Allie discusses her new play Little Swan, premiering as part of the HERSTORY Festival at the Silk Road Art Gallery in New Haven, CT, April 29th and 30th.
Q: How did you hear about 365 Women a Year?
A: I first crossed paths with Jess Eisenberg on Twitter when the 365 Women a Year project was in its early stages and she was seeking submissions. I immediately asked how I could be involved, and the rest is history.
Q: Why did you choose Anna Pavlova as one of your historical woman? What drew you to her?
A: The idea for Little Swan came to me in March 2013 as I was preparing to write a new play for PlayGround-LA in honor of Women’s History Month. I wanted to write about someone who made an impact on society and history, and as that was all percolating in my brain, I was at an audition studio where I saw a replica of a piece of art I like – the statue Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Degas – and thought, “Perhaps a dancer.” Anna Pavlova came to mind. I researched her life and discovered her last words, and I knew her story was one I had to tell.
Q: Can you walk me through the process of adapting a person’s life for the stage? What were some of the challenges? What parts really clicked together?
A: Little Swan is set backstage before the first performance of The Dying Swan, a ballet choreographed by Mikhail Fokine as a solo piece for Anna Pavlova. Without giving too much away, the encounter she has in this piece is imagined, but some of the lines in this play were spoken by the real Anna Pavlova. I wanted to incorporate real quotes because the statements she made about life and about dancing were so powerful, so telling, and I couldn’t say it better than she said it herself. Those quotes really inspired the story, from start to finish.
Q: You’ve been involved with 365 Women a Year since the original incarnation. Has your experience in the first year influenced your writing the second time around?
A: So far, I have written five pieces for 365 Women a Year:
Little Swan, a Pas de Deux (Anna Pavlova)
The View From Here (Anna Christina Olson, subject of Andrew Wyeth’s painting Christina’s World)
She Walks (Ada Lovelace)
She Was Never Lost (Alice Liddell, inspiration for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
A Moment of Silence (Leelah Alcorn)
….and this year, I will be writing about Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn.
The first year, I submitted pieces to the project that I had already written, whereas for the second year and now the third, the project was what motivated me to write the pieces. I enjoy doing research because I’d like to be as accurate as possible and truly honor their lives and accomplishments.
Q: What are you most excited about for the reading on the 29th and 30th?
A: I am so flattered that Little Swan was chosen for this reading! I hope you all enjoy it. It will be the first time my work has been presented in Connecticut, so that is exciting.
Q: Are there any playwrights that inspired you while you were working on this piece, or who inspire you in general?
A: I love a good story. I appreciate good storytellers. I am an actress, a playwright, a screenwriter, a singer, and a director. When I’m not performing someone else’s work, I’m writing my own. I am constantly reading books, scripts, and screenplays, watching TV, films, going to the theatre, listening to music – those are my favorite story streams.
Lin-Manuel Miranda inspires me. I’m going to work with that man someday. I am so glad that Hamilton is getting the recognition is deserves. #yayhamlet
Q: What has been your favorite aspect of working with 365 Women a Year?
A: I enjoy seeing, hearing, and reading all of these stories and learning about women I didn’t know about before as well as learning new things about familiar names. I also like meeting new playwrights, directors, and actors in the process!
Q: Do you have any advice for the playwrights joining 365 Women a Year for the first time?
Pick someone you think is awesome. It doesn’t matter if she is famous, if she’s a household name or not. All that matters is that you think she’s story-worthy – so jump right in and tell her story!
Allie Costa works in film, TV, theatre, and voiceover as a writer, director, actress, and singer. Her original works have been produced internationally, including Femme Noir (Best Script, 2015 One-Act Festival), Safe Distance, Who She Could Have Been (LBDI semi-finalist), A Taste of the Future (Lakeshore Players semi-finalist) and Can You Keep a Secret? Her play Little Swan, a Pas de Deux, inspired by the life of ballerina Anna Pavlova, was named Best of PlayGround-LA 2014 and subsequently published. Tofurkey Day has been staged in Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Diego, the UK, and Florida, where it was named Best of the Fest, Audience Choice.
Allie is an accomplished stage and screen actor whose credits include Spring Awakening, Hamlet, 90210, Wake, and You Me & Her. She has lent her voice to video games, appeared in commercials, and narrated audio books. She is a proud member of the Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative, the 365 Women a Year Playwriting Project, PlayGround-LA, and SAG-AFTRA. She always has energy to burn and a song to sing. Occasionally, she sleeps.