The Playwrights’ Arena a new play initiative developed by the American Voices New Play Institute. Centering on a small collaborative group of local playwrights dedicated to the support and development of each other’s work, the Playwrights’ Arena, facilitated by Director of Artistic Programming David Snider at Arena Stage, will meet throughout the year to investigate each other’s work and develop dramaturgical practice as playwrights while creating new work.
In Part 2 of our interviews with the six local playwrights who are members of Arena Stage’s The Playwrights’ Arena, meet Shawn Northrip.
Joel: What or who first inspired you to become a playwright?
Shawn: When I first started in theater all I wanted to do was operate a lightboard. My school had a giant three-scene preset board and I was drawn to it. However, like all good stage hands, I had to start at the bottom: mopping the floor. In order to learn as much as I could, I volunteered with as many groups as possible, one of which was Arlington Dance Theater, a company which I believe may no longer be in existence. I remember they were doing A Chorus Line and it was like everything changed for me. I suddenly wanted to write musicals. Unfortunately, I knew absolutely nothing about musicals. To this day I can remember watching those dancers and thinking “I want to do that”… but I didn’t mean dance or sing. I wanted to create the world they were living in. I wanted to give someone else a reason to dance and sing.
Now, tell me about your play being featured in Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena Showcase?
I am working on a piece called The Aristocrats! the musical. It is the sweetest story inspired by the most offensive joke ever told.
What do you hope audiences will walk away thinking about after experiencing your work?
I want them to walk away feeling entertained. I want them to have had a few great belly laughs and say, “I’m less stressed than I was when I walked in.” I can’t say I have a deep profound moral. I just want to make people smile.
How has being a part of Playwrights’ Arena helped you as a playwright?
It felt like the most “legitimate” thing I’ve ever done in my career. At a time when I was thinking I would put my artistic endeavors on hold for the next 20 years and focus all of my energies on becoming a family man, it reignited my passion for writing.
What did you learn about your writing process?
I learned that a leopard can’t change its spots. When I started this process I really wanted to write something that felt more like Anything Goes. I missed that mark, but wrote something I like better.
What else are you working on now?
Being a father. And the sequel to On the Rag to Riches (a Fringe show I wrote with Katie Molinaro a few years back). Apparently, in this one, our heroine throws herself a funeral. So far all we have is something Katie scrawled on a napkin, posted on Facebook and then a rambling Skype in which we were both fairly sleep deprived.
SHAWN NORTHRIP is a playwright and composer with an MFA in Musical Theatre Writing from New York University and BA from Catholic University. His punk musical adaptation of Titus Andronicus appeared at Source Theatre Company and off-off Broadway at Chashama and the Tank, and is anthologized by New York Theatre Experience. Lunch, a musical about love in the eighth grade, was developed with support from the Kennedy Center’s Kenan Foundation, earned the Anna Sosenko Assist Trust Grant, premiered at the New York Musical Festival, and is published by Playscripts. Cautionary Tales for Adults and the Many Adventures of Trixie Tickles, his parody of children’s shows, earned the Audience Choice: Best Musical at the Second Capital Fringe Festival, appeared in Round House’s Silver Spring Series, and was Spank!ed by Upright Citizens Brigade. When not writing, Shawn teaches theater at George Mason High School in Falls Church.
Meet the Playwrights of Arena Stage’s ‘Playwrights’ Arena’: Part 1: Jacqueline E. Lawton.
‘The Playwright’s Playground Series’: Jacqueline E. Lawton Part 1 by Sydney-Chanele Dawkins on DCMetroTheaterArts.
‘The Playwright’s Playground Series’: Jacqueline E. Lawton Part 2 by Sydney-Chanele Dawkins on DCMetroTheaterArts.
‘The Playwright’s Playground Series’: Jacqueline E. Lawton Part 3 by Sydney-Chanele Dawkins on DCMetroTheaterArts.
Jacqueline E. Lawton’s website