Fast Forward Friday with Allan Wasserman

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed actor-producer-musician Allan Wasserman. He most recently appeared as Adam Sandler’s doctor in Funny People and as Matthew Broderick’s psychiatrist in Finding Amanda. He guest starred on TV shows such as Two Broke Girls, Bones, The Office, ER and The Sopranos. On stage, he performed in the Broadway production of The Basic Training of Pavlo Hummel with Al Pacino, directed by David Wheeler. He produced the multi-award winning film Echo Park Blues in which he stars and plays the jazz saxophone.

Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.

I am working on a one man show of a famous Hollywood producer. It is still in the early stages so for now it’s under wraps.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

Many years in the industry on all levels are my life influences.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

So many heroes to admire and emulate when possible but I surely admire Olivier, Pacino, Streep, DeNiro, Caroll O’Connor, especially as a character actor, Paul Muni … so many, many more for so many reasons.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

I have always been a very ambitious and energetic individual with a need to artistically express myself. It’s important to me to continue to express.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I am producing Common Ground at two Los Angeles theaters – a project I created in 1995 where actors write and perform biographical 15 minute monologues based on personal life changing events.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

My recent film that I produced and have the lead character in, Echo Park Blues, and a 47 year acting career that continues on.  Echo Park Blues was a three-year process from conception to screenings with director-co-writer Michael Bofshever, writer Rick Lieberman and myself. We were all acting colleagues for decades in NYC and our shared past and current collaboration was key to sculpting and embroidering my jazz saxophone side career with a fictional script to represent the aging artist who still desires to express, be heard and leave a footprint. The film has been more successful than we ever imagined and the numerous awards and accolades were all due to a larger cadre of fellow actors, musical artists, crew and donors. I could not be more grateful for the true and total ensemble effort and results.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

More regular theater, feature film and television series work without having to audition and gain other’s permission to participate. You can say I’m a dreamer!

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Fierce and talented competition and aging. Such is life.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I continue to work onstage, and big and small screens and I create projects as well as teach.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Self-doubt. Worry. Those are monumental wastes of time. I do little to none of that anymore.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Anything by Chagall.

Q:What person do you most admire, living or dead?

So many. I cannot nail that down. I have broad appreciation for many.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Being a good person. A “mensch” for those familiar with the vernacular.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

How about four words: A hopeful renaissance man. An individual who acts, writes, teaches. plays jazz saxophone and loves life.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Hiking with my dog and being a foodie. I actually am not feeling guilty about those pleasures.

Q:  If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Relax. Breathe. Trust. Don’t worry. Keep doing the footwork!

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Where I am for the past 20 years: Altadena, California.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Good marriage,  family, friends and pets. The rest is ancillary.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Same as success.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Great to be back in contact with you Joanne! You were an integral part of the success of our acting company THE ACTORS PRODUCING COMPANY early in our careers in NYC. Eternally grateful to you then and now.

Fast Forward Friday with Jason D. Avalos

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-actor-director-producer Jason D. Avalos.  He has been steadily working in independent film for 10 years and has studied in master classes with Quentin Tarantino. His lastest project, which he produced and served as creative consultant, NAMCAR Night Race, has already won 13 awards and was nominated more than 20 times around the world. To learn more, visit his website.

Q: What are you currently working on? Tell us about it.

I’m currently working on ways to afford my kombucha addiction, as all people from LA do, but beyond that, I’m an actor-writer-director so I’m always pushing a few projects forward until one gets made. I just went into casting for Rhythm my feature film directorial debut,  in which I also play the main character.

Rhythm centers on Daniel Largo, a musician who jumps off a cruise ship band gig and battles his way to glory by being an original artist in the heart of the East Los Angeles music scene.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

It comes from growing up in the Long Beach band culture, watching bands like Sublime, No Doubt, Reel Big Fish, etc before they were huge, in backyard house parties and warehouse keggers. I played in a punk band and then later was a DJ so music is a huge inspiration in my life and it made sense to use that as a foundation for the story. The major push was watching some music and micro budget films like Tangerine, Filly Brown, 8 mile, Almost Famous, and Sweet and Lowdown and realizing there are no music films with Latino lead characters that aren’t inherently of Latin culture, for example Selena and La Bamba. It’s important to show what first  generation Latin-Americans look like, talk like and play music like. I grew up Angeleno and I don’t own any mariachis.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Stanley Kubrick, Terrance Malick, Truffaut, David Bowie, The Doors, Paul Thomas Anderson, Quentin Tarantino, Bukowski, Burroughs and Hunter Thompson.

