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Author Spotlight: Catherine Filloux

(filloux grossberg albrecht 2/4/03 ) Catherine Filloux (cq) at the Thurber House . She is the writer in the residence. ( Dispatch photo byEric Albrecht)

Playscripts met up with award-winning playwright Catherine Filloux, author of “Selma ’65” and “Eyes of the Heart”.


By: Nik Sorocenski

Playscripts: What inspired you to begin writing? Did you always know you wanted to be a playwright?


Catherine Filloux: I’ve been lucky to be surrounded by great people, who inspired me as a playwright.  I was an actress in high school, and my playwriting and librettist career has been informed by my collaborations.  Here I am with colleagues in Cambodia, where new student plays came to life and I wrote my plays including EYES OF THE HEART and PHOTOGRAPHS FROM S-21, which are both licensed by Playscripts.

PS: You are mostly known for your works about social justice. What made you so passionate about writing these stories?

CF: I am passionate about writing character-driven stories, and I have written about historical figures who move me:  The afterlife of Raphael Lemkin in his endless fight for justice in my play LEMKIN’S HOUSE (John Daggett, my husband, premiered the part of Lemkin.)


This is a picture of him with the actress Connie Winston; unexpectedly Lemkin must deliver a baby; our intrepid director was Jean Randich.  In MARY AND MYRA, Mary Todd Lincoln and Myra Bradwell fight for liberation from Mary’s unjust confinement in a mental asylum.  And SELMA ’65 depicts Viola Liuzzo’s enlightenment, regarding white complicity during the civil rights movement.  The productions of these plays have shown me that there are theater artists of all ages who are enthusiastic about collaborating on these stories.

PS: If you could live the life of any character from one of your plays, who would it be?

CF: I do put myself in my characters’ shoes. To answer your question, I have traveled to such places as Northern Iraq and Northern Ireland. Kurdish, and Iraqi theater artists performed my play THE BEAUTY INSIDE and renewed my desire to honor the life of my character Yalova.  3Iraq

This is me in Iraq.  At this school in Belfast, Northern Ireland I worked on a peacebuilding project with the artist Claudia Bernardi, and met these girls on Ardoyne Road.  These girls and the children on the other side of Ardoyne Road at the rival school taught me a lot about peace.  I am currently imagining the life of a child in my new play, which is about trauma related to immigration.


After going to Haiti following the earthquake, I was able to communicate with theater artists in Haiti through CultureHub in NYC.  I have worked with CultureHub, where technology and a variety of artistic cultures meet to exchange life stories.


Q4: Are you working on anything that you want people to know about?

My new play “whatdoesfreemean?” about women and mass incarceration opens on July 6, 2018 and runs through July 22, produced by Nora’s Playhouse.  Please come and see the amazing team:

Q5: We have a lot of young playwrights reading this- what’s a piece of advice you can offer someone trying to become a successful author?

They should feel free to write to me at

Catherine Filloux is an award-winning playwright who has been writing about human rights and social justice for over twenty years. Filloux’s new play Kidnap Road was the headline for Planet Connections reading series in New York City and she was honored with the Planet Activist Award due to her long career as an activist artist in the theater community.

Recent productions include: Selma ’65, which premiered at La MaMa in New York City and is now touring the U.S., and Luz at La MaMa and Looking for Lilith Theatre Company in Louisville, Kentucky.

Other plays: Dog and Wolf (59E59 Theaters, New York City); Killing the Boss (Cherry Lane Theatre, New York City); Lemkin’s House (Rideau de Bruxelles, Brussels, Belgium; McGinn-Cazale Theatre, New York City; Kamerni Teatar 55, Sarajevo, Bosnia; and Roxy Art House, Edinburgh, Scotland); The Breach, with Tarell McCraney and Joe Sutton (Seattle Repertory Theatre and Southern Rep, New Orleans); The Beauty Inside (New Georges, New York City, co-produced with InterAct Theatre Co., Philadelphia); Eyes of the Heart (National Asian American Theatre Company, New York City); Silence of God (Contemporary American Theater Festival, Shepherdstown, W.V.); and Mary and Myra (Pygmalion Productions, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Contemporary American Theater Festival). Catherine went on an overseas reading tour to Sudan and South Sudan organized by the University of Iowa’s International Writing Program; and her play The Beauty Inside was produced in Northern Iraq, in the Kurdish language, by ArtRole. She is the librettist for three produced operas, and has been commissioned by the Vienna State Opera to write the libretto for composer Olga Neuwirth’s new opera, Orlando, based on the novel by Virginia Woolf (2019).

Catherine’s more than twenty plays have been produced in the U.S. and around the world. She is a co-founder of Theatre Without Borders and has served as a speaker for playwriting and human rights organizations around the world.


