We will conclude our 17th Writer/Director Lab with Dipika Guha’s new play UNRELIABLE, directed by Andrew Neisler. This is the fifth installment in a series of interviews with the participants of this year’s Lab. Come and join us for the final Lab reading at Clemente Soto Vélez Cultural & Educational Center, 107 Suffolk Street, April 24th at 7PM!
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1. Briefly tell us about your play.
My play is called UNRELIABLE. It’s a three character play about a mother, daughter and a man imprisoned somewhere much like Guantanamo. We’ve been talking about the construction of the play as being much like a Rubik’s cube. The prism of perspective in the play keeps changing and there’s space for us to encounter the way in which we build narratives in our minds. In my research I was amazed by how few facts we actually know about people we’ve detained in Guantanamo. It made me think about what ‘not knowing’ actually means for the closest of our relationships and whether love and empathy are conditional on given circumstances, on facts? What happens when we realize facts are conditional or relative. Is love still possible? Is it more possible?
2. Who are your greatest influences in your writing?
I love the abstract expressionists-particularly the work of Joan Mitchell. And people who paint with theatre like Robert Wilson. I have an enduring love for Beckett and Irene Fornes whose grace and strength infuses all her writing. I love novelists who are anthropological in their approach like Amitav Ghosh. I love the sheer bulk of the Victorian novel and the modernists for their insistence on ‘making it new’ which is also the work of playwriting I think.
I studied with Paula Vogel for a long time, and she’s had the largest influence on who am I as well as how and why I write. I certainly wouldn’t have written another play after my first one if it wasn’t for Paula. Also, Doug Wright, Diana Son and Ellen Mc Loughlin. And my peers, particularly the ones I lucky enough to go to graduate school with Christina Anderson and Meg Miroshnik.
3. What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?
Ken and Jenny are so profoundly aware of what it is to raise, coax, throttle (not really) a play into existence that they’ve led the room with complete understanding and empathy about process. This has been enormously liberating for me, to be reminded that I can trust myself and trust whatever the process is leading me to every step of the way-it’s been a huge gift. Also getting to hang out with these loony, brilliant writers and directors and to see how they approach process has been wonderful; their courage is infectious.
4. How have your dramaturgical skills developed over the course of the past nine months?
Ken and Jenny created a room where we were all listening intently to what the plays were doing and what they wanted to be. Listening is such a huge part of dramaturgy. It was amazing to be able to listen at the pulse of these plays for several months as they evolved and learn to respond to the unfolding of process.
5. Seventeen years on the Lab has produced some pretty great plays. Looking over them, do any stand out to you?
Eeee! So many good ones. I have a special place in my heart for Orange, Hat and Grace by Greg Moss which I love on the page and loved watching here too. I read Anne Washburn’s Apparition recently and found it so curious-I mean, that the play itself is kind of curiosity-like an artifact. I don’t know how she did that! The play undid some kind of internal logic I didn’t even know I had. It allowed me to experience something new.