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?

Other artists. Everyday I get inspired by my fellow colleagues and artists:  photographers, architects, animators, comedians.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I have three original cable TV pilots I’ve written that have gotten great feedback from the Jane the Virgin producers and other trusted mentors working in TV. One is an animated adult cartoon about the afterlife of animals that I’m really excited about.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

Since I’ve been writing Rhythm, I have worked and met more like-minded creators making LGBTQ, female empowered and Latin first generation projects who I believe are very much my allies, my sisters and brothers. This is the power of proactivity in your vision. You staking your claim and your voice will inherently bring you side by side by other like-minded people. That is proof to me that the universe is chilling on my shoulder like a pet monkey. Damn, I really want a pet monkey.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

I would be creating my own TV show, hiring a diverse team not unlike Aziz Ansari or Ava Duvarney.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Money. Yes you can make things cheaper now, which is awesome, but producing is a game played by folks who often come from money. The other one is people aren’t buying Latin movies unless they are about drug lords, cartels, crossing borders, etc. I hope to be a part of that change.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

I feed myself with art from every walk of life, a lot of yoga and seeing a therapist. They are just three ways to reflect on what is a constant moving energy of creating and seeing what I’m connected to moment to moment.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Maybe not trying competitions, festivals, workshops enough. I don’t make work to be better than another person so it seems superfluous. I lately am loosening up and seeing it as a way to connect with other cool creators and collaborators.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

That is a cruel question. ahaha. Right now I’m pretty in love with Horn Players by Jean Michel Basquiat. I’m a huge fan of jazz and Basquiat. It demonstrates improvisational painting with underlying structure, which is like jazz and also how I approach filmmaking.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

I admire my grandfather Emilio. He worked everyday in a coffee field in El Salvador through crazy civil wars, etc. He had a heart attack in those fields and died peacefully there. There was no hospital close enough to do anything. If he can have that work ethic than I can stick it out in my career.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Dimples, baby. But if I don’t get the dimple award next year than it would be to have hugely helped open doors for other voices not being heard and creating a real place for us.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Tenacious.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

I always feel guilty  – it’s in the my Latin Catholic nature, but I will go with cheese. Expensive and stinky.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Buckle up and don’t take a backseat because someone makes you feel less privileged or allowed.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

Paris.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Sharing your work with the world and working with the very best in the industry while helping others along the way.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Happiness is a moment that comes and goes constantly. I just want to know that I’m feeding myself the right energies so I can embrace as much of it as I can every day.

Q: Final Thoughts?

Just a shout-out to two films I script supervised this year. I’m super proud of working on Bite Me and Tragedy Girls, which is in theaters now! Shameless plugs!

 

Fast Forward Friday with Sarah Wharton

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award-winning actor-writer-producer Sarah Wharton. Her feature That’s Not Us played at more than 35 festivals around the world and was released as a Netflix exclusive through Strand Releasing. She previously collaborated as an actor and associate producer on Percival’s Big Night  and Jane Wants A Boyfriend, which aired on Showtime. She has produced work in Oslo, London and New Orleans, and served as associate producer for the Harare International Festival of The Arts in Zimbabwe. She is currently in post-production on Bite Me, a subversive romantic comedy about a real life vampire and the IRS agent who audits her. Her feature, The Ring Thing, a documentary-narrative hybrid about same-sex marriage currently on the festival circuit will premiere at Newfest in New York City on October 21st and will be distributed by Gravitas Ventures.  To learn more, visit her website.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

