Revolutionizing the Way You Hear Theatre with Iyvon Edebiri of The Parsnip Ship and Playwright Andrew Rincón
Adventures in Audio Fiction Podcast Episode #6
[This episode has some profanity, so if you have kids in the room or are listening in the workplace, be aware.]
The Parsnip Ship series features new plays and new music performed live each month in Brooklyn and then released as a free podcast.
The first half of this episode features Iyvon Edebiri the Artistic Director and host of the Parsnip Ship. The second half of this episode features Andrew Rincón, a playwright who was featured on The Parsnip Ship and whose play, I Wanna F**k like Romeo and Juliet is one of their most downloaded episodes. I Wanna F**k Like Romeo and Juliet will be produced on stage at New Light Theatre Project in New York City this May.
Iyvon Edebiri is a creative producer, company manager, and dramaturg, and serves as Artistic Director and host of The Parsnip Ship, a monthly new works series showcasing collaborations between under-produced playwrights, musicians, and composers. Inspired by the radio-play format, the works are recorded live at the Mark O’Donnell Theatre and available to stream online. Iyvon is a recipient of a Fulbright Research Fellowship and the Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship. She was an Americans for the Arts DIAL Fellow and a Fellow of The DO School, Future of Audio Entertainment program in Berlin. She was recently awarded The Mark O'Donnell Prize for emerging theater artists and entrepreneurs. BA Brandeis University, MA Arts Administration from Baruch College.
Iyvon and I connected via cellphone to discuss the mission and values of the Parsnip Ship, how playwrights write for audio, and the Radio Roots Writers Group, a new initiative by Parsnip Ship to support emerging playwrights who are interested in re-engaging with playwriting through audio-focused storytelling.
Andrew Rincón is a Queer Colombian American playwright based in NYC. His plays have been developed with Rising Circle Theatre Collective, INTAR, the Austin Latino New Play Festival, The Amoralists Theatre Company, Pork Filled Productions (Seattle), Out Front Productions (Atlanta), and The 24 Hour Plays. He was a member of INKtank Lab for Playwrights of Color (2017) and the 2017 Fornés Playwriting Workshop (Chicago). He is a winner of the 2018 Chesley/Bumbalo Grant for writers of Gay and Lesbian Theatre, a Dramatist Guild Fellow (19-20) and a MacDowell Colony Fellow (2020). He is a company member of Unit 52 at INTAR, the NYC Latinx Playwrights Circle.
Andrew spoke to me from the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire about his play I Wanna F**k like Romeo and Juliet which was featured on the Parsnip Ship in May of 2018. We talked about his experience with Parsnip and how that figured into his creative process, writing for audio, the value of readings and recordings for playwrights and much more. A reminder that his play will be at New Light Theatre Project in May of 2020.
This interview series for HowlRound is part of Tamara’s quest to learn more about audio drama by speaking with the people who are working in the medium.
Music: Spring Idyll by Pennee Miles.
Tamara Kissane: Adventures In Audio Fiction is supported by HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide. The HowlRound podcast is available on Apple Podcasts, Google Play, Spotify, and HowlRound.com.
Hey friends, welcome to Adventures in Audio Fiction. My name is Tamara Kissane. I’m a theatremaker and the host of the podcast Artist Soapbox based in Durham, North Carolina. Although theatre is my first and enduring love, over the last three years, my creative work has turned increasingly toward writing and producing scripted audio fiction. First, by adapting versions of my stage plays into audio dramas, and more recently by writing to audio directly, as I develop two scripted audio fiction serials. This interview series for HowlRound is part of my quest to learn more about audio drama by speaking with people who are working in the medium, some of whom have a background in theatre, and some who don’t, but either way, they are knocking it out of the park. I have so many questions and you may have some, too. As theatre artists, what can we learn from audio fiction creators? What skills can we leverage to create powerful audio work? What do we need to learn? Is scripted audio fiction an evolution of a theatrical form, or is it its own distinct and discreet form altogether? Before I begin, this episode has some profanity, so if you have kids in the room, or you’re listening in the workplace, just be aware.
