5 Questions with Tira Palmquist

The 3rd reading in our FORUM “Soundings” series is AND THEN THEY FELL by Tira Palmquist. This reading will be begin at 7:00pm and will be held at Fairleigh Dickinson University, Dreyfuss Theatre, 285 Madison Avenue, Madison, NJ. Click here for directions. Click here for a printable map of the campus (the Dreyfuss Theatre is located in Building 9).

Growing up without one parent is hard enough, but having to live without either can really take it’s toll. All Jordan has is her mother’s “sort of” boyfriend to “take care of her”, while her friend Cal doesn’t have anyone at all. On their journey we see that it’s amazing the places you can go when you can’t just go home.

TIRA PALMQUIST’s plays include TWO DEGREES, TEN MILE LAKE, AGE OF BEES, AND THEN THEY FELL, and many others. AND THEN THEY FELL will be workshopped and performed at the UMass New Play Lab in April 2014 (the play was also a finalist for the Aurora Theater Company’s Global Age Project, a semi-finalist for the Bay Area Playwrights’ Festival, and has had readings at The Road Theatre in Los Angeles). TEN MILE LAKE, which will premiere this summer at Serenbe Playhouse just outside of Atlanta, GA, was developed and workshopped in 2012 at the Seven Devils Playwrights Tira PalmquistConference. In 2013, she returned to the Seven Devils Conference to work as a dramaturg with Jeni Mahoney. In November of 2012, AGE OF BEES premiered at MadLab Theater, and was named Best Original Work by the Other Papers “Best of 2012” list. The play is slated for production in 2015 at Tesseract Theater. Also in 2012, Inkwell Theater presented as excerpt of her play FORTUNE AND PAIN (AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD) at the Kennedy Center Page to Stage Festival.  Her plays have been developed by 9Thirty Theater, Theater of Note, EST-LA, Seven Devils and Inkwell Theater. Her short plays have been produced all over the country (and internationally, as well). Tira teaches writing at UC Irvine and at the Orange County School of the Arts. She is a member of the EST-LA’s Playwrights Unit and is a Co-Executive Producer of Fell Swoop Playwrights.

1.  Where did you get the idea for this play?
This play began a few years ago when I started to notice articles about massive bird deaths – in Beebe, AK and elsewhere. I had no idea what on earth I was going to do with these articles at first, but I had this idea that this stuff was going to make it into my next play. I didn’t know why, and I didn’t know how, but… It was gonna be a play. Somehow. For the next 6 months, I found myself obsessively collecting and cataloguing these articles. I had started a play that I had tentatively titled “Twenty Little Vignettes” about teenagers in Phoenix, AZ. I realized one day, “Oh! I’m not obsessed with bird deaths. My character is obsessed with bird deaths.” And, thus, the first draft of And Then They Fell started.

2. Your short plays have been produced all over the country and internationally, too. Where is the furthest place your words have been heard?
Sydney, Australia. My short play LAST RITES was part of the Short + Sweet Festival there. The director of the play liked it so much, that he applied to take it to the Sydney Fringe Festival.

3. You had a play developed and workshopped at Seven Devils Playwrights Conference and you also took on the role of dramaturg there. What do you find to be the benefits of participating in a playwriting conference?
One obvious benefit is the time to write and revise. Of course, if a writer is disciplined, that writing and revising can happen anywhere, but a conference necessarily removes all other responsibilities or distractions so that, honestly, there isn’t anything to get in the way or divert your energies.

What makes a conference particularly useful (especially at Seven Devils) is that playwrights are paired with really good directors and dramaturgs whose job is to ask all the important (but hard) questions about the play. I know that when I was at Seven Devils, I was really lucky to have people asking me a lot of inconvenient questions that became absolutely essential questions. That’s really, what’s the difference between working alone and working at a conference.

4. You teach writing at UC Irvine and at the Orange County School of the Arts. What do you hope your students will take away from your classes?

I want all of my students to become more independent, thoughtful and purposeful writers. Whether I’m teaching rhetorical analysis or playwriting, I want my students to make productive discoveries about who they are as writers. I think most of us, at some point in our development, thought that there were some esoteric rules to writing, and if we could just find those rules and implement them, then we too could write successfully. While there are principles of good writing, good writing really comes from good thinking, good reading and good practice.

My high school writers may never write another play after they leave my class, but I’d hope that they’d be a little more open to what they read and how they read it – and that, maybe, that they’ll find a way to incorporate art into their lives.

5. So you open your mailbox and your long lost great Uncle Harry has mailed you a big check. But the catch is that you have to spend all the money on one item. Do you a) buy a vacation home in the Maldives, b) get your own Dairy Queen franchise or c) plant the world’s largest apple orchard?  (and tell us why you selected that answer)

Oh, the apple orchard, without question. I love apples. A lot. I even wrote a play set in an orchard (true!). Besides, the bees could use the help.

 

♦ Playwrights Theatre will present these readings free of charge, with an optional donation of $10
♦ A $25 dollar donation will get you a FORUM pass that covers all of the readings.
♦ A $250 donation will get you a rehearsal pass that allows access to all reading rehearsals.
♦ Reservations can be made online at or call (973) 514-1787 X10