WTNJ: You said that your play The Moor’s Son was written as a sequel to Titus; did you ever worry about the inevitable comparisons between TMS and Titus?
IA: I think any sequel is bound to share certain attributes with the original material–it’s those commonalities, those touchstones, that allow an audience to feel safe, to recognize the world of the play before it has even begun. But aside from the context–structurally, they are two very different plays. The Moor’s Son is written entirely in unbroken iambic pentameter–it was a challenge I gave myself when I decided to write the piece. And plot-wise, my play looks a lot more like a murder mystery than Shakespeare’s original. In The Moor’s Son, most of the deaths are very deliberate and planned; In Titus Andronicus, Shakespeare killed folks off willy nilly (pun intended).
WTNJ: What is it that keeps you coming back to playwriting?
IA: Love of acting, strangely enough. I acted for many years–I worked at NJ Rep, the Bickford, the Forum in Metuchen, in theaters all across the country–when I am writing, I get to act every part. There’s nothing quite like it. Each character follows a different set of instincts, and it forces me to build from those instincts, develop those instincts as though I’m onstage, wearing that costume. I have to listen to each voice, and explore what it has to say. Late at night, before I fall asleep, I hear the voices of my characters arguing or conversing or having some sort of moment. If I’m quick enough, I can jot down notes and integrate those conversations into the piece. Sometimes the voices end up saying something meaningful and resonant–and sometimes, as in the case of Interviewese, the voices descend into chaos.
WTNJ: Your play, The Goldilocks Zone, is named after an astronomical idea, that of the ideal orbital distance. Are you very interested in astronomy and the sciences?
IA: It’s strange to admit, because science was never a strong subject for me in school–but both The Goldilocks Zone and my one-person play, Donna Orbits the Moon, use astronomy as metaphor. I am intrigued by the mysteries of the natural world, and what could be more mysterious than Outer Space? There is something about the enormity of the cosmos that the characters in these plays connect to: They are also facing something enormous, so big it’s hard for them to wrap their heads around. For me, the comparison is almost inevitable.
WTNJ: You’ve had plays produced around the world – do you ever have any concerns about whether a play written about American life will be properly understood when it is produced abroad or vice versa? (Not actual translation issues but more societal norms that change place to place.)
IA: I had a short play done in Australia a few years back–it was about censorship and had some really filthy language. The director called me to tell me that one particular vulgar euphemism was not used in Australia, and I should probably replace it with something else. The problem was, the piece was in this Dr. Seussian rhyme scheme–so I would have to rewrite the entire stanza in order to switch out that word. Figuring out what the replacement should be so it could equally horrify an Australian audience was hilarious fun. (And is probably the e-mail chain I am least likely to show my mother.)
One never quite knows how a piece is going to resonate with an audience. My playMissing Celia Rose is about race relations in a fictional town in Georgia in the 1920’s, and though it’s had workshops and readings here in the states, the only production it’s ever received was in Bermuda. Something about my thoroughly American play spoke to the relationships between the native black Bermudians and the expat community on the island. The production was widely acclaimed, and well attended by both groups. Years later, when my husband and I traveled back to Bermuda on our honeymoon, our cab driver told us that it was the only play she had seen that wasn’t a church play–and she was stunned that I had written it. She asked for my autograph. LOL!
WTNJ: If you could have lunch with Shakespeare, what would you two talk about?
IA: Probably sandwiches. I love sandwiches. Are we having lunch at a deli? That would make a big difference. I would get the Reuben, and Willy (’cause we’d be cool like that) would get the French Dip, which is a weird choice, but he likes the juice. It reminds him of the Shepard’s Pie his mother used to make, which was always a little too wet. We also might discuss Harry Potter. I wonder what Shakespeare would make of Harry Potter? I bet he would take credit for Snape. Just sayin’.