“Stopped mid explosion”: Trish Harnetiaux

Trish Harnetiaux: the best in the West

Next up in FEED’s series of Writer/Director Lab profiles is playwright Trish Harnetiaux, whose examination of an iconic piece of British contemporary sculpture sent her imagination reeling.

1) Briefly tell us about your play HOW TO GET INTO BUILDINGS.
I’ve never tried, or been interested for that matter, in writing a love story, but now I wanted to.
Years ago I’d seen this installation art piece called ‘Exploded View’ by the British artist Cornelia Parker and found it extraordinary.  It was a wooden shed that had been packed with mundane, every day items (forks, dolls, pillows) and then it was blown up.  Parker hung it in a room just after impact, and lit it from within creating a hauntingly awesome look at something stopped mid-explosion – it contained all the energy of it’s inevitable trajectory, but allowed us, the viewer, to examine it now, in the delicate, disoriented position of having just been, well, exploded.

Cornelia Parker's "Cold Dark Matter: An Exploded View" (1991)

So I decided that would be the structure of my play, it would be an exploded view play and this turned out to be very instrumental to how I approached the story.  How To Get Into Buildings is a love story, or three love stories, or maybe just really one person’s story.  And, as my lab-mate Peter Gil-Sheridan put it after an earlier reading (I quote him not only because it’s a very astute comment but because I can’t find a way to put it better) – it also seems to be about ‘access to things’ – to people, to love, to buildings.

2) Who are the greatest influences to your writing?
Ionesco, JM Barrie, Mac Wellman, Caryl Churchill, Erik Ehn, Ada Limon, Jennifer L. Knox, Kenny Powers, Aristophanes, Salinger, Derek Jeter, Hemmingway, early Tim Burton, Beckett, Dave Eggers (and I’m not afraid to say it, he did important things), Jenny Schwartz, President Barak Obama, Tina Satter, Erin Courtney, Albee, Normandy Raven Sherwood, Wes Anderson, Willie Nelson, Richard Brautigan, Jacob A. Ware, Julian Dibbell, Joe Orton, my dad, Edgar Allan Poe and Shirley Jackson – to name a few.

3) What part of the Writer/Director Lab process was the most instructive and entertaining?
I appreciated the humor in the room.  Everyone seemed to be both passionate and serious about the work, but also allowed for uncertainty and for trying brand new text out.  There was never the pressure of having to bring in something polished.  Ken and Jenny were so great and encouraging, and the other three plays are all so good and different from each other that it was entertaining just to watch them change, to read them aloud and be part of another writer’s process.

4) How do you think the Lab will influence your future work?
Oh, I don’t plan to leave the lab. Ever.  So, I look forward to writing a new play every year in the Soho Rep Lab.

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