The Playwright’s Playground is a monthly in-depth conversation with a local female playwright in the D.C. theatre community. Female theatre artists make up more than 50 percent of those involved in the theatre, yet the number of female playwrights being produced is dramatically lower. In this continuing Series, I will interview and introduce DCMTA readers to the many talented playwrights in the DMV area to learn about their writing process, their inspirations, and their motivations and struggles to write and produce their art.
In this special edition, I am overjoyed to feature the ten female playwrights of Source Festival 2014 . Led by the Artistic Direction of Jenny McConnell Frederick, Source Festival 2014 is a three-week performing arts project of CulturalDC that cultivates new work in a nurturing environment and spotlights the witty, incisive, and thought-provoking writing from today’s emerging American playwrights. Building the path for the next generation of outstanding performing artists, the Source Theatre Festival (June 7-29) presents three themed full-length plays (Mortality, Revenge, Quests), three experimental Artistic Blind Dates of created original work, and three thematically grouped programs with six 10-Minute related plays to enjoy.
Selected from more than 500 nationwide submissions, Alyssa Wilden’s play Freddy & Cathy is one of the six ten-minute plays featured under the Revenge theme in this year’s Source Festival 2014.
Alyssa Wilden likes to make people laugh. And sometimes, she says, she succeeds.
An American University graduate with a B.A. in Musical Theatre and Communications (2013), her Freddy & Cathy play was originally written for her senior capstone at AU. Alyssa has completed the improv training program at Washington Improv Theatre and the sketch writing program at Dojo Comedy where she performed and also served as a teaching assistant.
Alyssa Wilden is currently studying comedy with the Second City and Improv Olympic, and writes on her blog, awildenout.tumblr.com and twitter @awildenout. She recently moved to Chicago, IL where she continues to pursue a career in comedy.
Sydney-Chanele: Why do you write, and more specifically why do you write plays?
Alyssa: Yikes. I don’t know. I like to make people laugh. Writing is just one of my channels for that. I write plays because there is something awesome in being able to say none of this was created with camera angles or quick cut-tos. Anything human reaction you create is because of the words and the people saying them.
When did you consider yourself a professional playwright at this stage of your career?
It feels kinda crazy to call myself a professional playwright. But it also feels crazy to call myself a professional anything. I spend too much time keeping up with the Kardashians to really be a professional human.
How do you describe your writing process and routine?
My routine is 20% dirty chaos, 30% social media and 50% actual writing. I like to pretend that my tweets count as writing but mostly I go through spurts of writing and spurts of consuming other people’s writing.
Source Festival Play
What is your play about at this year’s Source Festival?
The Source Festival was kind enough to allow Freddy & Cathy to be apart of its Revenge 10- Minute Play series. Freddy & Cathy is about Cathy, a “perfect” 50’s wife and Freddy, the perfect 50s husband in a formulaic repressive world. It mostly speaks to the media’s and the world’s views on women, which are formulaic and repressive.
How did you come up with the idea with this script?
I wrote Freddy & Cathy for my senior capstone at American University. We all drew inspiration from Grimm fairytales. I happened upon a tale entitled Frederick and Catherine. It is a tale of a bumbling, stupid house wife and her husband. I was horrified but when I recounted it to my classmates, they found it hilarious. I decided I would use some of this tale, draw upon 1950’s newspaper comic strips, Betty Friedan’s The Feminine Mystique and try to keep whatever essence made my classmates laugh.
What do you like most about this script and has it ever been performed on stage before?
Freddy & Cathy was performed as part of American University’s 2013 senior capstone, And They All . . . Six Grim(m) Transformations directed by Cara Gabriel and starring Amy Wilson and Logan Sutherland. This script is kind of like a first child. I’ll always favor it because it was my first journey into playwriting. Or that’s what I assuming having a first child is like based on my own personal experience as a first child and not consulting my parents about it.
What has been your biggest challenge and biggest surprise with it?
In the early stages of Freddy & Cathy, many people thought it would be better suited as a short film or a sketch. It was difficult to establish through my writing I did not need every action to literally happen on stage.
