"How did you end up here?"*
An unadapted bio
The image above is a still from March 2019 while being interviewed on Pressenza's Face-to-Face by David Andersson, discussing the link between gender, politics, philosophy and theater, especially as it related to my most recent play On the edge of/a cure, which was produced in May as a staged reading by Rogue Players in NYC.
My first stage texts emerged from directing experimental theater, when I founded a theater lab in the late 1997 and realized we needed some kind of text with which to work.The actors and I began by cutting up found material and memories of class, gender, and religion in America. From these experiments emerged a poetic text Cut Up and first stage text Word To Your Mama, along with tools for creating levels of address in performance that the lab taught at FringeU NYC in 1999, which led to my being invited to teach these tools to dancers and live artists at Chisenhale Dance Space in London in 2000. Theater company Screaming Venus asked me to direct Word for their Kallisti Festival, leading to the production being presented at FringeNYC 2000, winning an OOBR award and being chosen for NYTE's Plays and Playwrights 2001 anthology. The Chisenhale workshop led to collaborations with a number of the UK-based performance makers and academics who had participated, which led eventually to my moving to the UK in 2003, receiving a fellowship to pursue a practice-as-research PhD from University of Northampton arguing that theater can be act of philosophy in words and through the work of Apocryphal Theatre, which I founded first as a performance lab but grew into a theatre company. The Apocryphal site gives a good overview of this work, and includes links to articles written by critics about our explorations of the mechanisms of the reality studio, especially in relation to the construction of religion, war, class, gender, and Western Civilization, in such journals as PAJ and Performance Research.
After eight years, I disbanded Apocryphal and moved back to New York in order to focus on writing a book about my grandmothers, The Amazing True Imaginary Autobiography of Dick and Jani. I felt impelled to shift gears so radically and focus on this writing after my father died in 2010, and I found pictures of my most difficult grandmother, Dick, as a young woman and girl. I had always wanted to write about my glamorous, rabble-rousing grandmother, Jani, but Dick’s story—until I saw those photos showing her as a happy young person and not the bitter woman I knew—remained opaque. I have written more about what motivated this book in Women's Writers, Women's Books in relation to micro-history (a concept to which I was introduced by Jill Lepore) . The Other Stories released a podcast in which I read excerpts from the book, including an interview with author and critic Ilana Masad.
In May, my short story White shoe lady (which I wrote in 2018 while leading a writing retreat in Westray) won the Nomadic Press Bindle Prize and was published as a chapbook in December. In 2018, my play Shit was chosen for the Cimientos 2018 play development program at IATI Theater (NYC) and was presented as a staged reading. My writing has been published and produced internationally, in printed anthologies and online, listed in Publications. Awards include Jerome Fellowship funding a Mabou Mines residency, Peggy Ramsay playwriting fellowship, Indie Theater Hall of Fame, Jeanne B. Krochalis award to attend the Wesleyan Writers Conference, a Vermont Studio Center writing residency and Dick and Jani long-listed for the Mslexia Prize in the UK. I have been invited to numerous conferences to present my work, notably as a guest speaker at the 21st Century Literature conference at University of Lincoln, UK, where I presented alongside Will Self, Iain Sinclair and Carol Ann Duffy. While I now teach my own workshops and coach writers, I have taught at a many universities in New York and London, both as a professor and guest artist. I was awarded a practice-as-research PhD, Apocryphal Theatre: practicing philosophies at University of Northampton, UK (awarded a full fellowship—an unusual honor for an American), and received a BA with High Honors in Theater from Wesleyan University.
As of June 2019, after 19 years practicing, I am now a certified Kripalu yoga teacher. I decided to immerse myself in the training program for this certification in order to add gentle, compassionate, meditative yoga to the set of tools I can offer writers and artists that can help them open up to and trust themselves and their own deepest—but perhaps quieter—voices. As so often happens, on the way to certification to guide others, I was changed, too. That mysterious alchemy is what I am writing about now, alongside editing a novella about class.
*favorite question ever asked of me—by a 14 year old drama student.