The play has:
a. Percolated for a long time.
b. Notes and notes and notes - on scraps of paper that drove my family crazy. During a weekly clean-up, they were not allowed to touch anything that had my handwriting.
c. Research. Even if writing a fairy tale.
d. A character list with complete character descriptions – including a "pressing need" – even for a minor character. I need to see and hear them before I can write them. I'm very auditory as a playwright – hearing the characters is necessary. When it is quiet, I need to return to note-taking.
4. If for some reason you were suddenly forbidden to write, what would you end up doing?
Talk-write. And keep talk-writing until I memorized my play.
5. Is there a book you read, play or movie you saw, or story you heard as a child that had a significant impact on you?
Just as I don't have favorites – anything – I don't have any "aha" moment. I read voraciously. I grew up in NYC and every dime of my babysitting money went to see shows and buy books. My theatre-and-book-habit left me always wanting more. It was the best background for a future playwright.
6. What is the biggest obstacle or setback you've ever faced in creating a play, and how did you move past it?
I think I am currently in that place and moving at a snail's pace. I am working on something that involves physics – my nemesis. Unfortunately – I have a love of a subject I cannot wrap my brain around. I have one significant change to make and every time I try to rewrite the scene, I sound like a documentary. I just have faith that as I read and process, the next rewrite will work. Eventually.
7. How has your writing changed over time?
In my early days, I had a standing summer commission to create plays for young performers that were supposed to be "summer fun." Lots of comedy, lots of silliness. Lots of roles that were accessible to young performers (as young as six!). It helped me learn how to craft a play that gave the young performers an arc and helped to teach them the art of acting.
Over many years, my writing became more nuanced and specific. I am not afraid to tackle bigger subjects – even if they scare me. In fact – am starting to welcome "the scare." I do not write for a specific group of young people anymore and there is freedom in that. I don't need to worry if I have a role for the very experienced and ten roles for the novice. I have never strictly adhered to the "write what you know approach." But these days I wrote much more in the area of "write what you know nothing about but want to know more."
8. If you could ask another playwright, living or dead, to read your work and give you notes on your latest play, who would that playwright be and why would you ask him/her?
That's easy. Years ago, I attended a one-hour workshop with Suzan Zeder. In five minutes, she generously handed everyone in the room specific tools to improve your play immediately. I still have the notes (although they are memorized) and I still use those tools. And of course, I do love her plays.
9. How rigid are you with your first draft? Do you allow your characters to veer off in unplanned directions? Have you wound up with an ending vastly different than the one you had planned?
In terms of plotting, I am pretty rigid initially. While I allow the characters to "speak to me" in unplanned ways, I do have a destination and I go there. Characters change more than anything. Endings seldom do. If, in the course of development another ending makes more sense – I certainly will explore it. I won't write page 1 without knowing the last page.