Meet the Playwrights - Festival of New Plays

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Jason Grasl 
Lying with Badgers by Jason Grasl (Blackfeet)
A Blackfeet man faces his troubled relationship with his late father and his culture when he returns to his estranged family's remote mountain home.
Jason Grasl

What is your favorite thing about playwriting? 
The idea of ultimate creative freedom in any direction

What is your least favorite thing about playwriting?
The realization of the idea of ultimate creative freedom in any direction

What are your favorite plays?
The Pillowman by Martin McDonagh
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead by Tom Stoppard
A Few Good Men by Aaron Sorkin

What’s the best cure for writer’s block?
thrillist.com, listicles...wait are we talking about distractions or cures?

What play do you wish you had written and why?
Any play Shakespeare wrote.

What are you most looking forward to during the workshop and festival?
I wanna find out what I don't know about my characters yet. I'm also excited to see the progress of the other two plays from day 1 to the public reading.

Delanna Studi
And So We Walked by DeLanna Studi (Cherokee)
Accompanied by her father, a Cherokee artist-activist retraces her ancestors' footsteps along the Trail of Tears.
Delanna Studi

What is your favorite thing about playwriting?
It's my escape. I love creating a new world, telling stories, reimagining life. It's all about the journey that I am on and the one I hope the audience will take with me.

What is your least favorite thing about playwriting? 
The vulnerability of it all. It's scary showing up. It's downright terrifying to create something and then present it to the world, because what is created is an extension of all that is me: my dreams, my insecurities, my success, my shame. It's all there.

What is your favorite play?
Dear Lord, there are so many! I love "American Night" by the Culture Clash and "Party People" by Universes.  Robert Schenkkan's "All The Way". Mary Zimmerman's "White Snake".  I'm a little biased, but I love "August: Osage County".

What’s the best cure for writer’s block?
Writing. Just keep showing up. Sometime the Muse will meet me, but if not, he knows he can find me everyday from 9:00 to 1:00. 

What would the title be of the play/movie based on your life?
Haha. This is a trick question! "And So Walked". Or perhaps "Perfectionism: My Time in the Hamster Wheel"

What play do you wish you had written and why? 
Anything by Shakespeare or Chekov! Their mastery of language and craft boggles my mind. And yet, every time I see one of their plays, I am astounded by what I failed to notice before, or how it resonates differently with me as I have gotten older. 

Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
Life. My parents, my relatives, and the unique people I encounter in my travels that give me a glimpse into a new perspective.

What are you most looking forward to during the workshop and festival?
Surviving! I'm teasing (but only a little). I love seeing new works develop, their journey from beginning to end and all the possibilities in between! I love the collaboration, all the work that goes on behind the scenes to bring a version of a finished project to life.

Mary Kathryn Nagle
Fairly Traceable by Mary Kathryn Nagle (Cherokee)
In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, a young Ponca man pursues environmental law to expose the disastrous effects of man-made climate change.
Mary Kathryn Nagle

What is your favorite thing about playwriting?
The moment when the play grows from being something that exists exclusively in my mind or imagination and becomes a shared story. Nothing is more magical than the first moment you hear actors read the script aloud.

What is your least favorite thing about playwriting?
The isolation.  I am a rather social person, and it is hard for me to carve out sufficient time to be alone.

What is your favorite play?
Wings of Night Sky, Wings of Morning Light by Joy Harjo

What’s the best cure for writer’s block?
becoming a lawyer. I think because I'm a trained lawyer, I don't how to "not write." I certainly write a lot of things that are awful, stinky, and useless. So I am the Queen of Rewrites. But as a trained lawyer with continuous impending deadlines, stopping writing because it's "hard" to know what to write next is never an option. You just keep writing. Because you have to. So I don't really experience writers block. But like I said, I have experienced writing a lot that needs substantial revisions!

What would the title be of the play/movie based on your life? 
MKN: the Pontius Piranha

What play do you wish you had written and why?
An Octoroon because if I had written that play, I would have given Native People an authentic voice in the play and removed one more play from the American cannon where Native People are portrayed as nothing more than a prejudicial stereotype created in the 19th Century to support genocide.  

Where do you get your inspiration for your work?
My grandmother, Frances Polson, and my grandfathers, John Ridge and Major Ridge. My grandfathers sacrificed their lives to save the sovereignty of Cherokee Nation, and their sacrifice inspires me to share the stories that for hundreds of years in the United States, have been silenced.

What are you most looking forward to during the workshop and festival?
Watching the development of DeLanna and Jason's plays. I feel starved for Native theater in the United States. Native Voices is one of the only theaters in the United States committed to producing and developing Native plays. So it's not very often that I get to see the work of other Native playwrights come to life.


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