I am an actor-writer-producer, so there are always multiple project pots on my creative stove. The one that is currently boiling most urgently however – can you tell I just made dinner? –  is a feature film I am producing called Bite Me. It’s a subversive romantic comedy about a real-life vampire  – yes! There are people in the world who believe they are vampires! –  and the IRS agent who audits her. We wrapped principal photography on September 7 and are now beginning post production.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

The inspiration and impetus for the project is all due to the very wonderful Naomi McDougall Jones who wrote, produced and also starred in Bite Me. She wrote the film with the very specific and honorable mission of making something that would bring joy to an audience. I think comedy is one of the best and hardest things to do well. When I first read the script I felt like I had the experience of falling in love – I laughed, I cried and giddily wished for more. In joining Naomi as a producer, my wish came true and it’s been an honor and privilege to work on it every day. It’s a story that reminds me there is good in the world – the hope it gives me inspires me every day.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Oh! So many!

Currently: Jill Soloway. When I watch their work I can feel my atoms rearranging themselves. I’ve learned so much about myself and the kind of creator and person I want to be through experiencing their art.

Foundationally: Stella Adler. “Growth as an actor is growth as a human being.” If I ever forget why I want to be an artist, I read her book.

Consistently: Shakespeare. The language, the characters, the size of the emotions – Shakespeare always reminds me that anything is possible. Plus, my parents met while working at The Shakespeare Theater in D.C. so technically I owe my whole being to him!

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?  

My colleagues. They are such brilliant, hopeful, dedicated, interested and interesting people. They keep me honest, inspired and challenged. I work hard in order to keep up with them!

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I produced and starred in a feature film called The Ring Thing that is currently on the festival circuit. I play a character aptly named Sarah who, when she accidentally proposes to her girlfriend, embarks on making a documentary about marriage in an effort to figure out what marriage means to her and how her past might be holding her future hostage. We play at Newfest in NYC on October 21!

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

There’s this quote from Shaw that always kicks me in the guts: “This is the true joy in life, the being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; the being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; the being a force of Nature instead of a feverish selfish little clod of ailments and grievances complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy.”

I realized recently that for the last year or so, I arrive at the end of each day thoroughly worn out from having filled my mind and hours with things that I care so very deeply about. There’s a certain kind of exhaustion that comes from boredom and despair – I am incredibly privileged to be in a place now where I am consumed by the pursuit of what I love instead trying to slough through what I do not. I feel constantly occupied by my vision, so I know I must be living in it.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

I’d be a showrunner of a show I created.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Figuring out what my vision is! I think it’s really easy, especially as an actor and a woman, to get wrapped up in what other people think your vision should be. It took me a while to understand that what makes me happy is feeling empowered to tell stories that I care about. For me, that means being in control of what those stories are and how they are being told. Becoming a producer in addition to being an actor has made me feel like a more complete, happy artist. It took time to figure out that’s what I needed, though, particularly because it meant stepping off the path that is traditionally recognized as being the way to success for actors.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

My work demands that I show up to it with my creative self intact – sometimes, however, my creative energies can feel depleted or blocked. When that happens, traveling always reignites my creative self. “Traveling” can just be walking down an unfamiliar street or visiting a part of the city I’ve never been to before – anything that gets me out of the pattern of “knowing” and into a more curious mind frame.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Fear of making mistakes. For the love of Goddess – FAIL! Learning hurts so good.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

New York City.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

My parents. And Nelson Mandela.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Connecting people around the world through art.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Online window shopping.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Ok – look. I know you love school. And you are very good at school! Keep being good at school – for now. Soon, you are going to have an opportunity to go to a great school. A great college, to be specific. But here’s the thing. No one is going to care if you are “good” or not. I dare you to ask a lot of questions and make a lot of mistakes. Take risks. Literally no one is going to look at your report card once you graduate so stop. playing. it. safe. Find out what happens when you lose control.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

New York City. With an apartment in Paris and one in Cape Town, please.

Q: What is your idea of success?

