Q: How long have you been writing and what motivated you to start?
A: I probably started writing plays in elementary school. I also wrote poetry and short stories, but I felt drawn to playwriting with much greater enthusiasm and fascination. Part of it may have been inherited; my brother is a playwright, my sister an actress, and many of my relatives on my father's side were in the theatre, including vaudeville. As a kid, I loved the theatre: the excitement, the suspense, the spontaneity, the danger of live performance. To this day, I love the way theatres smell! No television, video store, or movie complex will ever activate my senses like a theatre can.
Q: The Illustrated Woman, which played at the Court Theatre in Los Angeles, takes place in the 1930s. Only one of your dozen full-length plays is set in the present. Why this preoccupation with the past?
A: I love history, especially recent (the last century) American history. I've written plays set in the 1940s (post World War II), and several in the late 1800s, the Victorians being another passionate interest of mine. However, my favorite period in which to set my plays is the 1930s. Like all playwrights, I'm a storyteller. I'm always on the lookout for a good story that lends itself to dramatization. My parents grew up during the depression and told me a number of intriguing tales that probably initially sparked my interest. Since then I've read a great deal and interviewed dozens of people who, like my mother and father, all had their stories of life during that incredible time.
Via my research and theatrical journeys through the 1930s, I've discovered that many of the social issues that plague and preoccupy our society (and our playwrights) today are the very same issues that Americans struggled with over 60 years ago: poverty, domestic violence, sexual abuse, mental illness, prejudice against those who are different. I enjoy blending history with story, social concerns, and ultimately the remarkable devices people conceive of and implement in order to survive.
Q: Your plays sound serious! Do they have happy endings?
A: Most of my plays are serious in nature, but I've been told that they are also very funny. One L.A. critic described The Illustrated Woman which deals with sexual abuse and multiple personality disorder as a dramedy! Philip Brandes, the LA Times critic, commented that "laughs and comedy stay nicely balanced" in the show. I was glad to read that. I try hard in my plays and in my own life to see the humor in everything, regardless of how dire or tragic a situation may be. In addition, we all know that theatre must entertain the audience. And as for happy endings, perhaps not in the Hollywood sense, but my characters do grow and learn and change in a positive direction.
Q: A number of people who've written about you have commented on the supernatural quality of your work. What's that about?
A: The unusual and supernatural certainly seem to find their way into my work: goddesses covered with tattoos, archangels, hermaphrodites, dismembered heads, Greek mythology, Nordic gods, ghosts, witchcraft. I guess I'm as interested in the metaphysical side of life as I am in the physical. Many of the characters in my plays either get into trouble because of some spiritual/extraordinary cause or solve their problems via them. Existence to me has an intense spiritual component, something we can't see, can't understand, and are often afraid of, but it's there. It's as much a part of the world as anything tangible.