We conclude our 15th Writer/Director Lab with Elizabeth Irwin’s new play MY MAÑANA COMES, directed by Sarah Krohn. This interview with Elizabeth concludes a series of interviews with the participants of this year’s Lab. Come and join us the reading at Soho Rep. on May 13 at 7PM.
1. Briefly tell us about MY MAÑANA COMES?
MY MAÑANA COMES is the story of the back of the house at a restaurant and what that work means to a group of five men, how it forms each of their lives. We see what these men want and what they can tolerate. We see the difference between what living and working in this country means to those born here, “stuck” here and those “visiting”. When the management decides to eliminate shift pay for the summer due to “necessary budget cuts” what’s tolerable changes, desperation rises, loyalties disappear and both everything and nothing changes.
2. Who are your greatest influences in your writing?
A few people come to mind – certainly for writing contemporary, urban stories with spot on language, Stephen Adley Gurgis has always been a paragon.. For the use of wit and rhythm and wonderfully drawn complicated relationships, Susan Lori Parks’s work has been highly instructive. Young Jean Lee’s work has been a significant influence for many reasons, including her intense dedication to smart, incisive writing about things that matter, to her, to the audience, to our society.
3. What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?
Two things: one was the very rare opportunity to see a group of four other peoples’ work all start in the same place of a nugget of thought (500 words to be precise) and then watch how that nugget grew and then shrank and was smashed to be reconstructed entirely differently or maybe just grown slowly, methodically, carefully — in other words, being exposed to four other peoples’ writing processes, all of which were so different and yet had a number of similarities in terms of the questions each writer would have or the approaches a writer would take to reworking something. Second, working with directors from the start and learning about what a director is thinking as we craft the stories onto paper. It was very illuminating to see/hear a director talk about capturing in his/her direction specific aspects of the writing.
4. How do you think the Lab will influence your future work?
The Lab has undoubtedly given me the confidence and encouragement to work in a way which I had never considered, experimenting with magical realism and exploring the “theatrical” part of writing for the theater. Being part of the lab has pushed me to think not of the limits of writing for stage but instead the unique elements allowed by it. I now feel encouraged to take advantage of, to exploit the theatrical license that I had previously seen as an obstacle, something to be worked around. It is incredibly liberating to have gained a completely different perspective on writing for the theater.
5. It’s the 15th anniversary of the Lab! Looking back over the history, which plays that have come out of the Lab are you inspired by and why?
Two playwrights’ work from the Lab stand out to me immediately: Adam Bock and Jackie Sibblies Drury. Adam’s work, specifically THE THUGS, inspired me because of the very interesting dynamics that come out of people in a workplace – it’s quite different than a family which is also a group you don’t chose for yourself but relate to quite differently than co-workers and it’s also quite different than friends/significant others though of course sometimes co-workers become that. To use a workplace as starting point and then bring in a force that is semi-external/semi-internal was done so very well in his play.
I saw Jackie’s play WE ARE PROUD TO PRESENT…(though not a play specifically from the Lab) as we were beginning the lab and I was blown away by the very distinct and deliberate way in which she used the fact that this is a theatrical piece, to be performed live. The audience involvement was unspoken and yet so incredibly profound. I couldn’t get it out of my head for days.
Elizabeth Irwin, birthed in Worcester, raised by Brooklyn and finished by el D.F. (aka Mexico City), is a member of the Dramatic Question Theatre playwrights collective and a graduate of the Puerto Rican Traveling Theater Professional Playwrights Unit. Her New York workshop productions include: FOR RISK OF SAFETY and LEARN ME MY NEED at the Workshop Theater, ORIGIN at the Manhattan Theater Source (Estrogenius Festival) and several short plays at the Puerto Rican Traveling Theatre. Her play BROOKLYN BETS ALEXI won 3rd place in the MetLife Nuestras Voces playwriting competition at El Repertorio Espanol and received a workshop production at the Hudson Guild Theater. She is a member of the 2012-13 Soho Rep Writers/Director Lab. Elizabeth’s additional talents as a teacher in the New York and Mexico City school systems inform her work as playwright. Elizabeth is a graduate of Amherst, Harvard and the William Esper Studio Meisner Training Program.