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 4 of our interviews with the six local playwrights who are members of Arena Stage’s The Playwrights’ Arena, meet Danielle Mohlman.
Joel: What or who first inspired you to become a playwright? And why?
Danielle: I actually wrote my first play (Jim and Paul Meet in Dreams) because my senior project as an undergrad was to direct a new play. And then my playwright dropped out. And I was really worried about everything falling apart, about not graduating the next semester. So I let myself have a day and a half to freak out because I was 20 and I was just faced with this “Oh my God. What if I don’t graduate?” moment. Even then, I knew that you couldn’t have a play without a playwright. And then I went to my lighting designer’s apartment with a box of Oreos and a notebook, and we outlined Jim and Paul. Which is funny, because at our Playwrights’ Arena meetings there are almost always Oreos. The way to my creative heart is double-stuffed Oreos.
Now, tell me about your play being featured in Arena Stage’s Playwrights’ Arena Showcase.
Nexus is about M and W — two iPhone armed twenty-somethings trying to decipher their relationship as they navigate what it means to be “complicated.” It’s a chamber drama that follows these two D.C. transplants from first meet to final goodbye as they drift between intimacy and disconnect.
What do you hope audiences will walk away thinking about after experiencing your work?
I hope they walk away thinking about relationships. And by that I mean human-to-human relationships, not romantic ones. But then again, I’d be interested to know what the audience thinks about M and W’s romantic prospects.
How has being a part of Playwrights’ Arena helped you as a playwright?
Each of these playwrights has taught me something. Heather guided me toward “locating the ache.” Norman illuminated that intimacy can be expressed in surprising ways. Shawn asked me to not doubt what I put on the page. Jackie showed me the importance of discipline in the writing process. Randy was always reminding us how fortunate the six of us were to be let in on each others’ plays. And everyone in that room taught me to exercise criticism through interrogation, which is probably the most important takeaway from Playwrights’ Arena. Everyone working in new plays should experiment with phrasing their criticism as questions. Imagine the thoughtful and probing conversations that would come out of that kind of dialogue.
What did you learn about your writing process?
I learned to face my writing fears head-on. I’m not any less afraid of them, but I’m sure not going to let that stop me. Playwrights’ Arena created this fantastic support system where I feel safe even when I feel like I’m failing miserably. My next step is to exercise this brave attitude outside of the Playwrights’ Arena bubble.
What else are you working on now?
Aside from continuing to develop Nexus, I’m working on the five millionth draft of Dust, my adaptation of J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan. It’s the most difficult play I’ve written so far — I have so much more respect for adaptors now. I’m also writing a play for Pinky Swear Productions as part of their Tiny House Project. That’ll go up in the Fall of 2014. I also have a couple of other projects coming up, but nothing that I can announce just yet.
DANIELLE MOHLMAN holds an MA in Theatre Studies from Emerson College. Recent credits include an open movement workshop of Dust (Artists’ Bloc) and Followed by a Sometime Cowboy at Forum Theatre’s Re(Acts). Other credits include Stopgap at the Capital Fringe Festival (Field Trip Theatre); Dust (The Inkwell), Our Father (Field Trip Theatre), Jim and Paul Meet in Dreams (Field Trip Theatre), and The Crow (Artists’ Bloc) at the Kennedy Center’s Page-to-Stage Festival; The Bed at DC SWAN Day (Georgetown Theatre Company); Apocalypse at the Atlas Intersections Festival; and John. John. John. at Station Nation — a festival honoring the victims of the Station nightclub fire in West Warwick, Rhode Island. In 2012, the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities awarded Danielle a Larry Neal Writers’ Award for Dramatic Writing. Upcoming productions include The Tiny House Project with Pinky Swear Productions (Fall 2014). She is also the Artistic Director of Field Trip Theatre.
Danielle Mohlman’s website.
Meet the Playwrights of Arena Stage’s ‘Playwrights’ Arena’: Part 1: Jacqueline E. Lawton.
Meet the Playwrights of Arena Stage’s ‘Playwrights’ Arena’: Part 2: Shawn Northrip.
Meet the Playwrights of Arena Stage’s ‘Playwrights’ Arena’: Part 3: Norman Allen.
Meet the Playwrights of Arena Stage’s ‘Playwrights’ Arena’: Part 4: Danielle Mohlman.
‘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.