I’m always surprised when people find my words funny. I assume my sense of humor is something that exclusively belongs to me and I’m always surprised and delighted when there are people I can share it with.
How many drafts went into what we will see on stage?
I wrote the first few drafts in a very short period, maybe about 2 months. After I saw it go up as a part of my capstone, I edited some very minor things before submitting it to Source. After a lovely chat with my dramaturg, I made some minor changes to the end of the show. In the end, I think I wrote about 7 drafts and am ready let to Freddy & Cathy rest on the page as is.
What do you like most about this script and has it ever been performed on stage before?
Freddy & Cathy was performed as part of American University’s 2013 senior capstone – And They All . . . Six Grim(m) Transformations – directed by Cara Gabriel and starring Amy Wilson and Logan Sutherland. This script is kind of like a first child. I’ll always favor it because it was my first journey into playwriting. Or that’s what I assuming having a first child is like based on my own personal experience as a first child and not consulting my parents about it.
What do you hope the participation in this Festival will do for the life of this play and your career?
I hope the Source Festival is one of many opportunities to see my writing come to life. As for my career, I’m looking for a direct line to the writing staff of Broad City so basically I’m milking Source for its direct personal connections to Comedy Central and Amy Poehler. I’m sure there are many.
A Deeper Look & Inspirations
What is your all-time favorite play? And, what play do you recommend to others or would like to see performed in the DC area?
Ah . . . my favorite play . . . I have no idea. I hate choosing favorites. My recommendation to others is support new playwrights and new works. Don’t choose a favorite. Have a bunch of favorites and tell everyone about them so they all get their deserved time in the sun.
What is your biggest struggle as a writer getting your work read and performed? How have you been able to get your work produced?
My biggest struggle is having the opportunity to have my writing performed in a real way. I’ve written so many sketches and most of them have been seen at readings. Readings and workshops are wonderful to create and edit but at a certain point, the best way to test your writing is to see it fully on its feet.
What are your thoughts about the disproportionate number of female playwrights consistently being programmed by theatre Companies?
I have so, so, so, many thoughts and I’ll save most of them for when I’ve had wine and get into a philosophical discussion about theatre with my college roommates. What I will say now is that women are at a disadvantage. Larger theatre companies want to put up established work. Women playwrights are not lacking in talent. They are lacking in the history men benefit from having. There is no female equivalent to putting up a Tennessee Williams play. Women have to fight against current and old playwrights to have their work seen.
What inspires you to continue, and is there anything else you’d like to share with DCMTA readers about yourself?
I just want to continue making people laugh and smile. I’m constantly inspired by others trying to do the same.
Basically, I just want the world to laugh at itself more. Life is ludicrous and ridiculous. What is the point in taking it so seriously all the time? I hope my writing at its base level makes you smile and not be so damned serious for a second.
Freddy & Cathy is performed as a part of the Source Festival – Revenge: Six 10-Min Plays, which are playing on June 28, 2014 at 4:00PM at THE SOURCE THEATRE FESTIVAL 2014 (June 7 – June 29, 2014) at Source – 1835 14th Street. NW, in Washington, D.C. For tickets, call OvationTix customer service toll-free: 866-811-4111, or purchase them online. Source is located 2 Blocks from U Street/Cardozo Metro Station on the Yellow & Green Lines.
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – An Interview with Playwright Susan Goodell on Her Play: ‘After Unlocking the Universe.’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Elizabeth Archer on Her Play: ‘Old Gray Devil.’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Molly Hagan on Her Play: ‘The Wild Ones’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Marine Gassier on Her Play: ‘The Reluctant Genie of Niamey.
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Erin Bregman on Her Play: ‘A Bid to Save the World’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Mariah MacCarthy on Her Play: ‘Painted.’
The Playwright’s Playground: SOURCE Festival 2014 – Interview with Playwright Sarah Bernstein on Her Play: ‘The Narrow Gate.’
The Playwright’s Playground: Source Festival 2014 — An Interview with Playwright A.K. Forbes on Her Play: ‘COLLATERAL DAMAGE AND OTHER COSMIC CONSEQUENCES.’