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Author Spotlight: Quincy Long, Author of “Daughters of Io”

QUINCY LONG PHOTO
We took the time to reach out to Quincy Long, author of “Daughters of Io” and “The Virgin Molly”.

Playscripts: Where did your writing career begin?

Quincy Long: It began in college. One of my professors played a recording of T.S. Eliot’s The Cocktail Party, and, though I didn’t know it at the time, I was gone, hooked, rendered permanently under the influence. I ended up majoring in theatre, and after college started an Equity dinner theatre with some friends in Williamsport, Pennsylvania. We called ourselves the Thoreau Theatre Ensemble, performed the classics and were largely ignored by the community, though I did learn a ton about acting and and earned my Equity card. After the theatre disbanded I did a stint as a reporter at a daily newspaper, this being the well-trod path of the wannabe writer. I learned about deadlines at the newspaper, and I learned that newspaper writing is limited in terms of what one can express about the human condition. As an exercise in freedom I would bang away after work, throwing whatever came to mind onto the page as fast as I could type. The bits of bizarre, incoherent, deeply embarrassing but somehow authentic writing that emerged became the basis of my authorial voice. Eventually I quit the newspaper and moved to New York where I earned my living acting in new plays, regional theatre and television commercials. On the side I began writing plays with plausible surfaces and dark undercurrents that owed something both to my newspaper writing and to my forays into the subconscious through fast-typing exercises. I submitted some of my writing to the Yale School of Drama, was accepted in the Playwrighting program, and, well, here we are.

PS: What are some differences between writing a play and writing an opera?

QL: I’d like more of what opera is to influence my playwriting: opera is shamelessly nakedly, emotional; plays, by comparison, are more circumspect. All plays must have rhythm; opera librettos have to sing. Opera is huge in its themes as well as its theatrical size.

PS: Where did the inspiration of your work, “Daughters of Io” come from?

QL: My wife, a director/dramaturg, challenged me to write a play with all, or mostly, female characters. She happened to be teaching Drama at Bennington College at the time, and my reward for completing said play would be a production at the college theatre that she would direct.

The inspiration for the play itself came from two sources, the first being the history of Bennington College. Bennington was established as a progressive college for women in the teeth of the depression and located far from the centers of culture in rural Vermont. This gave me the setting for the play. The other influence was The Suppliant Women by Aeschylus which gave me the guts. In The Suppliant Women, fifty virgins arrive at the gates of Athens seeking sanctuary from the depredations of fifty brutal cousins who would force them into marriage. In the myth that is the source of the trilogy of which The Suppliant Women is the one surviving play, the virgins are given sanctuary, but the young men conquer the city and force the marriage. The virgins eventually submit, but vow to kill their husbands on their wedding night. All but one of the women — she falls in love with her prospective husband — execute the plan, and their new husbands.

The two sources of inspiration resulted in a comedy about innocent milkmaids in flight from a band of repulsive, marriage-hungry farmers. The milkmaids seek sanctuary at what they think is a convent, but what is in actuality a newly established progressive college for women. The play calls for eight actors — seven young women who play a host of characters, male and female, including the milkmaids, the rude young farmers who pursue them, students and trustees at the college, and etc. — and one young man who plays the bridegroom who is spared.

In November of 2016 the play was produced at the college, and was a smash.

PS: Can you give young, aspiring playwrights some words of wisdom?

QL: Two quick things: 1) act in plays. It helps no end to see how little, in the way of language, is required, and there’s no better way to imbibe the structure of plays — how dialogue, scenes and plays work. 2) Don’t be afraid of marketing, promotion and networking. These are not dirty words. Theatre is a business, a fact that is easy to forget in the heat of self-expression and creation.

PS: Tell us what we should be expecting from you next!

QL: I’m currently working on two opera librettos, The Embalmer’s Daughter, an adaptation of an Edgar Allan Poe story, and Ximena, an original opera. My latest play is The Huntsmen, which won a Sundance Time Warner Storyteller Award, and was given a workshop production at Portland Center Stage’s Just Add Water Festival and a full production at Portland Stage. The Huntsmen has to do with a teenager who makes a tragic mistake that results in the death of a girl from his middle school. He goes into a downward spiral, and while his subsequent deeds may be hellish, the songs that he creates while on the run with the Huntsmen, his imaginary backup group, are heavenly. The Huntsmen is not about school shootings, but may provide a window into the inner rhapsodies that can accompany such fateful actions.

 

Daughters of Io

  • Comedy/Drama
  • 80 – 85 Minutes
  • 8 f, 1 m
  • Set: Flexible. Location is communicated through dialogue, props, and furniture. That said, suggestive settings in the form of silhouettes can only add to the experience.

Two groups of spirited young women find their paths to independence intertwined when a progressive women’s college in 1930s New England takes in a family of milkmaids fleeing an arranged marriage. Mismatched roommates Dody and Athena forge a connection as they help the country girls hide among the students, but when the loathsome and violent Brewster boys give chase to their runaway brides, the comedy of misunderstanding turns to chaos–and peace and prosperity can only come through righteous vengeance. In this unexpected twist on Aeschylus’s The Suppliant Women, moments of music punctuate a lyrical tale of learning, love, and sisterhood.

The Virgin Molly

  • Comedy
  • 80 – 90 Minutes
  • 6m
  • Set: Unit set. A military barracks.

What begins as a simple investigation of the sexual orientation of Marine Corps recruit Molly Peterson turns into an absurd sideshow of sexual politics. Using all the tricks and tactics at their disposal, the Captain and his mad dog Corporal attempt to determine who among their hapless charges is telling the truth about what happened that night.

 

Also featured in…

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Snapshot

  • Drama/Comedy
  • 80 – 100 Minutes
  • 11f, 11m (4-25 actors possible; 2-15 f, 2-15 m)
  • Set: Flexible set, suggesting various locales

What begins as a simple investigation of the sexual orientation of Marine Corps recruit Molly Peterson turns into an absurd sideshow of sexual politics. Using all the tricks and tactics at their disposal, the Captain and his mad dog Corporal attempt to determine who among their hapless charges is telling the truth about what happened that night.

 

Quincy Long is a playwright and librettist. His plays include: The Joy of Going Somewhere Definite, the Atlantic Theatre Company, directed by William H. Macy and starring Felicity Huffman. The play was also produced by the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles and was optioned by Mel Gibson’s Icon Films. Other plays include People Be Heard, Playwrights Horizons; The Lively Lad, New York Stage and Film and The Actors Theatre of Louisville; The Virgin Molly, The Atlantic Theatre Company and Berkeley Rep. Joy, People Be Heard, and The Lively Lad were all published by Dramatists Play Service. The Huntsmen, winner of a Sundance Time Warner Storyteller’s Award, was workshopped at the Portland Center Stage’s Just Add Water Festival and produced recently by Portland Playhouse. Quincy also wrote the libretto for Buried Alive, music composed by Jeff Myers. The opera premiered in 2014 at Fargo-Moorhead Opera and will be performed at Forth Worth Opera in March. Quincy is currently working on Vagabond and Plum Island, new plays, and Ximena, a full-length opera. He is a graduate of the Yale School of Drama and a member of New Dramatists and Ensemble Studio Theater. Originally from Warren, Ohio, he lives and works in New York City.

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