Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Girl Wrote It: Liz Magee, Playwright

Liz Magee recently received a BA in Theatre Arts with concentrations in Performance and Writing for the Stage from Marymount Manhattan College. Her short play, If You See Something, Say Something won Manhattan Rep’s Fall One-Act Competition and was a semi-finalist in the Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One-Act Festival. While at Marymount, she was head writer of the sketch group “Comedy Schmomedy,” received the award for ‘Best TV Script’ for her spec script of Modern Family, and was the recipient of the Gold Key for Academic Excellence for Writing for the Stage.
  • Your monologue, Jeans, will be performed as a part of our upcoming production of A Girl Wrote It. Can you tell us about what inspired it?
I wrote this monologue during my last year over at Marymount Manhattan College. To be honest, it was written in a “free write” setting, with no direct intention of it being performed. For this particular project, my professor at the time was strongly encouraging us all to write outside of our natural style - just to see what happens. Writing in this manner is rather discomforting at times, but this particular case has resulted in the discovery of a more intimate, stripped, style that I will continue to explore.
  • When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? What made you want to start writing plays?
Well, I started off as an actor. While in college, I found myself being tortured by the physical and emotional demands of my acting classes. I just wanted to be doing script analysis all day. I eventually had to force myself to ask that ever imposing question - why am I doing this? Why theatre? And over time I realized, it was the storytelling. Using people - actual living, breathing bodies - to tell stories or convey ideas is what excites me. So I figured I should be on the other side of all that and start writing…
  • Who or what has been your biggest influence as a writer? What inspires you to get to the page?
Oh jeeze. There are countless writers/authors who provide influence, from Beckett to Tina Fey, the list is endless. But I will say that most of my friends are very talented performers, and more often than not, I find myself writing pieces for them, or creating characters with them in mind and then finding a story from there.  On the other hand, it is a personal goal of mine to bring in outsiders with my writing. Theatre people will come; they always come. Sometimes I attack a blank page with the intent to entertain or enlighten someone who is specifically not of our theatrical community.
  • In terms of your creative process, do you have a particular ritual when it comes to writing? If so, can you share it with us?
Hm. I guess my ideal writing circumstance would be: at home, in my bed with my cat sleeping on my feet. It’s important that my cat be sleeping on me in some way because I don't have it in me to disturb his slumber,  so I always end up pushing out a few more pages. In all seriousness, I don’t really have a ‘ritual’. I prefer to be home alone with snacks, but I also find that I am able to write beside my boyfriend while he plays his grotesque video games.
  • Your play If You See Something, Say Something won Manhattan Repertory Theatre’s one-act competition last fall, and was seen this March at The Riant Theatre’s Strawberry One-Act Festival. How has working on Jeans compared to that process?
If You See Something, Say Something was developed in a playwright/director/actor workshop; meaning, I wrote the piece specifically for a designated director and group of actors. It was very much a collaborative effort throughout the development of the play and I was able to work with the same director and essentially the same cast with both competitions. Whereas with Jeans, this is taking a piece (not even intended for performance) and working with an actor and director who were in no way a part of the piece’s development. It’s very exciting. Having a piece explored with fresh eyes has already been an invaluable experience as far as how my work is perceived on a first impression basis. I am very fortunate to be working with Kristin Skye Hoffmann and Carly Knight, for they have already provided me with insight about the piece that I had otherwise overlooked.
  • Can you tell us about any other projects you’re working on right now?
Right now I am working on a series of lady plays. These plays will consist of only (or mostly) women, because there is simply is not enough plays of this nature. “The Attendant” is the play I am developing through Wide Eyed’s apprenticeship program. It is an examination of a bathroom attendant’s work shift at a trendy bar in an unspecified city.  Yes, the whole play takes place in a women’s restroom. (Readings of "The Attendant" will be held at the Richmond Shepard Theatre Sunday, April 22nd at 6pm and Friday, May 18 at 6pm!) 

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