This episode is a two-in-one interview all related to The Parsnip Ship. The Parsnip Ship series features new pays and new music performed live each month in Brooklyn and then released as a free podcast. The first half of this episode is an interview with Iyvon Edebiri, the artist director and host of The Parsnip Ship. And the second half of the episode is with Andrew Rincon a playwright who was featured on Parsnip and whose play I Wanna Fuck Like Romeo and Juliet is one of their most downloaded episodes.
My conversation with Iyvon and Andrew was recorded on 19 February 2020, which seems like so long ago now. At that point Andrew's play I Wanna Fuck Like Romeo and Juliet was scheduled to be fully staged at New Light Theatre Project in New York City in May. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it will be rescheduled for performances in the 2021 season. Will look forward to that. Stay safe friends. Sending you love.
Here’s Part One. Iyvon Edebiri is a creative producer, company manager, and dramaturg and serves as artistic director and host of The Parsnip Ship, a monthly new work series showcasing collaborations between under produced playwrights, musicians, and composers. Inspired by the radio play format, the works are recorded live at the Mark O’Donnell theatre and available to stream online. Iyvon is a recipient of a Fulbright research fellowship and the Benjamin A. Gilman international scholarship. She was an Americans for the Arts DIAL fellow, and a fellow of the Dew School Future of Audio Entertainment program in Berlin. She was recently awarded the Mark O’Donnell Prize for emerging theatre artists and entrepreneurs. Iyvon received a BA from Brandeis University and an MA in Arts Administration from Baruch College. Iyvon and I connected via cellphone to discuss the mission and values of The Parsnip Ship, how playwrights write for audio, and the Radio Roots Writer’s Group, a new initiative by The Parsnip Ship to support emerging playwrights who are interested in reengaging with playwriting through audio-focused storytelling. Enjoy Part One with Iyvon.
Hi Iyvon, thank you so much for talking with me today.
Iyvon Edebiri: Thank you for having me.
Tamara: Would you describe for us The Parsnip Ship?
Iyvon: Sure. So the quick and dirty of it is that we’re reimagining the concept of radio plays. Also in the sense of new play development and kind of combining those two entities and those two concepts into one. And so, we record systematically underproduced playwrights and their plays in front of a live audience. And we also generate musicians who have a catalogue of music that really aligns with the vibe and the spirit of the play itself. We record all of that live in Brooklyn, and then we release it as a podcast episode a month or two later for other people to listen in on and join in and hear and discover new playwrights and stories. And of course a new musician, since they’re a part of it. And then lastly we end the podcast, our episode, with an interview with the playwright to get to learn more about them, get to know about heir inspiration behind writing the work, and sometimes I interrogate ideas, or a line that the playwright has written that I find very moving, or I, you know, interrogate something that the audience really reacted to to get a conversation going.
Tamara: And we should mention that this is free for people to attend, it’s free for people to participate in, and it’s free for listeners as well, so that accessibility piece is, I think it's amazing.
Iyvon: Yeah I’ve always been in the world of accessible theatre, as someone who hasn’t always been able to afford theatre, as someone who is a theatremaker and still can’t afford to see theatre sometimes, I think it’s important that we try to make theatre as accessible as possible especially for the folks who are underproduced because that’s the thing that’s been told to them that their stories and their identities aren’t marketable, when in fact it is. It’s really just removing the barriers that exist which are you know exclusively in the theatre, so don’t have to do that to experience Parsnip Ship, and also paying for theatre, because Parsnip is, you know, free.
Tamara: You’ve talked a little bit about this in what you just said, but I’d like to hear a little bit more about why you originally though there was a need for something like The Parsnip Ship.
Iyvon: Well, so Parsnip originally started as a passion project with a former business partner who came to me with the idea of starting a podcast recording plays, and I didn’t really understand what that was all about. But we talked about a bunch of things in our first couple of seasons and it wasn’t until the third season after they left that I was like Okay what do I want, what really drives me, what motivates me? And I’m really motivated and driven by stories, so when it came to refiguring out what I wanted Parsnip to be it was like, stories and the people who stories aren’t being told or aren’t be heard and that really shifted gears for me to really go into these really specific about types of communities and types of playwrights that I want to feature on this platform.
