New Play Premiere Tonight!

Three new plays will be making their premiere tonight. The reading series will take place in the Woolley Common Room on Bennington campus. Playwright’s include Audre Bennet, Jeremy Geragotelis, and yours truly! Hope to see you there at 8!

 

Interview with Maia Villa

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Maia Villa discusses her new play EN EL MEDIO. This is the last in a series of four posts featuring the playwrights of the Bennington 365 Women a Year Festival.

Q: How did you hear about 365 Women a Year? 

A: My friend and peer Natalie Osborne!

Q: Why did you choose Gloria Anzaldúa as your historic woman? What drew you to her? 

A: As a Chicana theatre artist, I felt a responsibility to represent the Chicana identity, which can be seen as both a curse and a blessing to any artist of color (any artist belonging to any underrepresented group). The decision was not forced,  however, because Gloria deserves so much recognition. Gloria can be described as chicana, tejana, queer, a feminist, a “dyke-feminist” (as said by her), a poet, a writer, a scholar, a cultural theorist, an activist…the list goes on.
Gloria also means a lot to me, personally. Discovering her and her work two years ago in my college’s library (Shout out to Crossett!) relieved me of the stress I used to have when grappling with the complexity of my own identities. Growing up, the identity of “American” and “Mexican” were in constant conflict with one another. She’s the one whose words taught me…haha, essentially, POR QUE NO LOS DOS?! To be Chicano/a means to simultaneously celebrate your American identity with your Mexican heritage…YOU CAN NOT SPEAK SPANISH, AND STILL BE CHICANO/A. Her permission informed my work at Bennington and beyond so much, and continues to today. She’s my identity savior.

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: There were definitely a lot of challenges for me that made this process a long one. I got stuck a lot worrying about whether or not I would be giving Gloria’s life and work the representation it deserves. An example of something I was worried about: Gloria writes in six variations of Spanglish (Tex-Mex Spanish, Chicano English, etc.); so I was sad that, because I am monolingual, I would not be able to write a play that involves what she did with language in her own work.

I had to alleviate the pressure I was putting on myself before the *click* could emerge. I made the decision that, because Gloria’s work is all about inspiring others to break their normative perceptions of identity, I would allow my own grappling with my identity to seep into the work. I would allow me to seep into the work. Once I did that, two characters emerged out of a blend of both Gloria and Maia, and they came out of a time when I was deeply entrapped in my own Maia version of the BORDERLANDS! A personal event (relating to race) made me angry (an emotion I don’t actually feel easily for too long), so I contained the feeling, put myself in an empty theatre space, did a lot of physical actor work, and that was the moment all the *clicks* came together.  I intellectualize race so often with my peers during class, club meetings, etc. that I rarely allow the time to remember that inside me there’s still a little girl who hasn’t intellectualize anything — who simply feels…torn into two pieces, confused about where “home” is supposed to be. Gloria wrote about the Borderlands to put into words that feeling of being Chicano/a — of being neither and both at the same time.

Q: I’m captivated by the way you use language in the play, can you talk to me more about that? 

A: Ha ha, as I wrote earlier, I really just let it emerge. I could probably talk more about the how or why after I’ve done more readings and more revisions of the play. For now, I have ideas about how or why I did this or that, but nothing solidified yet — and I like it that way. All I’ll say is that I let ideas of Gloria’s flow through ideas of Maia and hoped they would come together to mean something for someone else.

Q: Are there any playwrights that inspired you while you were working on this piece, or who inspire you in general? 

A: I don’t consider myself a poet nor even a student of poetry, but I focused on being inspired by Gloria’s words — and also the work of another Chicana writer, Cherrie Moraga. Many, many playwrights inspire me, especially my peers at Bennington.

Q: What has been your favorite aspect of working with 365 Women a Year? 

A: Simply how we were able to create a community of artists nationwide via social media. YUM. I study community development on a smaller scale through my work at Bennington and my work at various non-profit theaters; but haven’t yet explored how community is developed on a bigger scale just yet. It’s exciting to me how we all have joined together without even knowing many of each other’s faces.

Q: Do you have any advice for the playwrights joining 365 Women a Year in 2015? 

A: Don’t feel the pressure to represent someone’s entire life in one piece! Duh. It’s totally okay to take a juicy slice out of their life, or, if you’re like me, write a bunch of slices that represent what they have meant to you.

A recording of the world premier of  EN EL MEDIO at the Bennington College Student Center on March 27th is available here and on the public archive on the HowlRound site.

