Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Interview with Deirdre O'Connor

New York City playwright Deirdre O'Connor is coming to the Bay Area this May to workshop her new play Assisted Living as part of our in the ROUGH series. PF Associate Artistic Director Jonathan Spector spoke with O'Connor about her career and Assisted Living.

Jonathan Spector: Your play Jailbait recently finished a run at the Cherry Lane in New York. The play was developed through the Cherry Lane Mentor Project and then went on to full production. What about that development model did you find useful as you were working on the play?

Deirdre O'Connor: The best part of the Mentor Project was getting to know my mentor, Michael Weller, who is an exceptionally talented writer, and a very generous person. Michael encouraged me to take great care with the revisions of Jailbait and to spend a lot of time listening to the play both in rehearsal with the actors and in the theatre with the audience. When we put up the workshop production of Jailbait last year, I was shocked by how much I learned about the play sitting in the back row of the theatre listening to the audience respond. I made the strongest revisions to the play after that workshop production, and as a result Jailbait was a much richer play going into the full production this year.

JS: You've been developing Assisted Living this year at the Lark's Playwrights Workshop, and it will have it's first public reading next on the in the ROUGH Series. What was your jumping off point for this play?

DO: Assisted Living is about Jimmy and Jane, a brother and sister whose relationship begins to unravel because of the difficulty of caring for their aging mother. I have always been fascinated by the relationship between adult siblings. I think that our roles within our families are defined at a pretty young age. We are told who is the smart one, the goody two shoes, the troublemaker, etc. And no matter how we may change as we grow older, we often see our siblings only in those childhood roles. With Assisted Living, I really wanted to explore two siblings who think they know each other, but are forced to look at each other anew.

JS: Whose work among your playwriting peers are you most excited about at the moment?

DO: After spending the past seven months in the Lark Playwrights Workshop and getting to know Lisa Kron, Sam Hunter and Thomas Bradshaw I would have to say that I’m currently most excited by their work. We all have very different approaches to playwriting, but I have found our differences to be both challenging and inspiring. It’s been amazing to encounter their unique voices and see their plays slowly come to life week by week.

JS: What's up next for you?

DO: Well, I still feel that I’m pretty early on in the process of developing Assisted Living. I’m really looking forward to hearing it in front of the audiences because I’m sure I’m going to discover a great deal about the play through that experience. And on top of that I’ve got my hands full writing about robots and aliens for the children’s television show, The Electric Company.

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