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Wednesday, April 27, 2011

On the Ground Floor With...Heather Houston

Playwright Heather Houston

On May 1-4, work by this year’s MFA class – Peter Floyd, John Greiner-Ferris, and Heather Houston -- will be featured in our annual Ground Floor New Play Series, along with Reginald Edmund’s Southbridge. Southbridge was the winner of the 2011 Southern Playwrights’ Competition, and is part of the Sister City Playwrights Exchange.

But first, we celebrate these exciting writers on the blog by offering an inside look at them and their plays.

Tell us a little about your thesis play.
My play, Supergravity and the Eleventh Dimension was sparked by two separate ideas that sort of crashed into each other, scattering shrapnel everywhere, shrapnel which I then tried to direct at my characters.  One idea was that of isolation, seclusion for four characters at a cabin.  The other idea was that of M theory in physics (which isn't really my idea at all, of course).  I started thinking about loss, and how each person deals with it differently, which seemed to play right into physics and relativity... and at that point I started confusing myself, and so I thought I should write a play about it.  What resulted were Dan, Fred, Leslie, and Tom (a theoretical physicist), four friends who deal with the loss of their friend, Carmen, by visiting her cabin, which then becomes a space where time and memory are twisted.

What makes you passionate about this idea?
I'm struck again and again by the human impulse to fight for explanations for loss, and how each explanation is so different, so personal.  Also, of course, I'm excited by any opportunity to totally geek out over concepts which completely blow my mind, like black holes and superstring theory.

Does your thesis play align with your original vision for this work, or did it take shape as you went along?
Oh, it definitely took shape as I went along.  Good lord.  I had one whole character who, in the earliest drafts, didn't even have any lines.  She sort of stood in the background with a veil over her face.  What a ridiculous idea, because as it turned out, she was the most important part of the play.  Plays are ever-evolving, and I'm sure this one still hasn't stopped changing.

How would you describe your writing to people who are unfamiliar with your work?
I would describe my writing process as trying to play chicken with a monster truck... when you're in a Gremlin.  I would describe the result as something which, in style, is inspired by absurdism, but which is not absurdism.  I tend to like to play with realities and non-linear time.  In terms of stories, I often find myself examining how characters deal with loss, often through a sense of humor... of sorts.

What is the least likely thing you've gained inspiration from?
A doorknob... Long story.

What’s next for you?
Keep writing.  Work hard.  Send stuff out, and hope for the best for the plays and myself.

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