When did you write your first play? Why did you write a play (as opposed to a story, song or poem)?
I wrote my first play during the summer after my tenth grade year of high school, when I attended the Sewanee Young Writers Conference. Before that conference, I'd mainly written fiction. My favorite part of writing fiction has always been dialogue. For me, dialogue is the element that reveals the most about the characters. I chose to explore playwriting at the conference to try my hand at telling a story primarily through dialogue. I became fascinated by the different ways people communicate with each other; what each character chooses to say, as well as everything that goes unsaid, can give so much insight into the characters and their relationships to one another. During that summer, playwriting became my favorite type of writing.
Do you write for yourself? Do you write for others?
Finley Peter Dunne once said that the purpose of journalism is to afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted. This is also my purpose as a playwright. This applies to both myself and others. I wrote The Road Trip both to challenge myself to think about the social issues present in the play in new ways, and to come to terms with events in my own past by incorporating my emotional memory into the play. I also wrote The Road Trip for those company members and audience members who may not have experienced any of the social issues in the play; I hope that the play will allow them to have a new perspective by empathizing with Julie and Kim. Finally, I wrote The Road Trip for anyone who has experienced those issues. I hope the play is a comfort.
As modern culture is constantly immersed in and exposed to changing media in the arts and new methods of electronic and virtual communication, is it important that people still write plays for the stage and see plays on the stage? Why?
Yes, it is incredibly important that people still write plays and see plays. Because theater tends to be smaller scale than other media, it allows the company and audience to focus primarily on the text of the play. Also, as a communication major, I've had the chance to research the effect of theater on social change. I found that theater has an advantage over other media because it combines the strengths of mass media (reaching large numbers of people efficiently) with the strengths of interpersonal communication. The live, in-person aspect of theater can lead audience members to be more personally involved with the story and characters and therefore think more deeply about the social issues presented. I think it's important that the theater community focus on our potential to influence social change.
You have referenced the social issues in the play. Could you elaborate on what they are?
The Road Trip is a feminist play in many ways. One reason that I wrote it is that I don't think there are enough plays portraying strong, supportive friendships between women. The two young women in my play have an unconditional friendship, and they support each other through issues including domestic abuse and anxiety. The play also deals with the shame surrounding female sexuality.
You won the Judy Lee Prize for Dramatic Writing for The Road Trip and have taken the play to a writer's workshop in New York. Can you tell more about these experiences? What does public exposure to your work do for/to you as a playwright? How did the workshops not only change this play, but also impact your process as a writer.
Over winter break, I had the chance to attend the Young Playwrights Inc. National Conference, which included a staged reading. The rehearsals for this reading, as well as the reading itself, allowed me to see what worked and what didn't work in the play. Some of the changes I made were developing Kim's family background, showing the characters' motives in each moment more clearly, and raising the stakes in the ending. In general, I've learned to think more carefully about my characters' motivations in all future plays I write.