DirectorSpeak

Interviews with NYC's Indie Theatre Directors

Festival Shorts: Winter Miller

PCTFGalalogo

F E S T I V A L   S H O R T S

Winter Miller

Festival Shorts is about the people involved in the Planet Connections Theatre Festivity. The Festival first came to my attention last year, when I interviewed its Co-Producing Artistic Director, Glory Kadigan, for DirectorSpeak. I am also participating in the Festival this year, through my company, Articulate Theatre Company, as we debut with our production of DRAGON. Due to the confluence of my interests in interviews, theatre connecting with community, and PCTF, Glory has given me wonderful access to be able to talk with some of the people associated with the festival. We are starting off this series with interviews of some of the established talents who have donated their time and energy and work toward the PCTF Gala: One Acts for a Cause, which benefits Safe Horizon.
 
Winter Miller Kitgum, N. Uganda  Photo Katy Fox

Winter Miller
Kitgum, N. Uganda
Photo Katy Fox

Next up for the “Festival Shorts” series is an interview with Winter Miller, an award-winning playwright and founding member of the Obie-recognized collective 13 Playwrights. She is best known for her drama In Darfur which premiered at The Public Theater, followed by a standing room only performance at their 1800-seat Delacorte Theater in Central Park, a first for a play by a woman. A playwriting instructor and mentor, Ms. Miller teaches at Primary Stages ESPA, and has led workshops with Girl Be Heard, Sundance, Stella Adler, Theatre Askew, Arts Connection (TRaC, a two-time finalist for the President’s Coming Up Taller Award) and with youth in refugee camps in Northern Uganda and Palestine. She enjoys writing politically engaging plays with marginalized youth, such as Home/Away, The F on My Chest (Theatre Askew) and Conspicuous (Keen Company).

∞∞∞∞∞

Winter, its such a pleasure to meet you, albeit ‘virtually.’ Thank you for taking the time to answer a couple of questions. I know you’re having to respond to this on the keyboard of your phone, so I’ll try to make it relatively painless! Let’s jump right in…

 CP: Your play, This is How We Do It, is being presented as part of PCTF’s Gala “One Acts for a Cause,” and that cause is Safe Horizon, the largest domestic violence victims’ services provider and shelter network in the U.S.  How do you feel about the ability of theatre as a forum for social change? The play explores the topic of rape and social media.  What inspired you to bring these topics together?

WM: Glory (Glory Kadigan, Co-Producing Artist Director of PCTF) told me we’d be doing a benefit for Safe Horizon and I said, “Great.” Then I researched the mission of the organization and I was immediately aligned. I think good art is political. It’s the artist’s responsibility to “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted,” and I try to engage with my work with that mantra and I’m drawn to work that is provocative. This play is my gut response to Steubenville; we live in a rape culture. Women are advised how to avoid rape and who is teaching men not to rape?

CP: DirectorSpeak is a blog about director and the art/craft of directing, specifically in the world of Off- and Off-Off-Broadway. What is it that you desire most in a director that you work with?

WM: I want an inquisitive director who is curious, intrepid, patient and funny and whose goal is to serve the text and elevate it, leaving ego at the door. If there’s something you see that I don’t, you may have to convince me. I’m pro-conflict where necessary in order to reveal something. Being wrong is not a huge deal, it’s like a detour; being stubborn without reason is not cool.

CP: You are a founding member of Thirteen Playwrights (13P), the playwright collective where the resources of the company were placed at the disposal of the playwright, who produced the play. How valuable do you think it is for a playwright to understand what it takes to put on one of their plays?

WM: There’s no substitute for having your plays performed. Workshops are valuable for an early draft.  Then, in order to know the play, you need a production. 13p was a great teacher.

CP: Your work with the play In Darfur, placed you on the map as an activist playwright.  What other causes would you like to approach through your writing?

WM: Did you know that Monsanto has patented seeds and is suing farmers? And our Supreme Court says its intellectual property. Three corporations will soon control the world’s food supply. If that doesn’t scare the hell out of you, it should. That’s the play I’m writing now. I’d like to tackle Palestine and Israel, but I’ll be damned if I have any clue what that’s going to look like.  I’m always interested in gender and race, sexuality is another hot button. Class is something I’d like to explore more head on. But, you know, it starts with some outrageous real act or story and then goes its own way. I don’t make outlines.

***** For the record, ‘Yes,’ I do know about Monsanto, and yes, it does scare the hell out of me! If you don’t know about them, do a little research and make up your own mind! –CP

CP: In 2009, you were quoted in Adam Szymkowicz’s blog as saying, “… I write because in some way I’ve always felt on the outside of things, I’ve always wanted to feel like I have a place at the table.” Has this changed for you? Has writing brought you closer to the table?

WM: I think my outsider status is what drives me to write; but I think I may be someone who rarely feels like she fits in. I’m never sure if I belong – I do sometimes, but it’s fleeting, too.

CP: Right now there are 30+ playwrights in various stages of working on shows for the festival. What insights would you like to share with them?

WM: I have very little experience with festivals, so my advice is probably not so useful.

CP: Now for the lighter side: What’s your favorite NYC spot for inspiration?

WM: Probably a tie between news stories and people I see on the street. If anyone wants to hire me to people watch, I’m very skilled.

Thank you, Winter, for sharing some of yourself with us today. Here’s wishing you many broken legs on the play This is How We Do It, at the Planet Connections gala! I look forward to meeting you there.

∞∞∞∞∞

Cat Parker is a theatrical director in New York City, and the Artistic Director of Articulate Theatre Company.  Her work can currently be seen here.

DRAGON, produced by Articulate Theatre Company

DRAGON, produced by Articulate Theatre Company

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: