Thursday, March 8, 2018

Interview: Q & A with Lauren Ferebee

Award-winning playwright Lauren Ferebee creates playful and meaningful theatrical experiences, from classical theatre in bars, houses, and parks to traditional stage plays, engaging audiences in creative experiences that empower, include, and connect. Of the six regional finalist plays for the National Playwriting Program at the Region 6 Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Ferebee authored two of them, with one of them advancing as a National Finalist. Shane Strawbridge had the pleasure of sitting down with her to pick her brain about her work, her experiences, and her influences.

Who are you and what is your background?

I'm a playwright currently in my first year of the MFA program at Texas State. I did my undergrad in drama at NYU/Tisch and have worked as a theatremaker for the last nine years or so in many capacities and in many places, including South Carolina, New York, and Texas.

What challenges do you find in crafting a ten-minute play as opposed to a one act or full-length play?

In ten-minute plays, the "why this moment" question really becomes paramount. I find the key to a ten-minute is looking at what you're interested in character or issue-wise, and then looking at it from every possible angle to find that perfect ten minutes to show onstage. Also, I don't like that ten-minutes are often considered "fluff" or "throwaway," because ten minutes is plenty of time to tell a story. It can be funny and sharp, but it can still be a story with heart and meaning.

What is your writing process?

I always write in the morning. I write pages almost every day. I often revise before I finish a draft. I have lots of post-it notes with little things that should happen and lots of notes on my iPhone.

What sort of stories fuel your writer fire?

It changes over time, but I almost always write workplace plays. I'm very interested in the effects of late-stage capitalism on people's existential sense of themselves. I’m also particularly interested in how the economic and cultural climate of the U.S. affects women's lives, and how women (both successfully and unsuccessfully) claim space, agency, and leadership in the world. Also, I write because once upon a time I was a 20-year-old who hated every "hot chick" or "secretary" role that I went out for (and also pretty much all the Neil Labute and David Mamet the world was interested in). The knowledge that voicing women's reality is an act of staking out territory and reclaiming lost or misrepresented identities keeps my fire burning.

If you could go back and steal one play from the past to claim as your own, what you choose and why?

Caryl Churchill's Vinegar Tom because it is a successful feminist play about the Salem Witch Trials that follows Brechtian tradition, both in its music and its historical distancing. It is a great example of Marxist feminist theatre. Since a lot of my work deals with the impact of late-stage capitalism, I deeply relate to Vinegar Tom as a part of my own playwriting tradition. I also have a fondness for successful plays with music and plays about witches, both of which I think are important to understanding the history of women in the world.

---Shane Strawbridge

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