Ursula Rani Sarma’s new play, The Magic Tree, premieres at Keegan Theatre October 10, 2015. She is an award-winning playwright who has been Writer in Residence for the National Theatre Studio London, Paines Plough Theatre Company London and the Eugene O’Neill Theatre Centre. She has written for the National Theatre London, the Abbey Theatre Dublin, Origin Theatre Company NewYork, the Traverse Theatre Scotland and the American Conservatory Theatre San Francisco. Ursula invites readers to contact her here.
Why are you a playwright?
I’m a Playwright because I happen to love the medium of theatre itself. I love the immediacy that is presents and the sheer intimacy of a story unfolding live in front of a captive audience. As an Artist in this day and age, it is incredibly rare to have a space without distractions within which to engage with an audience. I also love that no two performances are ever the same and the adrenaline of knowing that anything could happen.
What type of theatre most excites you?
Theatre which is brave and manages to engage me intellectually and emotionally. I am less interested in seeing a ‘well made play’ which looks like a hundred other well made plays I have seen. I want to be surprised and to be forced to look at the world in another way, to be encouraged to rethink what my expectations are as an audience. And always, the most important thing for me is that my head and heart are engaged.
What starts a play moving in your imagination?
My plays always begin with a character or characters in a specific situation. In The Magic Tree, I had an image of these two lost and lonely people reaching out towards each other in the middle of a lightening storm. Then came the questions, who are they? What do they mean to each other? What will they do to each other? My attempt to solve these answers is the resulting playtext.
WOMEN’S VOICES THEATER FESTIVAL
THE MAGIC TREE
October 10 – November 13, 2015
The Keegan Theatre
1742 Church Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
Details and Tickets
Do you have a favorite writing place?
I can write almost anywhere as long as I have some space to think. There are enough characters fighting for space in my head as it is so I find external noise unhelpful. My ideal writing spot would be a cottage in the West of Ireland, in a room with a fireplace, a Jack Russel and a large window over looking the Atlantic Ocean.
How did you choose this play to debut at the Festival?
I was delighted when I heard that The Keegan Theatre would be staging the American premiere of The Magic Tree. It’s a play very close to my heart it is so wonderful that it has been included in the festival.
Which female playwrights have influenced your writing and how?
Sarah Kane, for her honesty and braveness and for the truth in her work. Caryl Churchill for the astonishing breadth of her career and how she has managed not to fall foul of writing the same play over and over again.
What’s missing from theatre today?
That’s a tricky one as it is such a subjective question. Personally I don’t feel I see enough experimental work that still has a strong narrative drive. I sometimes feel as if I am watching plays that has been developed to such an extent that they all seem to be following the same road map. As a result, they can begin to feel too similar. I love work that challenges the medium of theatre without alienating an audience and would like to see more of that.
What are you working on now?
I also write for Film and TV and I am currently adapting a novel into a film for the BBC. I am also developing a number of original television series and writing on a couple of continuing drama series for the BBC and TV3 in Ireland. For the theatre, I am currently adapting Khaled Housseini’s A Thousand Splendid Suns for ACT in San Francisco, developing a new musical with Irish Singer Songwriter Mick Flannery and working on new plays for the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Clean Break, London, and the Abbey Theatre, Dublin.
Answer this: “If I weren’t a playwright, I would be … ”
If I hadn’t become a Writer I think I would have ended up working in music. I have huge admiration for singer songwriters like Laura Marling and wonder sometimes what life would have been like if I had wandered down that path instead.