Signature Stories: Volume 14 - Page 8

Signature is very good about encouraging playwrights to open that old drawer where an abandoned or exiled play may be languishing. ghosts or dead children” (which always seem to end up in my plays). So that was different – I put some restrictions on myself, which is always exciting because new things can happen if you don’t allow yourself to do the same old thing you know how to do. This is also the first time I’ve written a main role for an upperclass woman. And so when Signature offered me the residency, I thought, “This is a miracle, I’m going to get to do this show with Bill!” S: What is it that makes him such an astute director of new work? NW: One of my most personal – and for me, important – stories about writing plays happened with Bill when I turned in the first draft of The Liquid Plain. The play was originally written in three acts. When we all came together at Oregon (and this was one of the first times I had a conversation with Bill) he told me he loved the play. He was very passionate about it. And then he was quiet a moment and he said, “I have to be straight with you: I hate the third act.” I just burst out laughing! The moment he said that, I just knew he was right – the third act wasn’t necessary at all. Bill’s boldness and honesty so impressed me, and he was right. S: What made you want to go in a different direction? NW: We’re often encouraged as writers to find stories within ourselves, and that’s not something I’ve ever been interested in – I seek stories outside of myself, and often in histories that have not been brought to light, but this was a story that was actually told to me. I found it quite shocking and I thought, “I must write a play about this story someday.” A few years passed and then I was commissioned by [French producer] Anne Terrail. I think she was a little surprised about the dark content but I assured her it would be very funny, so she agreed for me to write it. Anne was still a little uncertain when she read an early draft but when she first heard it read by actors, in English, in Paris, she saw the humor and compassion in S: What has being a Residency One playwright meant to you? NW: My residency at Signature has given me the greatest joy I’ve experienced in the theatre world because it is a place that has repeatedly demonstrated its commitment to me as a playwright. I was surprised by, and welcomed, the thorough (and incredibly helpful) involvement of both Jim and Beth throughout the rehearsal process. Whenever I have wanted to speak with them, they’ve made themselves available. I’ve never worked so intensely over a period of time with the same theatre, and that too is kind of miraculous. That for each production you enter the building and see – in terms of the theatre’s administration, the production staff, everyone that works at Signature – those same radiant faces who have been so encouraging and so hospitable. the play and she was, I believe, convinced. S: What are you working on next? S: Why did you want Bill Rauch to direct? (top): Rachel Nicks and Samantha Soule in And I and Silence at Signature Theatre, 2014. (above): Naomi Wallace and Trae Harris at the first rehearsal of And I and Silence. Kennedy. And I felt very welcomed. I think it’s important that playwrights who are not part of “mainstream” American theatre realize that Signature does not just produce Pulitzer Prize-winning playwrights, but also playwrights like myself, who have been writing for twenty years or more but have never had what one would call a big “hit” in the theatre. What I have had is a handful of American theatres who have produced my work, and nurtured and supported my work, and I think I can say that the most consequential home for my plays has been Signature Theatre. S: How is Night is a Room different from your previous plays? NW: Most of my work is not what you would call straight realism or naturalism. When I began writing this play I told myself: “No 7 NW: I first met Bill when I went out to Oregon. His theatre, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, commissioned and produced the World Premiere of The Liquid Plain as part of its American Revolutions cycle. While I was there I saw two productions he directed and they were so very brilliant that I thought, “ H]\