To see the other post in this series, click on one of the links below:

Catherine Weingarten

Shellen Lubin

Natalie Osborne

Interview with Natalie Osborne

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Natalie Osborne discusses her new play MAKING FRANKENSTEIN. This is the third in a series of four posts featuring the playwrights of the Bennington 365 Women a Year Festival.

Q: How did you hear about 365 Women a Year? 

A: I found it on Facebook while I was searching the interwebs one day and signed up immediately! I think this project shows what a great tool social media can be for connecting artists (or anyone really) and allowing them to reach a common goal.

Q: Why did you choose Mary Shelley as your historic woman? What drew you to her? 

A: I’ve actually wanted to write a piece about Mary Shelley for a long time, but I was worried about doing her justice. This chick was still a teenager, and she managed to not only finish a novel, but write a masterpiece, and create an entirely new genre of literature! She had already co-written and published several books with Percy Shelley before writing Frankenstein, which is something I don’t think most people know about. When I first started seriously writing fiction as a teenager, knowing that she had been able to do so much at such a young age became a huge inspiration/motivation for me (it still is)! Writing a play about her, however, was still intimidating.

I had it in my head that there were all these books I had to read and research I had to do before I could start. Then one summer I signed up for 31 Plays in 31 Days, which is similar to NaNoWriMo for playwrights (you have to write one new play every day of the month). By the end of the month, I was running out of ideas, and decided, “sure, why not write that play about Mary Shelley.” That ended up being the first draft of Making Frankenstein.

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: The biggest challenge for me was getting started. I had to let go of the idea that I needed to know absolutely everything about Mary Shelley before I could write. After that, I was able to let myself explore, and the rest of the play came pretty quickly. With this play, I knew I wanted to focus on the night when she wrote the first draft of Frankenstein. I wanted to explore what could have possibly been going through this women’s head when she came up with this idea! I directed most of my research towards the “moment before,” so I could know what place the characters were in the night Frankenstein was born. I don’t want to give away any spoilers, but I will say that Mary and Percy’s relationship was not an easy one, the couple faced more than their fair share of tragedy. Although Mary was still a teenager when she wrote the novel, she had already experience more of life than a person twice her age.

Q: What are you most excited about for the reading on the 27th? What are you most nervous about?

A: I can’t wait to see the play read aloud by actors! I’m really lucky to have four very talented performers in the piece, and I’ve enjoyed working with them. I don’t think I could have asked for a better cast.

That being said, I always feel nervous before a play reading. There’s the question of, did I do enough? Did did I do enough rewrites? Will people understand this? Is it funny enough? And my personal favorite, but what if no one shows up….but what if they DO show up?! It’s nerve-wracking to have worked on a piece and then having to throw it out into the world and see how people react to it.

Q: Are there any playwrights that inspired you while you were working on this piece, or who inspire you in general? 

A: Five Lesbian Brothers, Sarah Ruhl, Carol Churchill, and Lisa D’amore are writers who’s plays I’m currently obsessed with

Q: What has been your favorite aspect of working with 365 Women a Year? 

A: I just love being part of this awesome group of ladies (and gents) and seeing the amazing work that’s come out of this collaboration. We have 200 plus plays written and dozens of productions happening around the world! That’s pretty incredible.

Q: Do you have any advice for the playwrights joining 365 Women a Year in 2015? 

A: WRITE! YOU MUST WRITE! (Ok, so that might have been a little overdramatic, can you tell I do theater?) In all seriousness, you need to take that first step into writing, don’t let the fear of not knowing enough hold you back. I learned a great quote this winter from a fellow playwright, “researching is a great way to procrastinate from writing without feeling like you’re procrastinating.” In other words, don’t do what I did, because it took me years to finally bring myself to put the words on the page. Once I did, I realized I had the story there all along, I just needed to do the work.

Natalie Osborne is a Senior at Bennington College studying Theatre and Anthropology. She likes to tell weird, fun, feminist, queer friendly, and fantastical stories (sometimes all at once). She’s had two readings at Classic Theatre of Harlem in their Playwright’s Playground Program, and has worked with La Mama Theatre in New York City, The Kattaikkuttu Sangam in Punjarasantankal India, and The Athena Project in Denver, Colorado.  She’s now super excited about being involved in this project with all these other fabulous playwright ladies! You can see her play MAKING FRANKENSTEIN at the Bennington College Student Center on March 27th, at 7:40pm. Or watch the online stream on HowlRound TV

To see the other post in this series, click on one of the links below:

Catherine Weingarten

Shellen Lubin