Interview with Sara Saenz, playwright of "Crimson"
Q: You have acted a little here and there; did acting precede playwriting for you? When did you first realize you wanted to become a playwright?
A: I learned that I wanted to write plays because of my obsession with Hamlet. Shakespeare, to me, is the ultimate playwright; I’ve seen too many productions of Hamlet to count. I collect them. When I saw Hamlet at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2010 (a production directed by Bill Rauch and starring Dan Donohue), I knew that playwriting was for me. It was the same story I know and love, only interpreted in a completely new way. It showed me the possibility inherent in theatre- that it’s a living, breathing thing. It made me choose theatre.
Q: The central character of Crimson, Dahlia Arter, contends with the disabling effects of PTSD. Traditionally, "disability" has been defined in physical terms; could you explain why that definition needs to be blown up?
A: Mental health is a critically overlooked issue in American society. There is so much stigma that follows disclosing and treating mental health concerns that most people find it shameful and either do not seek treatment or do not communicate their needs to their friends, lovers, and co-workers. This shame, this stigma, permeates all of society, so much so that it was important to address these issues onstage.
Q: Did you begin working on Crimson when you were involved in the Chicago theatre scene? Could you talk about those days?
A: I was a graduate student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC), and I was living with my cat in this tiny studio apartment in Little Italy. I had tried and failed to get into the Artist Development Workshop at Victory Gardens Theater- it turns out they had lost my application entirely! An extra push from a classmate put me in contact with them again, and I was able to join for the spring. That spring, I wrote and workshopped the bulk of Crimson. Crimson was written in and out of the El, in coffee shops, on my cell phone. If you work on germinating an idea for long enough, it comes at you on all sides.
Q: On your website, you describe yourself as a "social justice bard." What does that phrase signify? Would you say you are an activist playwright?
A:Oh definitely! I believe if you can put yourself in the shoes of someone else, it will change your perspective on the world. A lot of people like to call themselves “social justice warriors”- people who are on the front lines of change. In Dungeons & Dragons terms, a bard is someone who inspires through his or her artistry. By calling myself a “social justice bard”, I am claiming the softer side of social justice: storytelling with a purpose. I am an activist because I believe in a better world.
Q: What, to you, constitutes the most exciting type of playwriting?
A: Dangerous stories are my favorite. I confess that I love the classics, but give me Venus in Furs or Death and the Maiden and I will be consumed for days on end. I like to think that Crimson, too, is dangerous- it proposes grey areas and suggests what we know statistically about cycles of violence. And yet, there’s vulnerability both in the characters and in the means of storytelling. That part is purely me.
Interested in more of Sara's work? Visit her official website at www.saracowley.com
Sara Saenz's Crimson opens August 19 at OC-Centric.
To reserve your tickets, CLICK HERE or call 714-902-5716