Friday, March 11, 2016

The Literary Secrets of a Playwright

Playwright Julia Cho
A commission from South Coast Repertory led to a brand new play from Julia Cho—Office Hour (April 10-30, 2016, Julianne Argyros Stage). And while she’s focused on getting this SCR commission finalized, we asked her to share some of her literary secrets—from childhood to picking the plays and playwrights she admires.

My favorite childhood book.
It's hard to pick one, but I look back very fondly on the Lloyd Alexander series that starts with The Book of Three.

The story I read in secret.
It wasn’t exactly “secret,” but a lot of the Judy Blume books felt subversive, like Are You There God? It's Me, Margaret.

The first play I ever saw.
The first live theatrical play I ever saw was probably a community production of Really Rosie. I still remember liking Chicken Soup with Rice.

When I knew I wanted to be a playwright.
There wasn’t one singular moment, but it probably all started with seeing Six Degrees of Separation by John Guare at Lincoln Center when I was a teen. It blew the top of my head off and I walked out thunderstruck.

What cemented me as a writer.
Going to New York to begin my MFA in dramatic writing at New York University. It felt like the first real step towards a life of writing.

The first time I saw one of my plays produced.
I had a workshop production of a play at Cherry Lane Theatre in New York. But my first full-fledged production was The Architecture of Loss at New York Theatre Workshop.

The play that changed my life.
Six Degrees of Separation.

A classic play I’ve never seen.
Oh... there are so many—it's embarrassing. I've seen very few of the Greeks. And only a handful of Shakespeare.

The best literary adaptation.
For the way it plays with the very notion of an "adaptation," the Charlie Kaufman movie, Adaptation.

My literary heroes.
Anton Chekhov. Caryl Churchill. Thornton Wilder.

The last play that made me laugh.
Sarah Burgess's Dry Powder.

The last play that made me cry.
Sarah Ruhl's The Oldest Boy.

Something I wish I’d written.
Jean Anouilh's Antigone. I return to it again and again.

My perfect day.
I get to sleep in until 7 a.m. Everyone’s in a good mood. After a delicious breakfast (that magically appears before me), the children happily play together and I get to drink an entire mug of coffee while it’s still hot. I sit down to write and it's like I’m taking dictation from a benevolent God; the words just fly on to the page. I finally stop—feeling satisfied and happily worn out—and take the dog for a long walk. The weather is fine. In the evening, friends come over, dear friends who normally live in faraway cities but are, for some reason, in town. We feast together and tell stories. The kids put themselves to bed. And then I too go to bed, feeling nourished in every sense of the word. Writing it down like this, I read it over and it doesn’t seem so unattainable. And yet I confess that the only part I ever seem to manage is taking the dog for a long walk.

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