We're going back-to-back! Our April Rough Readings Series continues with Bekah Brunstetter's House of Home! It will be read on April 23rd at Stanford and April 24th at Thick House in San Francisco.
People start writing at different stages of their lives. How did your career as a playwright begin?
I've written stories and poems since I was a kid, starting doing theater in high school to make some friends, was an actor (BADLY) then wrote my first play freshman year of college. I was instantly hooked - it was something that felt like it was mine, while simultaneously connecting me with other people. I continued to write plays all through college. I had no idea what I was doing, but was able to see these plays produced. Next up, grad school for play-writing, then life, and here we are!
House of Home is based on a true-story, is it more or less difficult to depict a true-story without over or under-exaggerating specific events? Or how do you go about not offending the people that were actually a part of the true-story?
I think it's important (unless you are creating a Laramie Project-esque piece) to fictionalize the event and characters that are serving as your source material. A.) Because usually, you don't know every in and out of the story, and you don't want to pretend to know - so it's important to make it yours. Creating a new narrative basedon the actual event allows you to actually be a dramatist with the story. Otherwise, when receiving notes, you end up with this defense mechanism of 'well, that's not what really happened' which oftentimes isn't helpful for the play's development. As for the Maxwell family - I can't pretend to fully understand them as human beings, or understand what happened to them. But I was so gripped by what happened to them - they felt so familiar to me, as humans, that I had to write a play about it. To do so, I had to invent, as opposed to fully recreate.
There is an abundance of topics to write about out there, and I would think that would make it difficult to hone in on one topic. If you could narrow your favorite writing topics down to three, what would they be and why?
I always come back to religion, love/relationships and the military families. Religion and faith because it is something that always has and always will intrigue and confuse me, in the best way. I was raised in a very Christian household, and even as I move far into adulthood, it's still something that I'm trying to figure out for myself. I'm constantly worried that I'm not making the right decision in my terms of my faith, and I always come back to writing about things that I'm afraid of. Love / relationships because of unrequited needs from middle school. Military families because of my brothers serving in the Marine Corps - and what I perceive to be a lack of plays dealing with those in the service, and their family members, that aren't about politics or post-traumatic.
Let's end with inspiration! What single piece of advice would you give an aspiring playwright?
It's important to write, and write a lot. It won't matter what awards or productions or fellowships you might get if you're not writing constantly. The more you write, the more you'll find and hone your voice. Not just write constantly, but submit constantly! The more you put your work out there, the more it works for itself. It's incredible what can happen because of a tiny ten minute in a tiny theater - if the writing is truthful, and you - people will respond to it, and it will beget more opportunities for you.
To obtain more information about Bekah's Rough Reading, please visit: http://playwrightsfoundation.org/index.php?p=53
Want to delve deeper into Bekah's mind? Visit her blog at: http://blog.bekahbrunstetter.com/