Nancy Brewka-Clark on Her Career and Her Craft

July 24, 2017

Playwright Nancy Brewka-Clark, author of First Dance and Math-O-Freak, answers questions about her career, playwriting, and the theatre.


Q: What was the play you saw or read that made you think: “this theatre thing is what I want to do for the rest of my life”? 

A: Tartuffe by Moliere and Volpone by Ben Jonson were both performed at my college by a touring theater group within a month of each other. I can't remember which was done first, but I fell in love. Twice.


Q: What was your first job in the theatre?

A: Freshman in college, lighting.


Q: I think we find inspiration in the work of others. I often find myself wishing I had written a particular play/moment/character, and that’s when I realize I have developed a playwriting crush (these are ever changing and different from your playwright loves). Who is your playwriting crush and why? 

A: Beth Henley's Crimes of the Heart is the play I'd love to write, funny, touching, slightly daft and so enjoyable.


Q: What’s your favorite line of dialogue/moment/character you’ve ever written? You can share why, but you don’t have to. 

A: "What are politics but the selfish plans of men hidden under a veneer of civic decency?"—spoken by President William Howard Taft in my play Good Heavens, Mrs. Evans, which was my first full-length production in 2002. (The actual quotation from the man himself: "Politics make me sick.")

The play was written as a fundraiser and kicked off a successful million-dollar campaign to restore the carriage house on the grounds of Taft's summer White House in 1909-1910 in the city where I live, Beverly, MA. It was produced again in 2005. I rewrote it for a reading at a private school in 2014 so it might be ready at last to submit to YouthPLAYS.


Q: How do you define success? What have you sacrificed for your career? 

A: Success is making even one other person enter your fictional world completely.

Never giving up means accepting rejection—always a bitter pill but absolutely necessary to have a career in any of the arts, although accepting rejection probably leads to a warped sense of the universe.

In turn, a warped sense of the universe, unless you're a very, very good writer, can lead to a lot of dead ends. I'd say the real sacrifice is spending time working on projects that suck up so much energy only to turn out to be duds.


Q: What’s the biggest mistake you’ve ever made? Give one piece of advice you wish you were given when you started. 

A: For years I thought I could only write comedy. I would tell everyone to work on different types of short plays focusing on one strong emotion at a time.


Q: How has your writing changed over time? 

A: I'm more confident that I can express a range of emotion. I rewrite more than ever.


Q: If, for some reason, you were suddenly forbidden to write, what would you do to fill that void?

A: Too awful to contemplate.


Q: Please take a minute to describe the journey of creating one of your plays published by YouthPLAYS in your own words (take into account impulse, writing complications, production history, discovery, what it’s about versus what it is trying to say, etc.).

A: My first YouthPLAYS work, Last Danceis just a funny little play about two girls being typically boy-crazy. I can still remember clearly what it was like to go to a school dance and wait to be asked. Surviving childhood and adolescence involves picking up bruises that turn into scar tissue. The old saying, "One day you'll laugh about this" may not be true but for the most part I think kids should be exposed to far more humor than tragedy.

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