Tamara: Let’s talk about the audio angle. You have a list of criteria that you’re looking for in the plays that are being submitted for the upcoming season and the first bullet point for consideration is “Does the play not only work but excel in an audio-only format?” So would you talk a little bit about that? About what works and what doesn’t in audio?
Iyvon: Yeah, so it’s a really interesting time for submissions which we’re in and I will start reading soon, but playwrights are usually writing plays to be seen and not necessarily only to be heard. And so there’s a shift in how playwrights have to approach playwriting, or adjusting their plays for the Parsnip platform, because I know when I’m reading I’m not reading, for the most part, plays that were not written for audio, or for radio play style, but they were written for stage. So I often have to read and go Could this work in audio? And so what are the ways in which x, y, and z thing could be changed? Does that mean that… stage directions is a big one, so does that mean that stage directions usually have to be cut so there isn’t a lot of exposition because you want your audience to fill in, essentially, not the bare bones of what you’ve given them, but like a simple setting, you want them to fill it in. And then the movements, unless they’re really important for the character development, it’s kind of like, how do you strip that away and still have a story move forward that is still giving your audience their space and their own creativity and their own imagination. And that’s one kind of balance that we have to look for. Another thing is how do people play with sound in the work that they’re writing? Because again it’s not something that is really taught in MFA programs, it's not something that’s really honed in on is, how do you think about sound and how is sound a part of the story? How is sound a focal part of the story, and how do we move those things forward to get the intention that the playwright has put out for their play? So it’s a very niche kind of way fo thinking. I think a lot of playwrights may have difficulty with it and some really really can… are really leaning into that kind of challenge and just being okay with kind of exploding their plays to kind of put it back together using sound. It’s also something that we look for in the plays that we, we’re considering for submission.
Tamara: Is that part of the conversation that you would have with the playwright who submits, helping them figure out how they might incorporate sound more vigorously into their play?
Iyvon: So I usually broach that conversation after the playwright has accepted, ‘cause for the most part we know what the plays can work via audio. So once I have accepted the playwrights, I go into like an onboarding kind of session for a couple of months where I’m just meeting with them and grabbing coffee or drinks, and we’re just chatting about their plays, and I bring up notes either from people who have the read their submission or my own dramaturgical notes about how things make sound and what their intentions are. So it’s always a conversation, and the conversation becomes even more illuminated once we have a director as part of the process who also helps shape how certain sounds that may be the actors doing the foley or even helping to dramaturg the play with the playwright, or the director go Huh, have you thought maybe, instead of saying this, we just make this kind of sound, and this is how it would sound? Is that in line with what you’re thinking? So it’s a very collaborative process.
Tamara: I want to ask about a question that you ask your playwrights and that is also one of the criteria that you’re asking for submissions, and that is the question, “What would the world be missing if it didn’t have this play?” And I have to tell you that when I first heard that when I was listening to The Parsnip Ship, I found that question to be heartbreaking as a playwright, because, not only was it very difficult to answer but also because it seems vital to answer. This is the question, right? So how did you arrive at that question why do you think it’s important?
Iyvon: I actually don’t recall how that question came up one time and I think we just repeated it. But I think it really does, I mean, I think it helps ground and center me when it comes to submissions. So what is the playwright trying to say and what would the world be missing if it didn’t have this play? Is it a new perspective? Is it something that challenges me, is it something that makes me uncomfortable, is it something that makes the other readers, submissions readers, uncomfortable? What are we really missing without this play? And that’s something that we’ve added to the submissions, we didn’t have it before but we’ve added it so that playwrights can really think about how they approach playwriting. I think that’s one question, how they approach storytelling, and why did they spend so much time writing this play that, you know, may or may not ever produced or may or may not be looked into. But you felt it’s vital and important to the world then I want to why.
Tamara: Would you talk a little bit more about this upcoming season? Because I think this next year has kind of an overarching theme for plays, is that right?
