Monday, February 22, 2016

Plays of My Life: Eliza Clark

Playwright Eliza Clark

Since Eliza Clark's play Future Thinking will be making its world premiere at South Coast Repertory in just a few weeks, she shared with us some of her inspirations and a few of her top literary picks.

My favorite childhood book.
The Hobbit.

The first theatrical production I saw.
The Secret Garden.

The story I read in secret. 
One time I found a journal my father kept when I was a kid. I read a few pages—which were mostly lists of things he was worried about at the time. I felt terrible for reading it, but it was fascinating. It was one of the first moments of my life where I had seen my parents as people. My dad had honest anxieties, and somehow I never caught on. My childhood felt magical in spite of the things he was worried about. I think about this a lot now that I have a child of my own.

What made me know I wanted to be a playwright.
I grew up in the theatre as a child actor. I loved being a part of the family created through working on a show. I loved audiences and live mistakes. I loved the energy and pace of performances. But, I think the first time I sat in the back of a theater in college and heard people laugh at words I had written, I was hooked. At that point, there was no going back. Getting to sit invisibly amongst the audience at your own show is one of the truest pleasures I've experienced. It's the moment when the play jumps out of your head and becomes something entirely different that no longer belongs to you but belongs to whatever room it's in. Every night it's different depending on the people in that room. There is nothing else like it.

My literary hero(es).
Julie Orringer. Liz Meriwether. George Saunders. Toni Morrison. Jonathan Franzen. Martin McDonagh. Aaron Sorkin.

Something I wish I’d written.
The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh. It's the best. It's so dark, so funny, so sad, so beautiful. It has everything I want from a night in the theater—dark twisted laughter followed by regret and sadness followed by more laughter.

The play that changed my life.
At age six, Les Miserables. In my early twenties, The Pillowman. More recently, Hamilton.

The first time I saw one of my plays produced.
In high school, I wrote and directed a terrible play called Talk of Pleasant Things. I had been reading a lot of Eugene O'Neill and decided to rip him off badly. It was about alcoholism and dysfunctional families and AIDS and homelessness and a whole host of other issues I knew very little about. But the experience of hearing my (melodramatic) words in a theatre in front of an audience was electrifying.

The last play that made me laugh out loud.
Hand to God by Rob Askins

The play I would take with me to a desert island.
August, Osage County. Because it's so good. And it's long, so it could sustain me for awhile.

My perfect day.
My son sleeps until 7:30, then wants to snuggle for an absurdly long time. He's well rested and happy. He tells me a bunch of funny things, insists I tickle his back, screams "All Aboard!" over and over. My husband and I take him to the beach and we swim and we don't feel like we have anything weighing on us. I hold my son in the water and he kicks his legs against me like I'm a horse, urging me to go deeper in, because he loves the water. We sit on the beach and eat cheese and bread and laugh and I feel present and never look at my phone. In the afternoon we take a long family nap. I write something because I want to and then we watch something excellent on television and I fall asleep early, reliving what we did that day instead of focusing on something I have to do tomorrow.

I realize that as a parent of an 18-month-old, "my perfect day" has a lot of sleeping in it. And that is by design.

Find out more about her play Future Thinking.

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