Can you tell us about your beginnings as a playwright?
When I was very small, I would scribble -- and by scribble, I genuinely mean haphazard lines -- on a piece of paper. I would then bring these masterpieces (I was convinced) to my dad, who would obligingly read the stories I had “written”.
It wasn’t until later that I discovered that writing is, you know, not quite that easy.
From scribbles, I began to write in earnest. I was a very shy kid, and writing was the best way I had to express myself -- a familiar story, I know. I mostly wrote fanfiction about Harry Potter, Sailor Moon, Cats the musical, RENT … and those accounts still exist. You’ll never find them.
Unless you buy me a drink.
The first proper play I wrote was a joint effort between myself and my best friend. It was about the Columbine massacre. We performed it ourselves, just the two of us, for an audience of our peers and parents. That changed me. It was, I think, my first “aha!” moment. What I had to say meant something. Means something. I feel desperately, completely, head over heels in love with the energetic connection between words we’d struggled over and the audience. It was the first time in my life that I felt like what I had to say mattered.
And so I never looked back.
What’s something unique or fun about your process that you would be willing to share with us?
I begin all my scripts longhand in journals that I carry with me at all times. It creates a barrier between my insecurity and immediate self-editing. I feel more connected to wherever my creative impulse comes from when I write this way -- and I can write anywhere! I have written in more dimly-lit bars waiting for friends than I am particularly proud of (dear goodness, I’m a nerd).
Also, I think 90% of the scripts I’ve written include a mention of a cat. I haven’t put one onstage, though … not yet. There’s still time. I’ll have to work on training my cats.
What is your experience with play writing workshops like METLab either with this piece or another?
Part of what draws me to and keeps me in theatre is collaboration. Writing is lovely, but can be very, very lonely. But when the words of a script begin to fill the air in the voices of actors, when it touches the brilliant minds of directors and a creative team and ideas ricochet around the room? That’s magic. I love my artists-in-crime.
I have had the very good luck to participate in several workshops and developmental processes and I long for more. I’ve learned invaluable things about myself, my work, and especially about the stories that people want and need to hear. Funeral of Casey B. Collins had a reading last Autumn at the Kennedy Center’s Page2Stage festival. It was incredible to hear and watch people respond viscerally to the magnetic and deeply talented actors, who’d been directed by a gifted friend. And they were my words! And I am so, so excited to engage more deeply with this script -- which I’ll talk about more below!
How lucky can a person get?
How did this specific play come about?
I am a mental health activist. I live with Major Depression, Anxiety (especially of the social variety) and Adult ADHD. I have held sobbing, lonely friends in my arms when they are so sad in that infinitely deep way that death feels like the only possible relief. I’ve been held that way.
Mental illness is something that, if I am going to live -- and struggle with -- I have given myself this reason: to remind people that they are not -- will never be -- as alone as they are made to feel by these diseases. These invisible monsters that lie to us. I want to connect. I want to help in whatever way I can. I want to put stories of people with mental illness onstage and I want spark a conversation about it. Why are we so afraid of it, how can we erase the vicious stigma? I am particularly interested in how the stories of mental illness intersect with queer humans.
I am also interested in the way we grieve and the way we cope and the way we find hope in a hopeless situation. I hope that this play is hopeful. I am.
What are you hoping to gain from this process and working with METLab’s Plays in Progress Festival?
I want to lean into the challenges these characters face in saying what they need to say to each other. There is an ease of communication between them currently that feels unrealistic and not well suited to the truth of the subject matter that they discuss. I want to push through the stigma that each woman deals with and, indeed, feels towards herself or others, and rip it apart. I want them to get to the grit.
I want it to feel fraught and their stories to feel significant to each other and to the audience. This is a desperately important topic to me -- and I think to the world we live in now. Even in theatre, which tends towards the liberal, often makes cheap use of mental illness, using it as a joke or an excuse to make a character more “interesting”. I want to explore the flip of that. These are very real people dealing with very real problems that they don’t know how to deal with. The conflict therein is one most of us face every day -- dealing with things we don’t know how to deal with until suddenly we break through and continue onward.
We live through each day until we don’t.