Check out these questions posed by Eric Dufault (who wrote Year of the Rooster) to his former roommate, Jen Silverman (who wrote Phoebe in Winter). Small world, huh?
1) What was the best thing about being roomies?
Dufault is a super easy roommate. He has great taste in music, will pretend he didn’t overhear the super personal phone call you made (unless you want to talk about it), and if you ask him to water your baby avocado tree while you’re out of state, he will. AND – he will totally let you wear his clothes. I once wore a jacket of his for the better part of 6 months. Then guilt and common sense dictated that I had to buy my own jacket. But he never once asked for it back. You can’t find most family members like that, let alone roommates!
2) What is your relationship, if any, to Baltimore? How do you feel about your plays being produced here?
I had an amazing lunch with Genevieve de Mahy a few weeks ago, and I asked her how Single Carrot landed in Baltimore. I’d just imagined that one of the company members was from there. But instead she told me that the company, some years ago, did extensive research on the best cities in America in which to land and grow as a company (there were a lot of factors involved), and Baltimore ended up being #1. I’m excited about what a home for edgy, scrappy new plays Baltimore seems to be, and the path Single Carrot is forging there.
3) Phoebe in Winter has a certain fairy tale aesthetic; what’s your favorite fairy tale/fable/myth/tall tale?
I love fairy tales and tall tales. I love the dark warnings embedded in them, and the hard truths about what it is to be a person in the world. Fairytales used to be ways of teaching the kids about ethics, good and evil, proper behavior, fear. There’s a way we dismiss them now, or think of them as light, but actually they contain a very sharp and nihilistic lens on the human condition. My favorite one changes from year to year, but one that always stays with me is Hansel and Gretel. It tells me that we’re basically all just wandering around lost in the woods, and the things we’re happiest to stumble upon are probably the ones that will destroy us… but we’re lucky if we find someone to stumble around with.
4) Something I really love about your plays is how your characters begin in one place/role and then end up in another, possibly directly oppositional place/role. Why do you dig that shit? Who do you think, personally, historically, whatever, has had the most three-hundred and sixty degree personal transformation?
I want to watch people question the assumptions they’ve made about themselves and their lives, and then overturn those assumptions. There’s such power in it, and danger… and opportunity for disaster. But also, if you stop doing questioning and challenging and overturning, you might as well be dead. I’m not even entirely convinced it’s possible to change who you are, although I think you can always change the environment you’re in – which changes how you behave. (Is how we behave, who we are? Another question that obsesses me…) Some amazing and devastating transformations: Walter White’s arc in Breaking Bad, Zelda Scott Fitzgerald, and your own Odysseus Rex in Year of the Rooster.
5) You have a play titled “The Roommate”. Is this play about me? If not, if you were to write a play about our time living together, what would it be called?
Unless you’re a 55 year old woman from Iowa with a propensity for criminal activity, it’s probably not about you. If I were to write a play about our time together, it would be called: Why Is There No Heat In This Apartment; It’s Mid-Winter; I Haven’t Showered In Days; But Somehow You Can Still Stand To Take 45 Minute Showers; You Must Be A Penguin.
6) What’s an inspiration for Phoebe in Winter that no one would ever expect?
I was reading the King James version of the Bible while I wrote it, and also a compilation of ancient documents about justice and vengeance (Hammurabi’s code, etc.) I’m not sure if you’d expect those or not. I was also in my last year of MFA at Iowa so… talk about snowbound winter landscapes…
7) Since I last saw you, you got a truly fantastic tattoo of a jellyfish on your arm. If someone were to get ink inspired by Phoebe in Winter, what would it be? Be serious, because if you answer this compellingly, maybe I’ll get it.
If you get a tattoo for me, I will have reached the pinnacle of all things achievable in this life, and I will retire and become an alpaca farmer or a trophy wife. So. Wield your power carefully. BUT… I’d recommend an Edward Gorey-style line-drawing of roast beast, perhaps on the ribs. (Subtext: we’re all just meat on legs? We’re somebody’s next meal? Therefore carpe diem? Do with that what you will.)
8) If you could design a meal/food course to be eaten with Phoebe in Winter, what would it be and why? You can’t say “Roast Beast”.
Appetizer: pea soup. Main course: something damp, half-dead, and troubling. Dessert: dog biscuits, served on bone china, with a drizzle of blackberry juice.
9) Have you ever written a children’s play/children’s book? I think you should write a children’s book.
I recently reimagined Ubu Roi as a dark children’s play with songs, in a joint commission for InterAct Theatre and PAPAYA (PA Performing Arts for Young Audiences). By “dark” I mean that as currently imagined in the text, there’s a full-scale war with glitter and paint-ball guns, and Ma Ubu’s imaginary friend is Hillary Clinton, who appears as a giant puppet. (Ubu’s imaginary friend is the Emperor Nero, who also makes an appearance.) It’s my dream to see six or eight year olds playing Ubu and Ma Ubu, but I think probably that’s illegal. So yeah – I would love to write a children’s book and I have a bunch of ideas, but I’m realizing that given what I just said above, now nobody will ever hire me. Thanks, Dufault Dream-Killer.
10) You are a well-traveled woman. Where would you most like to have a play of yours performed?
I’ll go anywhere you buy me a plane ticket, so…