Thursday, April 5, 2012

A Girl Wrote It: Heather Lynn MacDonald, Playwright

Heather Lynn MacDonald Originally from New Hampshire, Heather currently lives in Harlem with her husband, Anuj Shah. Her plays have been produced and developed by The New Group, Naked Angels, A.R.T. Theatre Institute, Summer Play Festival, Page 73 Productions, Atlantic Theater Company, Philadelphia Theatre Company, Hangar Theatre, and The New York International Fringe Festival. She is the recipient of a NYSCA Individual Artist grant and NYFA fellowship; additional honors include residencies at the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Page 73, and the Orchard Project. Her play The Givers is a 2012 O'Neill Theater Conference semifinalist. Heather is a former member of Page 73′s Interstate 73 Writers Group. She holds a MFA from Columbia University where she received the Brander Matthews Fellowship, and a BFA from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. 

  • Your one-act, Early Michigan, will be performed as a part of our upcoming production of A Girl Wrote It. Can you tell us about what inspired it? 
I’ve lived in New York for nearly twenty years. During that time, many of my friends left New York to either pursue their art in another city/town, or to pursue another career altogether. When you’re in your 20’s, you think “well, they must not have wanted it that badly.” When you’re in your 30’s, you think “oh my god, I’m in my 30’s and I have no actual profession I can put on my LinkedIn profile, let alone own a home or thought about starting a family.” So you look around at all your friends who left New York and have those things, and you panic. At least I did. Still do. 

I guess this is my way of saying this play is about that moment in life where you begin to assess where you’re at, what you have, and the sacrifices you’ve made to get there. While the story centers around four friends at varying stages of professional and personal growth, the play is really about assessing my relationship with New York. 
  • Who or what has been your biggest influence as a writer? What inspires you to get to the page? 
My biggest influence as a writer is clich├ęd, but true: Caryl Churchill. While our styles are dramatically different, she helped me understand that writing can be lyrical without being cloying, dangerous without being sensational, historical without being musty, and political without being dogmatic. And she’s a girl – er, woman. 
  • 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? 
Sadly, no. I’m terrible with establishing routines or a disciplined approach to writing. For the most part, I write when I feel it. But as any writer will tell you, inspiration is fleeting and completely unreliable, which sucks for someone with no discipline. Attending retreats has been the best way for me to be productive - I’d go every year if I could. A friend recently sent me an app that forces you to write a certain amount of time each day. I should probably get it. 
  • I read somewhere that you grew up in rural New Hampshire near Lake Winnipesauke. Did you always want to live in New York? How would you say these experiences have shaped you as a writer? 
Yep, I always knew I wanted to live in New York. As a theater dork growing up in the country, there really wasn’t any other option in my mind. Now, nearly twenty years later, I’m starting to believe maybe there is a world outside of New York… 
  • Can you tell us about any other projects you’re working on right now? 
I’ve been working on a play called Neocomrade about the birth of the neoconservative movement in the U.S. It’s a topic I’m fascinated by, and this is my attempt to understand its evolution from a group of Depression-era left-wing radicals to the present-day architects of the war(s) in Iraq. My current task is sharpening its focus – there are too many juicy characters and not enough stage time, so I’m going to have to get serious with the delete button.

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