Playscripts playwright Elizabeth Meriwether is busy writing and producing New Girl, but hasn't forgotten her playwriting roots.
Are you working on any plays at the moment?
I'm not! I'm currently writing and producing Season Two of the TV show that I created, New Girl. I'd love to work on a new play in the future.
What are the differences among writing for TV, theater and film?
In my experience, writing for TV and film means putting more emphasis on the plot. In the theater, dialogue can be the story-- the way that characters talk to each other can be an event in the theater. In TV and film, more things have to "happen". You can feel it if the plot slows down or stops moving forward on screen.
Who helped you along the way, as far as your playwriting career?
Many many people. Toni Dorfman was my professor at college who inspired me to write plays. The director Shira Milikowsky directed my first play in New York. The director Alex Timbers asked me to write a play for his theater company that became Heddatron. Kim Rosenstock, who was working at Ars Nova, got me my first public reading. (She now writes on my TV show!) Evan Cabnet directed two of my plays in New York. Jenny Gersten produced my first professional production and got me to write television as well. Marsha Norman and Chris Durang taught me at Juilliard. I also had internships at Playwrights Horizons and New Dramatists that really introduced me to a lot of people and taught me a lot about the New York theater world.
Any tips for aspiring cross medium dramatists?
Every writer should try to write cross medium-- you don't know what you can do until you try it. If you've never written TV and film before, try to get your hands on some scripts-- read as many screenplays and teleplays as you can. They're fascinating and also much less intimidating than watching the finished product. Seeing it on the page you might be surprised by how familiar it feels-- I could never watch a movie and think: I can do that, but I felt like I could get my mind around writing a screenplay once I saw it on the page.
Did you ever act in or write a play in high school?
Yes, but what happens in high school should stay in high school...
-- Elizabeth Meriwether
Other Elizabeth Meriwether plays published by Playscripts, Inc. include Heddatron, Poor Bob, Particle Board, Nicky Goes Goth, and Oliver Parker! Playscripts, Inc. is also proud to publish Elizabeth Meriwether: Collected Short Plays.
Janine Nabers is one busy playwright. She is a member of The MCC Playwrights Coalition, Ars Nova Play Group and the Dorothy Strelsin New American Writer’s Group. Her most recent honors include a P73 fellowship, Sundance residency and being named a 2012 Keen Teens writer.
What are you up to right now, besides being a new 2012 Keen Teen Writer?
Well, I just started my fellowship program at Juilliard where I'm studying playwriting for two years (once a week) with Christopher Durang and Marsha Norman. Being in the room with them has been really amazing. In December I had a workshop of Welcome to Jesus that I'm currently re-writing. And I'm hoping to finish my commission for Playwrights Horizons this spring/summer. I'm also working on a couple of musicals with my wonderful composer/lyricist, Sharon Kenny. We're hoping to develop our musical, A Beautiful Something, this summer. We started working on it last summer at Williamstown, and it was the most amazing place. We work really well together. Sharon is just the best thing that's happened to me in a very long time.
What's the difference when you write adult characters vs. adolescent characters?
I just find young characters to be so much more free and dangerous. I love writing bold characters of all ages, but I have so much fun writing teenagers/20-year-olds. It's the only time I really feel funny. Teenagers are so complicated and unpredictable. They are so incredibly passionate about every single thing they do, and that is what makes me love writing them. I love examining the minds of teenagers and their relationship to each other/the world.
Who inspired you in high school?
I was a pretty eclectic kid. I was a track runner who wrote poetry and went to an all white private school, until I begged my parents to let me go to a predominately black public school... so I was inspired by a lot of random things: Alex Haley, Radiohead and Smashing Pumpkins, Jackie Joyner Kersee, Tupac, My So Called Life. The weekends I spent with my family in Louisiana, my best friends, the WNBA, and old films. One of my favorite things in the world was watching really old films with my parents.
Do you have any tips for aspiring high school playwrights?
I think it's important to write from the heart and really let your emotions just live in what they are. Are you mad? Write about it. Are you in love with your friend? Write about it. I used to write my friends/boyfriends/parents letters when I was in high school/college, too shy, or scared, or goofy to say something to their face. I was far more eloquent in the letters/poems/plays I wrote than I was in person for a really long time. I honestly think writing those letters to whomever helped me find my voice. And it helped me be brave. I can honestly say that my plays today are very brave.
Just for fun, did you ever act in or write a play in high school?
I DID act in high school. I was a good actress, and left high school as the only actress in my class who got into acting school in New York. I didn't write my first play until I was 19. I occasionally wrote comedy sketches and short stories/poetry, but that was it. Looking back I would love to go back and write a play at 16. Oooof. That play would be cra-zy.