I’m a writer and actor living in New York City. As a writer, my plays have been developed/featured in New York by Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, ESPA’s Drills Residency Program, Primary Stages, and the Women’s Work Lab at New Perspectives Theatre. Regionally, my plays have been shown at the Great Plains Theater Conference in Omaha, the Capital Fringe Festival in Washington D.C., the foolsFURY Theater’s Factory Parts in San Francisco, and Rhinofest in Chicago. Acting credits include Crystal Skillman’s “Joy” (Stable Cable) and Sheldon Harnick’s Smiling, the Boy Fell Dead (York Theater). She’s a member of the Beehive Collective, Stable Cable Lab Co, and the Middle Voice Theater Company. Education: Johns Hopkins, National Theater Institute.
The very, very short version
I’m a writer/actor who was raised up the Hudson Valley and now lives in New York the City. I came to writing in reaction to the lack of interesting roles for women, and I kept writing because I feel in love with this side of storytelling. Right now, I tend to write about trauma and responsibility: how we avoid becoming aware of the damage we cause; how violence is passed on and inherited; and how far we will go to protect what we believe to be ours. I also tend to invoke “theater magic” – like objects come to life, puppets, abstracted sets, and personified concepts – in order to theatrically activate truths that I can’t access in a traditional narrative format. Finally, I believe the stories we consume shape how we live our lives. ::drops mic::
The less short version
I can’t help feeling like there’s an element of arrogance in an emerging writer penning an “artist’s statement” – since I so very much still learning how to put one baby artist foot in front of the other. So thanks for being here. You look particularly good today. Well-rested. Relaxed. Did you do something with your hair? Looks good.
I’m going to tell you three things, in the following order:
- how I came to write the way I do (by writing a LOT)
- what I like to write about (through metaphor that looks like magic/supernatural about trauma and responsibility)
- why I think storytelling is important (because it makes us who we are/will be)
So. #1. How I came to write the way I do.
When I first started writing, my goal was to create something super profound that changed the world and etc. As you can imagine, that backfired pretty hardcore.
So when I second started writing, my goal was to just – what I affectionately call – “make the bicycle work”: to have the gears of a play fit right and turn together with air in the tires so an audience member could get on it and pedal and thereby go somewhere. And that approach worked okay for a while.
When I third started writing, I realized I can only tell what kind of shape the bicycle is in if I have smart people who can ride in tandem with me and tell me what gears aren’t changing for them, if the bell rings, if the tassels are too much, etc. Which is when I realized that my real and forever secret to writing is to gather/bribe/lure/blackmail smart riders to join me in creating work.
Or in more eloquent words: my artistic self is at its best when I have fellow artists – writers, directors, actors, designers, puppeteers, performance artists, etc – to be in community with, to learn from, and to share ideas, pages and questions with.
This need leads me to place collaboration at the center of my practice. The theater companies I’m (so grateful to be) a part of – like The Middle Voice and Stable Cable Lab Co – embody these values of collaboration, which is what makes them such powerful creative communities.
Which leads us into #2: What I like to write about
It was through collaboration that I learned how to write with ambition and “magic” – by which I mean elements that in more traditional narrative forms would be impossible to stage.
For example, in my play Graduation Day (Middle Voice with Rattlestick Playwrights Theater, 2015), I wove in elements of social media, news, and a ghost that my kickass director and designers found ways to make visual through projections, staging, and soundscapes. In my play Dollface, an expensive sex doll wrecks havoc while living in a constantly changing set full of literal garbage. And in my most recent play Faire, a mob of vengeful little turtles take over the stage (you know how amphibians are).
May Ibsen forgive me, but I find that the best way for me to access truth is through the metaphorical made flesh into the magical and unexplainable. To put it a bit more simply – theater is the best place to do Super Cool & Meaningful Open-Hearted Weird Shit. If a story could be told as a movie, then it should be a movie (and I love movies, some of my best friends are movies.) Theater is different – it can take more breath, abstraction and direct interaction. You know it’s theater when you leave your seat and get home and still find glitter in your hair, whether it’s physically real or not. (Note to self: incorporate more glitter into plays.)
For the last six years or so, I’ve been investigating the ripple effects of trauma, and the responsibility that comes with awareness. In Graduation Day, the characters struggle to take responsibility for a death they caused and a war they perpetuate through their denial and neglect. Similarly, in Dollface, the only way the main character can access the violence, hatred, and racism that she inherited from her combat veteran father is by befriending a haunted sex doll. (For an interesting read on the inheritance of trauma, check this out).
My interest in trauma and responsibility comes from the fantastically fast changes in technology, communication, and violence that I’ve grown up during. My generation can remember the sound of a dial tone, the rise of chat rooms (a/s/l every1), the death of dialup, when Facebook was just for college kids, and that twitter thing had peeked. We can also remember a time before Columbine and clear backpacks, before 9/11 and the adults waging a series of wars based on false premises and xenophobia made mainstream that we have inherited.
Today, the world is – at least socioeconomically speaking – a real shit show. As Americans, we have to become aware of the ways in which we are responsible for creating and perpetuating that shit show.
Of course, I haven’t a heck of a clue how to do that effectively. And honestly, I believe there are people who are much smarter than me who have been trying to crack this nut for hundreds of years if not longer. But it’s essential that we ask the questions. The best way I know how to pose questions is through dramatic writing. It’s the hammer I got, and I’m gonna swing it.
As promised, #3: Why I think storytelling is important
Finally, I believe that storytelling has the power to change lives. ::yawn:: Yes, I know. Hear me out.
The old saying – “you are what you eat” – holds true for the stories we feed ourselves (seriously – look here for some good ol’ scientific research). We are shaped by the narratives we consume. And that shaping doesn’t just happen on an individual level – it happens on the cultural level as well.
To illustrate, I totally had this argument with a family member recently, which I’ll recount somewhat paraphrased here:
- Family Member: “ok ok ok, but it doesn’t matter what he says, it’s what he does.”
- Me: “but saying something is doing something. Words are actions. Narratives are active.”
- Family Member: “Ok ok ok, so imagine I said – imagine I said Fuck The Pandas, I hate Goddamn Pandas. Ok? And then I turned around and secretly gave a million dollars to the International Panda Fund. What would matter more to you? What I said? Or the money?”
- Me: “that depends on how many people believe you when you say fuck the pandas”
- Family Member: “I don’t think you’re listening”
- Me: “Is the International Panda Fund a non-profit? Show me its 990 and we’ll talk.”
- Family Member: “You’re the worst”
- Me: “Distinctly possible.”
…and it devolved from there.
The point is: Words. Are. Actions. That whole conversation demonstrated that very notion to us as we walked away from our fight to get bagels but were in some way irrevocably changed. Those words shaped us – and you too, by reading it. As you read, you were filling in details with who this reminds you of in your life, with your views on panda-dom, with your family fights, with wondering what the hell a 990 is (it’s a tax document) or feeling like ‘oh hey! I know what a 990 is! go me!’. And the next time you see a panda, you might hear the echo of a “fuck pandas” in the back of your brain. There’s connection, there’s direction, and there’s consequences to narrative. (Please note, pandas are awesome. #facts)
I believe theater is a place where we can create space to use collaboration to make conversations about the world we’re in, and through that practice create new narratives that will shape how we move forward as individuals and communities.
And we can do that. Even if it’s just by grabbing three clip lights, a music stand and an old wig, and being willing: then ready, set, and go.
“Who drank all my red wine? Oh…I did.” – Me