tuesday, June 10th, at 3pm at The Cherry Lane Studio Theatre, 38 Commerce Street (west of 7th Avenue). Subways: 1 to Christopher Street, A/B/C/D/E/F to West 4th.  $10 suggested donation at the door.

The Crying Lettuce is part of  terraNOVA Collective's Groundworks New Play Series which runs June 9th – 23rd.  For more information, visit www.terraNOVAcollective.org

The 2014 Groundworks New Play Series features the 6 new plays developed through the 2014 Groundbreakers Playwrights Group, and 2 new soloNOVA ARTS Workshops. This year’s playwrights work has been produced or developed with numerous prestigious theatres including The Public, Joe’s Pub, New York Theatre Workshop, The Old Vic, Roundabout Theatre Company, Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre, Edward F. Albee Foundation, Sundance Theatre Lab and Lincoln Center.

ABOUT GROUNDWORKS: Every year, terraNOVA Collective presents the Groundworks New Play Series - a week of staged readings of work developed through our Groundbreakers Playwrights Group, and new work being developed by solo performance artists associated with our collective. The purpose of the New Play Series is to give playwrights an opportunity to have their work seen and heard by a larger audience. Each playwright works with a director and professional actors over a 12-hour rehearsal period to give further life to their work.