Stay Awake, Mary Hall Surface’s new play for very young audiences debuts October 2, 2-15 at Atlas Performing Arts Center. She is a four-time nominee for the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play and five-time nominee and 2002 recipient of the Helen Hayes Award for Outstanding Direction. Round House Theatre, Folger Theatre, National Gallery of Art and the Kennedy Center (15 productions) have featured her work.
Why are you a playwright?
Live theatre invites us to imagine together. We ask audiences and actors alike to invest in an act of transformation. We all have to envision new possibilities at the same time. The power of that – personally, socially, politically, culturally—is why I’m a playwright.
What type of theatre most excites you?
I love theatre that lets its magic show – that is overtly theatrical and requires the audience to contribute their imagination to tell the story. And I’m a champion of intergenerational theatre – powerful, provocative, multi-layered plays which children and adults can experience together.
What starts a play moving in your imagination?
Sometimes an image will set a spark, or a desire to tell a story about a particular relationship, or a love of an older tale I want to re-imagine.
Do you have a favorite writing place?
I have a wonderful writing studio in my home – top floor with a wall of windows. I call it my treehouse.
WOMEN’S VOICES THEATER FESTIVAL
October 2 – 12, 2015
Atlas Performing Arts Center
1333 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002
Details and Tickets
How did you choose this play to debut at the Festival?
I am the curator of Theatre for the Very Young at the Atlas Performing Arts Center. We had been considering producing a play of our own for the series, rather than presenting other theatres exclusively. Happily, the timing coincided with the festival, so we joined in with Stay Awake. We are excited to include work for the very young (audiences of ages 2 – 4 and their grownups) in the festival conversation. All people of every age have the capacity and the right to experience challenging, inspiring theatre. I imagine we will introduce and surprise a number of people by the idea of “baby” theatre.
What female playwrights have influenced your writing?
Marsha Norman, Constance Cogdon and Paula Vogel were all early influences – especially Constance’s and Paula’s theatricality. Suzan Zeder, a fellow festival playwright, was also an early influence, and still dear friend, in her boundary breaking writing for young audiences.
What’s missing from theatre today?
I’ve actually been feeling rather positive recently about all that is happening in devised and interactive theatre, community-responsive new work, some highly imaginative work around the world for intergenerational audiences, some great new musicals about contemporary subjects in DC and, gulp, on Broadway (Fun Home.) I celebrate what is there in theatre today.
What are you working on now?
I am writing and will be directing and producing a piece for the National Gallery of Art inspired by the Matisse cut outs. Live music. Giant puppets. It will help to celebrate the re-opening of the east wing. This will be my fourth play for the National Gallery, where I feel so fortunate to walk in the door and call it “work.”
Answer this: “If I weren’t a playwright, I would be … “
a cultural diplomat or a European tour director.
Anything you would like to add?
The extraordinary coming together of the DC theatre community around this festival makes me happier still to have made this my home for 25 years.