When the wishful purpose behind making a piece of art comes true. For months, sometimes years, you can sit in a room with your collaborators and talk about why what you’re doing is important, the audience you’re making it for, what you hope people will feel and think afterwards … when you finally put it out there in the world and a total stranger takes the time to reflect back to you that you actually achieved the thing you set out to do – that is success to me. Fulfilling a specific purpose.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Doing what I love with people I love.

Q: Final Thoughts?

I feel incredibly privileged to have a choice in how I spend my time and how I make a living. That choice is not something I take for granted. I ask myself on a fairly regular basis, “Is this still what you want to do?” It’s important to me to continue to answer that question honestly. This is not exactly the most stable or financially sound profession I have chosen. I always hate it when people say “if there’s anything else you can do, do it.” There are lots of other things I could do! But I don’t want to. I honor my choice in that, and the privilege that is the pursuit of my own happiness. If being an artist stops making me happy, I’ll choose something else that does. Until then ..

Fast Forward Friday with Delores Edwards

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed writer-producer Delores Edwards. She began her career working in network television news and has spent more than 15 years writing and producing news, magazine, short/long-form format, entertainment, talk, and documentary programming. Some of her credits include ABC News & News Specials, OWN, The Oprah Winfrey Show, CBS, CNN, VH1, BET,  and Good Day New York. She has written and produced stories, features and profiles on people like Patti LaBelle, Bessie Nickens, a 94-year-old painter, Alicia Keys, Sheryl Crow, and upcoming entrepreneurs, as well as produced stories on finance, fashion, and both Gulf Wars. To learn more, visit her website.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

Right now, I am a Series Producer on two programs for WGBH: Basic Black and Open Studio.  Basic Black is the longest-running public affairs program in the country produced by and for people of color.  This upcoming season will be its 50th.  Open Studio is an arts magazine program covering everything from major exhibits to in-depth, sit-down profile interviews with artists like, playwright Ayad Akhtar, Longy School of Music’s Sistema Side by Side music program as well as Misty Copeland, Lori McKenna, Leslie Odom Jr, historian Sarah Lewis, Harry Belafonte, Oscar-winning composer Gustavo Santaolalla and more.  It is the best of both worlds.  

In addition, I am also working on my documentary idea about women and unemployment, expanding a short and working on getting an Op-Ed piece about plus-size clothing published. I am also passionate about creating my “Voice and Vision” workshops to help women, groups, and companies share their voice, help them think outside of the box and shape and share their stories that will inspire, inform and tell people who they are.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

My interest in producing a public affairs program really came from my time as an undergraduate student at Northeastern University watching Say Brother (now Basic Black).  The program covered what was going on in the city and concerns for people of color, so when the opportunity came up to manage and oversee this show and Open Studio, I pursued it.  Since my time here, both programs were nominated for an Emmy as well as other awards.

The idea to create my workshop stems from wanting to help entrepreneurs, freelancers, women and others who see that in order to get to the next stage or step, they need some help in crafting their story—not in a braggy way, but in a style that brings to light who YOU are–confidently and authentically.  I thought about this after working with young women in a volunteer setting and saw the need to for a workshop like this.  We all have something to say.  We have ideas and things we wish to create–why not get some help with presenting those ideas in the best light?

My doc projects are a result of the issues that came up after the economic downturn.  While the unemployment climate has gotten better, there are still hundreds-of-thousands of people out of work and having trouble finding work.  I saw it first hand with friends and the effects it had on them.  I also know what it felt like because it has happened to me too.

The op-ed is my informed observation and criticism on an issue I deal with every time I shop for clothes. My plan is to tell my story and have it published. (I’ll let you know when it lands!) It’s about stretching myself creatively.  Plus, I have something to say!

There is a film idea too but it’s still percolating.

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

Tough question. Right now, I am really inspired by people like Ava DuVernay, Courtney Kemp for creating, writing and showrunning Power; Misty Copeland for her perseverance; Oprah and Shonda Rhimes for creating their media companies.  

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?  

Again, it’s knowing that I have something to say. It’s knowing that there is much more I can give, so I push myself.  Hey, sometimes you just have to do it for yourself if no one is around.  Speaking up and asking for what I want and need is key too, even at times, when it is challenging. 

