Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Amy Gijsbers van Wijk's "Second Skin" - 5/16 @ 6pm

Amy Gijsbers van Wijk is entering her junior year at the Macaulay Honors College at Brooklyn College (CUNY). She was born and raised in Houston, TX before moving to New York City on the artistic-pilgrimage, and for college. She is majoring in Theatrical Authorship Studies, a self-designed interdisciplinary program (of playwriting, drama history, and theatre training) and being mentored by Erin Courtney and Mary Beth Easley. Second Skin is her first full-length play, but will surely not be her last. Her previous works include Blasphemy, and The Bystander Effect, which were performed in aWe Creative Group’s “24 HourPlayFun,” a twenty-four hour playwriting/acting event. She has also co-written a musical performed at Macaulay, Error 404!, about two students who get trapped in the Internet. Check out her blog, Diary of a Young Playwright.

• Your play Second Skin will be performed as a part of our Dark Nights series this week at the Richmond Shepard Theatre (Wednesday, May 16th at 6pm - see Facebook). Can you tell us about what inspired it?

The origin of my idea kind of rids the play of its mystery, but. . .(pausing for mystery) I was hanging out with some friends, and a newly-introduced friend-of-a-friend asked me, “If I was in one of your plays, what would my name be?” That’s where I got the name of the main male role, Marc. He said, “What would my story be?” and the main plot of the play, of a plastic surgeon who performs reconstructive surgery on his wife after she has a car accident, just popped into my head.

• You are part of Wide Eyed’s very first Apprentice Playwrights Program. Can you tell us a little bit about what the process has been like?

The process was a lot of fun! So, we [myself and the other interns] were chosen through an interview and selection process: writing sample, resume, and interview. Then, we met up at the end of January with ideas for a play, and kept meeting at various levels of progress: an outline, the first five pages, the first fifteen, and so on every three weeks until we finished.

On a more detailed level, our meetings would last about three hours, and as we had more pages to turn in they’d last almost all of an afternoon, into an evening. We’d read through each new part, having each one of us read the characters and stage directions. Then, we would go through this really nice feedback process: first, what we liked about the play. Then, did the playwright have any questions for the others? Then, did the others have any questions for the playwright? It was a great process. Tim, the Artistic Director, had it organized so nicely.

After it was written, we had a reading process with a bunch of actors from Wide Eyed and the New School and Brooklyn College, and various other connections. From that, we asked actors to be involved, and Tim helped us find directors or we could ask someone we knew. Then, the rehearsal process was more up to us. [Wide Eyed's resident playwright] Laura Maria Censabella did, however, read each of our scripts and/or see our readings, and give us feedback as well.

All in all, it was a great process.

• When did you know that you wanted to be a writer? What made you start writing plays?

I’d done writing variously since I was in middle school. I didn’t realize I could be a writer (I’d just won an award) until the end of middle school, and I spent the following three years trying to write short stories and poems – more poems than anything.

When I was a freshman, Macaulay Honors College collaborated with aWe Creative Group for one of the “24 Hour PlayFun” events, and I wrote a play overnight (a ten minute play). That was when I realized I could write a play, because I never had finished one before then, and that I also loved the theatrical process. I kept writing plays after that, and I still am. It’s both the form that challenges me the most and I feel the most comfortable in – fiction always felt like walking uphill, 18 miles in the snow; and while I love poetry, and do still write it and find my work highly influenced by poetry and poetic style, I never had the desire to pursue it seriously. Playwriting combined my interest in acting and theatre, which I had participated in growing up, and my love of making up stories and characters in my head.

• Who or what has been your biggest influence as a writer? What inspires you to get to the page?

It’s hard to pinpoint a single influence, because I feel that as a writer I’m extremely susceptible to everything around me as a source. Sometimes I just hear lines, or think lines, to myself (usually when I’m walking or talking to people), or sometimes I’ll hear someone deliver a story or line and I’ll copy it down. I eavesdrop a lot, that’s inspiring. Or if I’m people-watching, I try to think, “What makes those people interesting? What do they remind me of? Who could I make them” and go from there. I also think it might be the fear that not-writing makes me not-a-writer that’s partially inspiring.

• 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?

As a college student, my writing mantra tends to be, “Write when you should be doing something else,” or “Write when you can.” I had a New Year’s Resolution to write everyday . . . I haven’t been doing too well at that.

I do like to start writing by hand for the first draft, but I find that I do it less in playwriting because I’m often writing in a rushed moment, or towards a page count.

• Can you tell us about any other projects you’re working on right now?

I started working on a play as part of a playwriting course I’m taking with Benjamin Gassman, and that’s developed into something I’m kind of in love with at the moment. It’s called Broken Eggs: a play. I also may be writing another musical as part of Macaulay’s SING! event, where students team up on the campuses and write, direct, and perform a thirty-minute musical, but that won’t be until September or October.

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