Inheritance Canyon, Liz Maestri’s new play, debuts September 18, 2015, produced by Taffety Punk.
Her full-length plays include SINNER-MAN, HOUSE BEAUTIFUL, FALLBEIL, CONDO CONDO CONDOLAND, SOMERSAULTING, and OWL MOON (Original Works Publishing). Liz’s work has been commissioned, produced, and developed at Center Stage, E.M.P. Collective, Field Trip Theatre, Great Plains Theatre Conference, The Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Festival, Primary Stages/ESPA, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, Taffety Punk, Theater Alliance, and Theater J, among others. She was awarded a DCCAH Artist Fellowship and Young Artist Program Award, and has been a finalist for the Larry Neal Writer’s Award and the O’Neill National Playwrights Conference. Liz studied playwriting with the 24 With 5 Collective at New Dramatists, and is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America, Center Stage’s inaugural Playwrights Collective, and Playwrights’ Arena at Arena Stage. www.lizmaestri.com.
Why are you a playwright?
In a practical sense, I’m a playwright because it’s simply the right fit for me. It took me twenty years to realize where I belong in the theater milieu. I acted and stage managed for many years—when I was stage managing, I wanted to be on the other side of the table; when I was acting, I missed the comfort and anonymity of being behind the scenes.
Then I found playwriting, and it allowed me to be both onstage and behind the scenes at the same time. In a deeper sense, I’m a playwright because I love actors. Theater is the medium of the talking/walking/thinking/doing human, and I love and respect actors’ work, worth, and creativity when it comes to creating theater. Actors make me want to be the best writer I can be.
What type of theatre most excites you?
I get most excited by shows with smart, beautiful, well-executed design concepts. I especially love when these shows are unusual and unpredictable. But yeah, I really, really love spectacle. Stagecraft. Great lighting design. Music and sound. I love theater as a sort of art installation—total sensory immersion.
WOMEN’S VOICES THEATER FESTIVAL
September 19 – October 4, 2015
Taffety Punk Theatre Company
at Capitol Hill Arts Workshop
545 7th Street SE
Washington, DC 20003
Details and Tickets
What starts a play moving in your imagination?
Life’s problems, other artworks, music, conversations, potential titles, people I meet, nature, questions, silence.
Do you have a favorite writing place?
Currently, my favorite writing place is the playwrights’ office at Arena Stage. It’s very much an office — corporate furniture and overhead lighting, bland colors, not much to look at. This makes it nearly impossible for me to be distracted, and the fact that it’s in a theater space helps remind me of my purpose. It’s easier to stay on target at Arena. I also appreciate the act of going to the office—packing a bag, getting on the train and traveling to a specific place in which to work. I consider playwriting to be my job, and it’s nice to be able to do that job in a location that is not my home.
How did you choose this play to debut at the Festival?
I didn’t. Inheritance Canyon came about as a commission and a culmination of ideas from various Taffety Punk company members, several heart-to-heart conversations with artistic director Marcus Kyd, and issues that were on my mind at the time. So I didn’t really choose it, I sort of assembled it along with the company.
Which female playwrights have influenced your writing?
There are a few different ways I could answer this question, but I’m going with Catherine Filloux and Sheri Wilner. My first professional theater job was on crew for two of their plays that were running in rep. This was the first time the concept of being a working contemporary playwright entered my brain, and perhaps because they were my first introduction to being a playwright by trade, it never occurred to me that women’s voices are systematically squashed in this industry. I never had the notion, “Oh, they’re women. How unfortunate for them.” They were just the badass playwrights I got to work for—artists and workers like everyone else. I’ve carried that aloofness about my “gender” all my life, and will continue to do so. I’m not a “woman writer”—I’m a writer.
What’s missing from theatre today?
Practitioners who aren’t white—and that goes for directors, actors, administrators, crew, EVERYONE, not just playwrights. And I’ll say right now: I’m part of the problem. Over and over again, I fail to be pro-active about characters and casting; listing everyone as “race-neutral” isn’t cutting it. I’m still maturing as a playwright, and I hope that my self-awareness of how I operate in the world as an artist will grow in tandem with my proficiency as a writer.
What are you working on now?
Reading lots and lots of books, and getting used to be a student again! I just started an MFA Playwriting program at the Catholic University of America. This is a major lifestyle shift for me, and I’m looking forward to finding the new normal. And learning how to read faster.
Answer this: “If I weren’t a playwright, I would be … “