As Founder of the nonprofit Playwrights of New York, Sandi Farkas knows the theater world, inside and out. Here, wearing Tory’s Chrissy dress, she gives a primer.
- Top three playwrights, past and present…
- For me, it’s Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller and Edward Albee. I see them like the three wise men of American theater and think about them all the time when creating my own characters — Williams informs their sensuality, Miller their conscience and Albee their conviction.
- Emerging playwrights we should keep an eye on…
- All of our PoNY Fellows are doing what I think is the most exciting new work around the country! Some of the productions are small and have short runs, so put their names on Google Alert to find out when you can see their work: Tarell McCraney, Carson Kreitzer, Samuel D. Hunter, Katori Hall, A. Rey Pamatmat, Tommy Smith, Dominique Morisseau and Kimber Lee.
- The play that changed my life…
- A Streetcar Named Desire, from the moment Blanche DuBois arrives at Elysian Fields and declares she has “always depended on the kindness of strangers.” It was the first time I understood everything exciting about a play — how a character can be revealed through dialogue or say one thing and mean another. That was revolutionary for me and made me understand why I have always listened so closely to how people use language.
- Essential reading for the aspiring playwright…
- The Power of Myth by Joseph Campbell. I talk about this all the time. Why are playwrights
more important than ever in today’s society? They are our modern-day mythmakers. Today’s plays are part of a narrative from the dawn of time — the impulse for a playwright to reflect the journey of the soul to his or her peers is essentially an act of the divine.
- My post-show dinner go-to…
- Bar Centrale, up the stairs of a brownstone and behind an unmarked door in the heart of the theater district.
They take their drinks very seriously and serve perfect post-show portions… and you will always see some actors coming in for drinks after their shows.
- Best places for great theater in New York you might not know…
- Labyrinth Theater Company, New York Theater Workshop, BAM and St. Ann’s Warehouse.
And Lark Play Development Center — some of New York’s best plays don’t always get produced, but you can go to readings and presentations of them with crazy talented actors and be just as wowed. Get on their e-blast list. And Drama Book Shop — pick up the script at this favorite haunt for all playwrights and actors. Reading a play can be a visceral experience!
- Five steps to becoming a playwright…
Read, read, read! As many plays as you can — anything you write
is merely resting on a stack of plays that came before it.
Listen, listen, listen! So much in a play can be revealed through
dialogue — eavesdrop on a conversation in real life and jot it down verbatim.
You’ll be surprised at how nonsensically people actually talk.
See theater! See as much as you can. Be in the space and picture your story
on the stage. Plays are inherently theatrical, and the more exposure
you have to the stage, the more your stories will be informed by it.
Find a great teacher. I feel that way with every category in life — you can’t evolve
without a great teacher or mentor to provide you with reflection and context.
Focus on your characters. What do they believe in? How do they speak?
Where do they carry their pain? Don’t worry about the plot — that will eventually
reveal itself through your characters.
Sandi photographed at home in New York by Mimi Ritzen Crawford