Catherine Weingarten discusses her new play FEELIN LONELY. This is the first in a series of four posts featuring the playwrights of the Bennington 365 Women a Year Festival.
Interviewer: Natalie Osborne
Q: How did you hear about 365 Women a Year?
A: Last year I got in touch with Jesslynn Chamblee because we both were selected for a few of the same short play festivals. She was super fun to talk to and we ended up commiserating about grad school, being a female playwright and submission opportunities. Then she told me about her awesome project “365 Women” and I decided to join the Facebook group and give it a go!
Q: Why did you choose Elizabeth Bishop as your historical woman? What drew you to her?
A: At Bennington College I took a poetry class my freshman year about intense friendships between poets; and we studied Elizabeth Bishop and Robert Lowell. Ever since then she has stuck in my head. I love how observant, crisp and surprisingly funny her poetry is. Also she was a lesbian and so edgy and strong! Can I be her now!
Q: Can you walk me through the process of adapting a persons life for the stage? What were some of the challenges? What parts really clicked together?
A: I knew that I didn’t want to be too literal when it came to adaptation. I wanted to take details from her life that did it for me; and then give myself the freedom to imagine my own version of how things could have played out. The challenge is the pressure of being historically accurate/depicting things as they probably occurred; but to tell you the truth that sounds supa boring, so I tried to avoid that and let myself have weird Elizabeth Bishop odd fantasy sequences.
I had a lot of fun creating Elizabeth Bishop as a character because she is so spunky and smart and repressed; what cool qualities for a woman!
Q: The play takes place during Bishop’s time at Vassar College, what inspired you to focus on this part of her life?
A: Ever since I have been writing plays I have been obsessed with stories about younger people trying to figure out adulthood. The idea of writing about Elizabeth Bishop still trying to figure out her voice and her swag, really did it for me. Also I was a playwriting apprentice at Vassar’s Summer Theater in 2012, so I had a clear image in my mind about the buildings she probably studied in.
Q: What are you most excited about for the reading on the 27th? What are you most nervous about?
A: I am such a Bennington chick, so I am thrilled whenever my alma mater decides to put up my work! I am nervous that people will throw hipster vegan drinks at the stage and cry and say that my play is not historically accurate(which it probs is not).
Q: Are there any playwrights that inspired you while you were working on this piece, or who inspire you in general?
A: Things that inspire me: coconut cake, Sherry Kramer, Sam Hunter, pink cupcakes.
Q: What has been your favorite aspect of working with 365 Women a Year?
A: I am a big proponent of female playwrights and minority playwrights having more of a voice on the American stage; so this project is right up my alley. I love feeling like I’m apart of this sketchy secret Facebook group mission that involves a ton of female playwrights.
Q: Do you have any advice for the playwrights joining 365 Women a Year in 2015?
Don’t worry too much about getting every detail of the person’s life correct. Just try to take what’s interesting to you and then give yourself room to be crae and have fun!
Catherine Weingarten is a recent Bennington College graduate in Vermont and an incoming playwriting MFA candidate at Ohio University. Her short works have been done at such theaters as Ugly Rhino Productions, Fresh Ground Pepper, and Nylon Fusion Collective. Her full length plays include: Are you ready to get PAMPERED!?, Recycling Sexy, A Roller Rink Temptation and Pineapple Upside Down Cake: a virgin play. She is the Playwright in Residence for “Realize your Beauty inc” which promotes positive body image for kids by way of theater arts. She was previously a member of Abingdon Theater’s playwrights group and New Perspective “women’s work” short play lab 2014. You can see her play FEELIN LONELY at the Bennington College Student Center on March 27th, at 7:40pm. Or watch the online stream on HowlRound TV