Also, I watching the recent Emmys and seeing various people of color in attendance– and winning. Look it’s not about the award; it’s about the recognition and the opportunity to create.  To me, it’s also an indication that some doors are opening, slightly.  On the flip side, it’s also realizing that other avenues exist.  If I want to produce something and publish or broadcast it, it is not an issue.  I could post it, sell it on Amazon or start a crowdfunding campaign to raise money.  I guess what I am saying is there are ways to get your work out there so people/audiences can see it.  What gets murky is being able to sustain yourself while doing it.  That is the challenge.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I’m good.  Just the ideas that I have mentioned –writing, doc projects etc.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

Seeing my ideas on the air every week.

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Running a studio and greenlighting projects.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Access.  

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

It’s been a little difficult lately given my current responsibilities, however, I try to stay connected by attending events, film festivals and taking at least one weekend away each month to recharge — a sort of staycation. Sometimes having a change of scenery and a chance to sleep gives me a new perspective. 

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Worry.

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

Work by Leroy Campbell.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

I admire a lot of people so it’s hard to pin down, however I do admire Former First Lady Michelle Obama.  She along with her family endured a lot of taunts while inside and outside of the office.  Despite all of the issues, she remained gracious and elegant. Plus, I’m still working on getting my arms to resemble hers!

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Having a voice and helping others find theirs.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Thoughtful.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Vanilla cupcakes with chocolate frosting.  It’s not fancy, but it does the trick.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

You are doing great.  You’ve accomplished a great deal and are continuing to grow.  Things will come your way – some good, some bad.  When they come remember to stay grounded.  Celebrate whether things happen or not, if you get a compliment or not.  Keep your eyes pointed forward and stay away from naysayers or those who wish to kill your dream–recognize that they are frightened people who are afraid of being left behind as you begin to move forward.  Do not settle and feel like you have to stick around with the people who try to tear down your ideas because if you do, you will not move closer to your own dreams.  Theirs are theirs.  Yours are yours.  Own your dreams.  Guard and protect them until you are ready to share them with the world.  As you give to others, including your friends and family members, remember to give to yourself, always.  You’ve earned it and so much more.  Don’t be so hard on yourself. Have fun and buy yourself some flowers!

Q: Where would you most like to live?

California, Atlanta, Chicago or Toronto.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Peace and ease.  The ability to not worry about outside things. Being comfortable and realizing that I have enough.  A feeling of being able to take care of myself financially, no matter what.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

Spending time with friends, family, in good health, having the time to do whatever I want, create projects at my own company from anyplace in the world, being joyful, and discovering new things and places—and being excited about those things and places.

Fast Forward Friday with Robin Rice

For this week’s Fast Forward Friday, we interviewed award-winning playwright Robin Rice. She has written 50 one-act plays and 20 full-length plays and they have been produced from Off-Broadway to Mongolia, South Africa to South Korea and London to Seattle.

Q: What are you currently working on?  Tell us about it.

Margie Ditches the Expandable Pig is a great big armload of a play I am rewriting in preparation for a reading for industry in the fall. A wonderful director Marcus Yi, contacted me recently and asked what I had that he might like to work on. I sent him several plays and this one really grabbed him. He was trained in Hong Kong in physical theater, so this is a perfect fit.

The play is about how being overweight can tear a woman down to the point of giving up entirely. The characters in the play  – the cast size minimum is eight with a lot of double casting, up to 22 – all women –  are mostly pairs of women’s breasts. Did I say I like magical realism? The breasts of women from different places, ages, sizes and backgrounds – these breasts have stories to tell. They try to bolster Margie’s self-confidence so she can face the world.

Q: What was the inspiration and impetus for doing this project?

I don’t remember the initial inspiration – but Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues was part of it. I started out writing a lot of essays about breasts, calling it The Breast Monologues. I interviewed many people, like the young actor in a play of mine running in Louisville who had had a double mastectomy and reconstructive surgery. Of course I also called on my memories of my own experience breast feeding and my own lousy body image.   

