Catching up with…Andrea Thome
You’re Invited to
Summer in Winter
with Featured Guest Playwright
Monday, February 4th at 8pm! at Cherry Lane Theatre (38 Commerce Street NYC)
One week out from the next NYM show NYM’s Artistic Director, Cecilia Copeland caught up with Featured Guest Playwright Andrea Thome – Read on to find out more!
1. Being an artist of different places and traveling so much, what is the place that you call home and is that what you mostly write about and why? If you don’t write about “home” where is your work mostly set?
After many years of trying to figure out where my home was, I realized that my internal vision of home is one that doesn´t live in one geographical place. I grew up with so much of my family so, so far away — my Mom´s family in Chile (10,000 miles from Madison, WI where I mostly grew up) and my Dad´s family in Costa Rica and California — and still always feeling close to them, largely due to the efforts of my Mom and Abuelitas. So this sense that home exists in multiple locations –or better said, in a space that includes all these places — is what feels most natural to me. And I think this is reflected in my plays; my theatrical worlds are usually places where more than one “place” or even time exist simultaneously…and aren´t as separate as they might seem. The characters often move between these worlds in an instant, without explanation. Some want to call that “magical,” but to me it´s just reality, a natural and straightforward depiction of what our minds, hearts and memories do all the time.
2. Who are the Female Latin American Playwrights that you feel have contributed the most to our cannon or who do you love and feel has been left out of the cannon?
I´m going to mention some US-based Latina playwrights that I adore and who have influenced me deeply. Maria Irene Fornes has deeply influenced not only me, but so many playwrights working today (even those who never met her but have been affected by her work and innovations). She taught and inspired me directly, but also many who have been my teachers and inspirations. She is one of the most groundbreaking, original and significant playwrights of the last 50 years and yet has not received the kind of widespread recognition that she deserves. I also am inspired by many artists including Migdalia Cruz, Quiara Alegria Hudes, the brilliant satirist Susana Cook…and Latin America-based artists (and radical satirists) Jesusa Rodriguez and Liliana Felipe, and companies that create work collectively like El Teatro de la Candelaria in Bogota. And of course, the enormously vital theater scene in Mexico has greatly influenced and excites me, which I got to know through my work directing the Lark´s US-Mexico Playwright Exchange. I´ve had the honor of translating the work of Mexican playwrihgt Ximena Escalante, for example — someone who it´s ridiculous that we don´t know here.
3. Do see a shift in the gender politics of getting produced as a female playwright and what do you think some of the factors are in that startling statistical gap?
I´m not sure things have changed that much — if anything, it was always unequal and at this particular moment the balance is at one of its more egregious extremes. And don´t even get me started about the statistical likelihood of getting produced as a Latina playwright! The percentages over the last several years are abysmal, embarrassing. Which is why my view is: we have to keep making work. Keep making work, producing it ourselves or producing each other, and not waiting for things to change (which doesn´t mean we should stop fighting and pressuring for change). But if we keep making work, if we keep creating community, even if the mainstream sees us as on the margins, eventually “the center will shift, and the margins will become the center,” as Patricia Araiza, a tremendous Colombian theater artist and activist, says.
4. What’s your process like from inspiration to final draft?
It´s always different! Often, a place or a world is what provides an initial spark — usually a person, or the relationships between people, that inhabit a specific place with particular ways of being. I love listening, absorbing, watching, breathing in a place. Then it doesn´t always manifest in the play as that same place, or even kind of setting, but something about that atmosphere, those relationships, the language used there –the AIR of the place — does breathe life into the play. I don´t start with a plan or outline, not at all. I write scenes and spend a lot of time discovering how the characters talk, how they relate to each other and to this world(s), how language works…and I learn about the play and its universe this whole time. I start to discover the story. One of my most influential teachers was Maria Irene Fornes, who really encouraged us to LISTEN to our characters, not to impose on them, to open our imaginations and make unexpected discoveries. I tend to write a lot, then find the play within that material — which sometimes I´ve already been having an intuition about, and getting a sense of its form. It´s a delicate balance between listening and shaping. With my newest project, I´m working with a group of actors and a composer and creating work not just textually but also using improvisation, physical work, music, etc.
5.What are the upcoming projects you are working on right now?
In May, my play PINKOLANDIA opens at INTAR Theater in New York City, directed by the wonderful Jose Zayas. This is a play that I began writing as part of INTAR´s Maria Irene Fornes Hispanic Playwrights in Residence Lab (HPRL), so I´m really happy and honored that the first production will be there. It´s part of a rolling premiere of the play, which will then be produced at Salvage Vanguard Theater in Austin, TX (in November), and in 2014 at Two River Theater in NJ and 16th Street Theater in Chicago. This March, my translation of Chilean playwright Guillermo Calderon´s play NEVA opens at the Public Theater; this is a really exciting, groundbreaking play that asks provocative questions and challenges the role of theater and its capability to make change, especially in a climate of political upheaval and violence. I really urge everyone to see it! Guillermo is directing it as well, and it´s theater unlike any you usually get to see in New York City. I´m also excited to keep working on my newest project, THE NECKLACE OF THE DOVE, which we just shared as a work in progress at Mabou Mines, where I´m part of the Resident Artist Progam.