The Beauty Inside

  • Drama
  • 15 – 20 Minutes
  • 3 f
  • Set: Flexible set, including a hospital room

A young girl in southeastern Turkey becomes the target of an honor killing. In a terrifying clash of value systems, the girl’s traditionalist mother and her Westernized female lawyer struggle with one another to seal her fate.


All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go

  • Dark Comedy
  • 90 – 110 Minutes
  • 2 f, 4 m
  • Set: Unit set: A motel room and motel hallway

A quirky comedy about a group of Amish and a group of cross-dressers stranded together at a motel during a blizzard. Jacky, a stressed-out businessman who cross-dresses on weekends, hopes to have a relaxing retreat with his friend Barbie — only to discover he’s never been closer to home.


Eyes of the Heart

  • Drama
  • 80 – 90 Minutes
  • 4 f, 2 m
  • Set: Locales suggested in different areas of the stage by objects such as an altar and a window.

When Thida arrives from Cambodia to join her brother and niece in the U.S., she refuses to speak and is completely blind, although her family’s doctor cannot find any physical reason for her loss of sight. Thida suffers from a psychosomatic blindness developed by hundreds of Cambodian women after witnessing the atrocities collectively known as the “killing fields” in the chaos of Cambodia during the 1970s. As the family comes to understand her pain and her courage, Thida teaches her sophisticated American doctor the ways of the human heart. With humor, poetry, and gorgeous theatricality, East and West intersect in this story of survival and hope.


Lemkin’s House

  • Drama with humor
  • 80 – 90 Minutes
  • 2 f, 3 m
  • Set: A dilapidated house.

In 1944, Raphael Lemkin invented the word “genocide” and spent his life fighting to have it recognized as an international crime. But when the U.S. finally signs his law — decades after his death — the Rwandan and Bosnian genocides erupt and torment Lemkin in the afterlife. If genocide cannot be stopped, how will Lemkin rest?


The Lessons of My Father

  • Drama
  • 15 – 20 Minutes
  • 2 f, 1 m
  • Set: Unit set: a funeral parlor with a coffin

Odile, a French-Algerian woman, vividly recollects her just-deceased father, through the eyes of her childhood self. How can you go on breathing when the man who taught you how is gone?


Mary & Myra

  • Drama
  • 90 Minutes
  • 2 f
  • Set: A room in an insane asylum

In the summer of 1875, Mary Todd Lincoln (the President’s widow) resides in an insane asylum, sent there by her only living son. Her progressive friend Myra Bradwell (America’s first woman lawyer) arrives to help Mary gain her release by exposing the injustices of her trial. But Myra’s motives and Mary’s sanity are both up for debate, as they grapple with their pasts and their perceptions of freedom and womanhood.


Photographs from S-21

  • Drama
  • 15-20 Minutes
  • 1 f, 1 m
  • Set: a museum with two life-size frames and an abstract fountain.

Two photos come to life in an exhibit at the Museum of Modern Art, New York City. They are a young Cambodian woman and man whose photos were taken by the Khmer Rouge right after removing their blindfolds, moments before their execution.


Price of Madness

  • Drama
  • 80-100 Minutes
  • 3 f, 2 m
  • Set: Two artists’ studios; minimal living-room furniture

Henri, a young painter, enjoyed early success in the roller-coaster New York art scene, but now he finds himself creatively blocked and increasingly alienated from his wife. He turns for inspiration to his reclusive, schizophrenic aunt, Aloise. Her drawings thrill and challenge Henri, tempting him with thoughts of selling her work as his own. Aloise is based on a Swiss “outsider artist” born in 1886, who spent most of her life in an asylum and whose work was exhibited by Jean Dubuffet as part of the Art Brut movement.


Selma ’65

  • Drama
  • 70-80 Minutes
  • 1 f
  • Set: Minimal. Locales are fluid and suggested with lights and sound.

Two fascinating lives are brought to life by a single actress in this powerful drama that explores the searing moment that connects Viola Liuzzo, a white civil rights activist who joins the 1965 march for voting rights at Selma, and Tommy Rowe, an FBI informant working undercover in the Ku Klux Klan.


Venus in the Birdbath

  • Dark Comedy
  • 90-100 Minutes
  • 4 f, 2 m
  • Set: Unit set: one very large bed

A darkly comic menage of characters revolves around Salome, a woman who can’t get out of bed. The country singer from Tennessee, the disturbed sitcom writer, Salome’s fashionable mother, the polite New Yorker hoping to evict Salome, the young California Senator who can’t stay out of her bed — all of them are lost at sea, endearingly unable to cope with the world.


White Trash

  • Drama
  • 10-15 Minutes
  • 2 either
  • Set: Flexible: the shore of a beach.

Based on a true story: At a wildlife refuge in Cape Cod, thousands of common seagulls are poisoned in order to save their endangered cousin, the piping plover. In this play, one of these gulls spends its final moments alongside a plover, equally traumatized but chosen for survival.

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