When the breast monologues were done, I put out an invitation on Facebook: Women actors, would you like to come and read a new monologue for me? Seventeen women responded. Seventeen actors generously gathered one winter evening in my apartment and performed the monologues for each other. It was thrilling! I knew I had something. The most gripping monologue, for me, was the very last one – Margie’s monologue. So I made Margie the protagonist and have worked to break the monologues (not all of them) open and form them into the full-length play.  

Q: Who are your artistic heroes – who have had an impact on you and your work?

I didn’t start writing plays until I was 50. Previously I was a newspaper reporter and then a fine-art print maker.  At 50 I got my Master’s Degree in playwriting and haven’t looked back. I have always been inspired by Thornton Wilder’s creative layering; Irene Fornes’ wide-open, magical way with words; and, of course, by Tennessee Williams’ color in characters, situations and place. Specifically, however,  seeing Tony Kushner’s Angels In America had a huge impact. The play shouted: Mix it up! Go where you want to go in time and space!

Q: What keeps you motivated and inspired as an artist?  

It’s certainly not the endless submission-rejection process. When I began writing plays in the early 1990s, theaters would report that they were getting around 300 submissions a year. They now report getting 1,000. And it’s not the discouraging percentage of women playwrights who get produced year after year. And it’s definitely not rampant ageism in the theater world. When I was just starting out I was told by editors and agents that they wanted to sign on young playwrights so they could build a history with them. Sorry, guys, I was never a young playwright.

I’ve always been stubborn. That may be the main thing that keeps me going. I’ve had quite a few productions all over the world, which is a big motivator. It seems like just when nothing is coming up – something always suddenly happens. So far so good. The thrill of working with good collaborators – sitting in the room with a creative director and fine actors working to bring my play to life – that keeps me going maybe most of all. In the past month I have been lucky enough to work with two wonderful groups on my drama Everyday Edna Mae and my black comedy Listen! The River. The plays were in a festival which means short runs and all the lousy things that a festival involves, but the rehearsals were absolutely wonderful. And the performances were so good I already have a rewrite of Everyday Edna Mae ready to send out to other producers.

A final word about inspiration. I never understood people who come up to me and say “I have a great story you can make into a play.” I have an abundance of stories of my own. There is nowhere near time enough to tell my stories. Those stories are the seeds. I could plant a field of flowers without running out of ideas – if I had forever.

Q: What other projects would you like to tell us about?

I have a drama Lust & Lies that was adapted from a true crime novel (a New York Times bestseller) about a murder that happened in rural Pennsylvania in 1831. This play has two readings with two different groups in NYC in the fall. So I’ll be listening to those and diving into rewrites of that play along with whatever happens with the reading of Margie Ditches the Expandable Pig.

Next week while I’m at Antioch College for a work project fixing up the campus and reunion I’m also going to do research on Susannah Way Dodds, the woman a hall in my freshman dorm was named after. This is for the 365 Project – women playwrights all over the world write plays about real women who have affected our world. I’ve been part of this project since it started four years ago. Watch for a reading of exciting plays next March at Theatre for the New City in NYC as well as 365 readings worldwide.

In the fall I’ll be writing a new short play for Articulate Theatre Company’s Articulating the Arts and hope it’s chosen for production. I’ll also be working as a board member of a new theater company, Rebel Playhouse, as they continue to generate projects aimed at opening young people’s minds through theater.

I’m sure I’ve forgotten some projects. Oh – right! In June I went to a performance of an old Commedia dell’Arte play that was directed beautifully. Afterwards I chatted with the director and she invited me to send her a script. I sent a long one-act play that takes place in ancient Greece but has a contemporary feminist spin. She loved it. Yay! She’s out of NYC directing across the country, but when she gets back in the fall she wants to give the play a reading and take it from there. Watch For The Length Of A Dream. This one has been sitting around gathering dust, waiting for the right opportunity.

My goals for the upcoming year are to focus more narrowly on where I send scripts when I’m looking for producers, and to try to avoid using up time writing and sending out 10-minute plays. It feels good when those shorts are produced, but it’s like eating popcorn. It’s not all that nourishing in the long run.

