Introducing W/D Lab Member… Tracy Thorne!

Scan 3We continue our 15th Writer/Director Lab with Tracy Thorne’s new play THE NATURE OF THINGS, directed by Kristan Seemel. This interview with Tracy continues a series of interviews with the participants of this year’s Lab. Come and join us the reading at Soho Rep. on May 6 at 7PM.

1. Briefly tell us about THE NATURE OF THINGS.

My play, THE NATURE OF THINGS, is about two people who do a pretty bad thing, thinking it’s a pretty good thing.  So, it’s a little dirty.  Except it also references a very old Latin poem which, in spite of being old and Latin, is a little dirty also.  So too, the play (and the poem) are quite practical, asking whether the nature of things is completely up to chance or, in fact, informed by hard and fast rules.  Whichever, my two main characters don’t play by any rules and the other characters in the play are really unhappy about that.   Also, Lady Gaga and Bob Dylan are in there too.

2. Who are your greatest influences in your writing?

Edward Albee because VIRGINIA WOOLF has patterned itself on my soul.  Bertolt Brecht because I saw THE THREEPENNY OPERA when I was four and forevermore plays and music go together, in spite of the fact that I hate musicals.  August Wilson because no one offers us the landscape of a wounded soul with more rage and poetry.  Tony Kushner because I could listen to his characters talk (and talk and talk) until the cows come home.  Harold Pinter because he’s so terrifyingly spare and has rhythm like no other.  Tom Stoppard and David Hare because plays about ideas seem SUCH a good idea to me.  Henry James and Hilary Mantel because they are the masters of character–THE END.  Timberlake Wertenbaker and Zadie Smith because of their bottomless imaginations and, also, absolutely anything’s fair game.  E.M Forster because he reminds me that the object of the exercise is to, ‘only connect’.  And, of course, Samuel Beckett because he starts, and ends, with the elements.  

3. What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?

Well, the company, for sure.  Everybody in the room gets the joke.  Also, what’s better than being with people who try really hard?  I’m not kidding, for me, there’s nothing better than that.  The habit of meeting up with these women and men who are bending over backwards and tying themselves in knots to find a way to say something useful is, frankly, emotional for me.  I’m most grateful and appreciative of their EFFORT–that the plays are really good too is a ridiculous bonus.

4. How do you think the Lab will influence your future work?

I’ll make more work because the Lab has been such a shot in the arm.  Also, my colleagues have been entirely rigorous with me and I don’t mind that at all.  I hope they’ve taught me to be more rigorous with myself.

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?
If I may, I’ll talk about some of the writers:  
Amy Herzog puts a lot of the theatrical elements I love most–emotion, ideas, character, politics–all together.  So often this is the province of guys, but she’s found such an elegant voice for it.  
Lloyd Suh has got an awesome touch.  So direct.  So emotional.  So funny.  So light.  I’m like a bull in a china shop.  I want to be more like him.  
And Jenny Schwartz, in her plays and in all other ways, just has the best listening skills.  Is there anything more important than that?  She makes me want to be sure I’m listening so, so carefully.


Tracy Thorne’s play, WE ARE HERE, received its world premiere on the mainstage at New York Stage and Film. It was also produced at the Contemporary American Theatre Festival. Recently, Tracy completed a new, full-length play, WILL AND TESTAMENT, and her play, A RIDICULOUS TRADE, was workshopped at The Dramatists Guild. She has written three others, QUICK BRIGHT THINGS, FORGIVABLE and LUSH LIFE, which have received readings and/or workshops at MCC, The Cherry Lane, NYS&F, Florida Stage, The Women’s Project and The Lark, where she was a playwriting fellow. She has also written a screenplay called NATURAL HISTORY. Tracy has worked as an actor in both New York and London, collaborating with directors such as Matthew Warchus, Phyllida Lloyd, Anna Deavere Smith and Tony Kushner. Tracy earned a B.A. in History from Smith College and is a graduate of LAMDA–The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.

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