Our In The Rough Reading Series picks back up this week with Geetha Reddy's ME GIVEN YOU. Readings are Monday April 9th at Ceras Hall in Stanford, and Tuesday April 10th at Traveling Jewish Theater in San Francisco. Full details here.
This is the second in our series of e-interviews with the writers in the series.
Jonathan Spector: What was your initial impulse to write ME GIVEN YOU?
GEETHA REDDY: I wrote ME GIVEN YOU as a reaction against what I think of
as the 'Mistresses of Spices' era of Indian stereotypes. Since the
multi-culturalism of the '90s Indians have been portrayed as spiritually
enlightened, magical and nonthreatening. These concepts have been propagated
by both Indian and Western authors, yet when I bumped into them I never
identified them with my personal experience.
Hypocritically, I have always enjoyed the benefits of this kindly version of
my cultural stereotype, acting as the demure Indian girl when it is useful
and discarding it as necessary. So when PlayGround asked me to pitch them
ideas for my commission I wondered if it would be possible to write a play
that was a send-up of these new Indian stereotypes by portraying an Indian
women who is manipulative, willful, and even ruthless. All the while I
wanted to rely on the friendly stereotypes to keep my crazy Indian character
JS: You originally wrote this play as a commission for PlayGround. What was
that development experience like?
GR: ME GIVEN YOU is my first full length play, and without PlayGround it never
would have gotten written. PlayGround provided deadlines, a supportive
dramturg (the playwright Garret Groenveld), a table reading, and a staged
reading. More importantly Jim Kleinmann, the artistic director, encouraged
me to work on this play instead of other ideas I pitched. He assured me that
finding Indian actors and an audience was possible and that I had to stop
fretting and write the damn play.
The table reading followed by the staged reading was a good evolutionary
process for me as new playwright. After the table reading I was able to do
revisions focusing mostly on the themes and characters. It wasn't until the
staged reading that I was confronted with the staging difficulties in the
play. Having the issues unfold in this order made the whole process of
rewriting less overwhelming.
JS: Which older writers have most influenced your work, and who among your
contemporaries are you most excited about at the moment?
GR: What a question. It is funny, for me there are writers I love, like
Robertson Davies and Jane Austen, but I don't think I am influenced by them.
As a writer I suppose I have been most influenced by the humorists I read as
teenager: Woody Allen's writing, Jon Waters, Mad Magazine, and P.G.
As a native of Pittsburgh I was drawn to August Wilson's life and work. But
really, if I am being honest, I am a child of television. I grew up in Mr.
Roger's neighborhood (he really was my neighbor), but I hated the slowness
of the program- I was more of Electric Company kind of kid. Similarly as an
adult I like '30 Rock' more than 'Studio 60', although I admire Aaron
Sorkin's writing on 'Sports Night' and 'West Wing'.
I just read an amazing book called "The Brief History of the Dead" by Kevin
Brockmeier and I am looking forward to the new White Stripes album. It's a