Q: What is one instance of knowing you are living in your vision?

When I was a print maker, my vision was realized on paper. When I segued over into theater, I could  lift my vision from three-dimensions into four and bring it alive with movement, sound and lights. When creative, smart directors, actors and tech people are brought into the mix, my vision soars and I can really live it. A good example is Alice In Black And White, which has had productions in Louisville, KY, and 59E59 in New York. The story is about a Victorian photographer, Alice Austen, who became the first woman photojournalist. Projections of her photographs were used as the backdrop in the productions. Having lived in Alice’s shoes during the writing of the play, experiencing the productions by Looking for Lilith Theatre Company was truly living my vision!

Q: If there were no barriers to entry, what is one thing you would be doing?

Having a play produced at the Humana Festival in Louisville – and then on to a rolling premiere.

Q: What has been big your biggest obstacle in achieving your vision?

Age. Theater loves youth. One drawback to not being younger is that I can’t stay up to wee hours and network. I have to be in bed by 11 or I’m a zombie the next day and unfortunately networking is huge in the business.

Q: What do you do to stay connected to your creative self?

The question should be what do I do to stay connected to my non-creative self.

Q: If you could let go of something that has held you back, what would it be?

Having learned the hard way, I think I’ve finally let go of it. Sometimes I’ve been too trusting. I didn’t always heed the warning of red flags when I saw them. Empathy caused me to not watch my own back. There are directors who want to realize their own vision of the play, not yours. There are producers who talk a big game but don’t follow through. There are people who give you advice who are really looking out for themselves. It’s a learning process. My rule now is: See a red flag, go the other way. A director I know has a rule for himself that I like: “Don’t work with bloodsuckers.”

Q: What is your favorite piece of art?

There isn’t one favorite. But two that had an overwhelming effect on me recently were the Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre. I studied so many years ago in Art History, but seeing it in person – oh my! And Monet’s garden and home in Giverny. His painting of water lilies – all his paintings – the light and colors were there in his home and garden and the real pool of real water lilies that he painted.  The real things are themselves a breathtaking work of art.

Q: What person do you most admire, living or dead?

I can’t name one. I simply can’t. The women who fought and fight for their rights throughout time and all over the world are primary, but no one can be singled out. As soon as I start naming names I’m leaving out someone who qualifies.

American educator Horace Mann said: “Be ashamed to die until you’ve won some victory for humanity.” The people I admire have won these victories.

Q: If you could be known and celebrated for one thing, what would it be?

Creating beauty. That includes more than writing.

Q: If you could describe yourself in one word what would it be?

Focused.

Q: What is your guilty pleasure?

Reality TV: Project Runway and Face Off in particular. Both involve starting with nothing and creating something awesome.

Q: If you could sit down with yourself 15 years ago, what would you say?

Choose a graduate school that has status in the theater world.

Q: Where would you most like to live?

I moved to New York City when I started writing plays and this is totally the place I would most like to be. I should have moved here years earlier! I wouldn’t mind living in London half of the year too.

Q: What is your idea of success?

Everyone always says “happiness.” Here’s what would make me happy: My goal when I started playwriting was to be published. I’ve had only one full-length play published (Play Nice!) so far. You need to have productions with decent runs and good reviews to be published by a good publishing house. So my idea of ultimate success would be to have those productions of all my full-length plays (all 20 of them) followed by publication. I don’t want to end my playwriting career with a pile of unpublished scripts that nobody will ever see.

Q: What is your idea of happiness?

See the answer to the above question. A shelf-full of my published plays is the legacy I’d like to leave for my children and grandchildren. I’d like to think that in a hundred years one of my plays would be performed and bring happiness to everyone in the production as well as to the audience.

Q: Final Thoughts?

This year I felt myself moving increasingly into the role of mentor. I have had one-on-ones to help a number of young playwrights. I was asked to be on the Rebel Playhouse board and to be a panelist for the Broadway Bound Theatre Festival. This follows my resolution to never produce my own work in a festival again. It’s like stepping up a step and arriving at a point where I can see the view better and the view includes sharing what I’ve learned.