Andrea Assaf will perform her play, Eleven Reflections on September, September 15, 2015 at the Kennedy Center. She is the founding Artistic Director of Art2Action Inc., is a writer, performer, director, educator and cultural organizer. She has a Masters degree in Performance Studies and a BFA in Acting, both from NYU. She’s currently a “Building Bridges” Artist-in-Residence and guest faculty at the University of South Florida. Former positions include Artistic Director of New WORLD Theatre (2004-09), and Program Associate for Animating Democracy (2001-04). Andrea is an acclaimed artist who tours nationally and internationally. 2015 performances of her original work, Eleven Reflections on September, include La MaMa ETC, The Apollo Theatre, and the Kennedy Center Millennium Stage as part of the Women’s Voices Theatre Festival. Awards include: 2014 Princess Grace Foundation “Special Projects” Award, 2011 NPN Creation Fund commission, 2010 Princess Grace/Gant Gaither Theatre Award for Directing, 2007 Hedgebrook Residency for “women authoring change,” and 2004 Cultural Contact grant with Mujeres en Ritual Danza-Teatro. She serves on the Board of the Consortium of Asian American Theatres & Artists (CAATA), and Alternate ROOTS. She is a member of RAWI, the Radius of Arab American Writers. Website: http://art2action.org YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/art2actionTV
Twitter: @Art2Action #11Reflections
Why are you a playwright?
I believe in the liveness of theatre. I believe that we, as humans, still crave performance – that irreplaceable experience of being in a room full of strangers and sharing an emotional experience, a story, a new way of seeing the world. I’m also eternally interested in the relationship between text and liveness – movement, intonation, facial expression, interaction, impulse. Even when I write for the page, I always imagine how the words will sound. The rhythm of language is very important to me, and that is only fully realized when it is verbalized. So I’m a playwright, I suppose, because what I write must be spoken. It doesn’t feel complete if it remains silent.
What type of theatre most excites you?
The type of theatre that most excites me is new work that has something timely, relevant, insightful and challenging to say. I’m also very excited by interdisciplinary collaborations, and artists who are searching for new aesthetics, or drawing from cultural traditions but expressing them in a contemporary way. Women’s work excites me, too. I’m always interested in seeing what women around the world have to say.
WOMEN’S VOICES THEATER FESTIVAL
ELEVEN REFLECTIONS ON SEPTEMBER
September 15, 2015
The Kennedy Center
2700 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20566
Details and Tickets
What starts a play moving in your imagination?
Very often the desire to write a new piece is sparked by a social issue that I’m deeply concerned about. But the issue doesn’t necessarily get me writing. I start writing when I’m emotionally wrenched by something, or deeply inspired. Love always inspires. And profound mourning or outrage that demands expression. But how does a play begin? Usually with an image – a scene, a memory, an outrageous idea. Then I follow the imagery, until it leads me to characters, dialogue, poetry.
Do you have a favorite writing place?
I love to write in nature, when I can. I always feel most free, unencumbered and expansive outdoors. My favorite places are near water – sitting by a lake, or gazing at the ocean. There’s something about the ocean that calls to the limitlessness of the imagination. But I also love forests. Eleven Reflections on September actually began during a residency at Hedgebrook. I will always be grateful to Owl Cottage, that inspiring little perch in the woods on Whidbey Island.
How did you choose this play to debut at the Festival?
I was very fortunate to receive an invitation to present Eleven Reflections on September on the Kennedy Center’s Millennium Stage, one of the venues of the Festival. It was important to me that we have the opportunity to share this work in September, as a way of commemorating 9/11 and all that has happened since. We were also fortunate that this coincided with the Festival, and that we could be a part of it. It’s perfect, actually, since this is an ensemble of all women, from all over the world.
Which female playwrights have influenced your writing and how?
One of my biggest influences has always been Lorraine Hansberry. For some reason, I connected with her work when I was very young. I’ve also been influenced by many poets, Emily Dickinson, Adrienne Rich. But mostly, I’ve been deeply impacted by women playwrights whom I’ve actually had the honor of directing or working with – Suheir Hammad, Linda Parris-Bailey, Heather Raffo. I learn so much from these extraordinary, brilliant women, every time I talk with them. It’s an evolving influence, I think.
What’s missing from theatre today?
Women’s voices. Artists of color. Queer and trans-identified artists. We’re not missing, we’re here and doing amazing work, but we’re terribly under-supported and under-resourced. If women are 51% of the population, and the majority of people in the arts field, why aren’t we funded, commissioned and produced at a rate of 51% or more? Similarly, if the racial and cultural demographics of the nation are rapidly changing, why isn’t the theatre field keeping pace in terms of representation and support? The issues of cultural and gender equity are very real. That’s why festivals like this are so important.
What are you working on now?
I’m beginning a new play, DRONE (working title). It’s an ensemble project in collaboration with ArtSpot Productions. I envision it as a multimedia piece about the secret life, and secret work, of a U.S. drone pilot, and how his work impacts the people around him. The play explores the seeming triviality of killing in an era of high-technology, “low-intensity” combat, and the effects of remote-control warfare on the human soul. Aesthetically, it utilizes the “drone” in music and movement as a metaphor for American desensitization in the 21st century. It’s in very early stages of development, and I’m looking for co-commissioners and producing/touring partners, actually.
Answer this: “If I weren’t a playwright, I would be … “
A wildlife ecologist.
On making Eleven Reflections on September