Monday, December 10, 2012

5 Questions with Pia Wilson

The 1st reading in our FORUM "Soundings" series is THE RIVER PURE FOR HEALING by Pia Wilson. This reading will begin at 7pm on December 14, 2012, 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).

An ambitious young woman at a nonprofit organization hits upon an idea to connect international political prisoners as letter exchange partners. What seems to be a well-meaning program quickly gets caught up in the political intrigues and propaganda of China and the Middle East, and turns into a desperate situation for the head of the nonprofit who allowed the program to go ahead in the first place.

Pia Wilson is a 2011 Heideman Award finalist for her short play Turning the Glass Around and a semi-finalist in the 2011 Bay Area Playwrights Festival. She is a 2012 resident with the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council's Workspace program, a 2009 playwriting fellow with the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, and a member of the 2008 Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater. She is also a member of The Passage Theatre Play Lab and a member of the 2009 Project Footlight team of composers and librettists. Her full-length play The Flower Thief was an August 2012 co-production between Horse Trade Theater Group and The Fire This Time play festival. Her play Generation T was featured in The Classical Theatre of Harlem's Future Classics reading series in June 2012. Her full-length drama Red Rooster was likewise a part of the Future Classics reading series as well as the Emerging Writers Spotlight Series at The Public Theater in 2009. All the Pretty Girls was featured in The Looking Glass Theatre's Spring 2009 Writer/Director Forum. The River Pure for Healing was part of the 2008 Resilience of the Spirit play festival. Her play Tree of Life received a 2007 workshop production at The Red Room Theater.

1. What inspired your to write THE RIVER PURE FOR HEALING?I read an article in The Washington Post about this man from Iraq who had been tortured and deemed not a terrorist, who was subsequently dropped off in Washington, D.C. in a hotel room. He was a man without a country – he couldn't go back to Iraq for fear of being killed as an informer to the U.S. government – and he was suffering from PTSD. His despair was heartbreaking. He couldn't go out in the rain without crying because he had been tortured using the waterboarding method. I modeled the lead character of THE RIVER PURE FOR HEALING on this man.

2. Can you tell us a little about your experience being part of the Emerging Writers Group at The Public Theater?
The Emerging Writers Group was really my entrĂ©e into the New York theater community. Before then, I was doing everything for myself when producing a show – writing, directing, producing, stage managing.

Being in the EWG opened up my world. It was great walking the halls of The Public, feeling like I had a true artistic home. And I forged some really great, lasting relationships with fellow playwrights and directors and other theater folks during that time.

3. What compelled you to become a playwright?
A French actress needed a play and so I wrote my first play (a two-hander). Alas, the play was too American for her use, so I produced it myself. THE RIVER PURE FOR HEALING was the next big play I wrote.

4. What is your favorite play or musical and why?
That is a hard, hard question! I love so many plays. I remember seeing TOP DOG UNDERDOG by Suzan-Lori Parks on Broadway and being wowed. I wasn't a playwright then, but boy, did I want to be after seeing that play. It was raw and intense and it had two Black people starring in it (and it wasn't a musical), which was groundbreaking to me. However, I am also heavily influenced by Tennessee Williams.

Love August Wilson. Lynn Nottage and David Henry Hwang are brilliant.

I remember I went to see Hwang's YELLOW FACE at The Public while I was in the EWG, and the story told was just so universal yet very specific. That play was inspiring too.

5. You write plays, short stories and screenplays. Is your process the same or do you approach them differently?
They're all really different. I just started writing screenplays again after a hiatus and it is much more of a visual medium, so I make an effort to approach it that way, with images and an economy of words. Theater is focused more on ideas, language and characterization. With short stories, I'm painting pictures with words. They all have their rules, and I enjoy flexing different writing muscles!

♦ 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
Click here to reserve your seat to see THE RIVER PURE FOR HEALING.

You can also find additional information on our website about the entire FORUM reading series.

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