I didn’t do or even see a lot of theater growing up, but I’ve been writing since childhood (including an awful novella I wrote when I was 12). When I got to college, I planned to take a couple of classes here and there, but I still thought I wanted to go to med school. Then I discovered my boundless ineptitude for chemistry. So. Plans had to change pretty quickly. I started acting in some student shows, and then some professional shows. Then, senior year, I started turning my attention to writing and I haven’t looked back.
What three writers/inspired you the most? Current? Dead?
If we’re just talking all writers period, two words: James. Baldwin. Utterly transcendent. I was just telling someone the other day that I could just sit and chew on one of his sentences for an hour and never get full.
If we’re talking playwrights, the two that have been most inspirational for me are Eugene O’Neill and William Inge, for completely different reasons. O’Neill’s ambition was just extraordinary and I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that there is real American theater because of him. I also have a soft spot for “Desire Under the Elms” because I saw a great production of it when I was in high school. Inge’s plays are far from ambitious, but they taught me the value of having compassion for your characters.
How did The October Storm come about?
A couple of years ago, I wrote a play inspired by the Great Migration – a play about a couple who moves from rural Mississippi to Chicago under desperate circumstances and who then, eighteen years later, face the reality of their lives and their relationship. I’ve always wanted to write a trilogy just because it sounds cool. So I started a play set in the couple’s apartment building over 20 years later, following different characters. That play is now “The October Storm.”
Do you have a writing schedule? What’s it like?
I wish I could stick to a schedule! I’m sorely in need of discipline. The closest thing I have to a schedule amounts to random all-nighters. I tried doing the whole “wake up and write every morning” thing, but the play that came out of that was…well…not good.
What are three things about writing that you wish you knew five years ago?
1. It’s hard.
2. It’s really hard.
3. When it goes well, all you can really be is grateful. (That last one is courtesy of Tom Stoppard. NAME DROP.)