Iyvon: Yes, so early on in the third season I was thinking, Okay what are the demographics that are not really like heard? And large numbers, and I mean like large numbers—I know there are queer playwrights, there are Black playwrights, there are female playwrights—but in large numbers in the American Theatre it is still very much white, straight, cis men, and I can’t stand for this at all, I just can’t. So because Parsnip is my baby, at this point, and I don’t really have, Parsnip is not working in the ways that a lot of American Theatre is working, in which like, the board—which, we’re starting a board—but in which the board might have some say on like who’s getting produced and yada yada yada, you know, I don’t… or shows that are too political, they might want to pull out. I don’t have all of these considerations, the only consideration I have is who is not getting produced enough and how can we highlight them? And so last year, we had a season of all POC playwrights, playwrights of color. This season we are currently in a season of all female playwrights, and that runs the gamut across the gender and sexuality spectrum of womanhood. And next season, our season six that we just opened up submissions for, will be all queer playwrights and musicians. And I think that’s gonna be really, all of these have been really cool, and I’m gonna try to, for next season, with it only being queer musicians as well, and also just giving that platform, and also adding to the queer creative community in New York.
Tamara: Are you open to talking about the Radio Roots Writer’s Group and how this is an extension of The Parsnip Ship?
Iyvon: Yeah, so Radio Roots is something that I’ve been wanting to start for about two or three years, and I’m really excited that it’s actually going to be happening. And I wanted a writers group specifically focused on creating new plays for the radio. So radio plays, and not ones that were written for stage and then were converted for audio as most of the Parsnip plays are, but how do we start in fact writing a new radio play? So I work with three other facilitators, Al Parker who is the associate producer, who is line producer and artistic associate for Parsnip, and Gabriella Steinberg who is a really dope dramaturg and librarian, and Espii Proctor who’s also a dope dramaturg and sound designer. And the four of us have come together to essentially create a long form radio writer’s group that also has a little bit of an academic lens to it, in the sense of getting into the space of audio. So Espii has really been leading conversations with the writers about modes of listening, and how do we rethink how we listen, and how do we rethink how we listen in terms of storytelling, and putting all of these pieces together. So at the end of our group time together, which will end in June, each of the four writers, who are Gina Femia, Nina Ki, Jessie DeBruin, and Amara Brady, they will each have their own individual radio plays that they have written throughout this time together, and then collectively the four of them will be writing an original radio play horror piece.
Tamara: Oh wow.
Iyvon: Which will be, yeah. So they’re gonna be leaving with essentially two plays that they’ve written as a cohort together, or five in total, I should say, there will be five total in the end. Which is really exciting! And so, we meet every other Tuesday, and it’s lots of fun, for three hours and in a couple of weeks we’re gonna go on a weekend retreat. And we’re gonna give the writers time and space and a beautiful nature-y environment to really collaborate and start to work on their horror pieces together.
Tamara: I am so in love with this program. I think that’s so exciting. That’s wonderful. It like, gives people the support that they need to transition into a new medium. ‘Cause it’s not exactly the same thing, to write for the stage as it is to write for purely audio.
Iyvon: Right, it’s so not, and it's something that I’ve definitely learned over the last five years of doing Parsnip. And so I really wanted to come and have a group that is essentially on an even playing field. None of them are really audio writers, and that’s fine. They each have their own skills and their own voices. We know the horror play is so exciting for me because they each, each of these amazing writers, they all have their own interesting view points in the way they approach playwriting but for them to do something collaboratively on something that’s horror, which is also something in theatre that’s very rare, is horror plays. There’re not a lot of horror plays and so I think there’s something really cool about four queer women coming together to write a four-part horror play, and that’s so exciting to me.
Tamara: I think that that genre also fits really well with audio because horror is so associated with a soundscape. And what that does to us physically is really powerful. I spoke to Andrew about his play I Wanna Fuck Like Romeo and Juliet and Parsnip featured that play in 2018, I think it was early 2018.
Iyvon: Mhm (affirmative).
Tamara: He had so many wonderful things to say about that experience and the support that it gave him as a playwright. I wanted to check in with you and see if you had anything to say that piece specifically and working with him
Iyvon: I love that play so, so much. Andrew submitted that play and it was like thirty pages of a draft, but there was something so beautiful and magical about it. Usually someone submits thirty pages of a draft and I’m like What is this, what’s happening? But there was something… and that was before I had like, a little bit more stricter guidelines, but there was something so beautiful and magical about that play and what he wanted to do with it. Up until that moment I felt like had not seen a lot of queer love stories. I had not seen them, I had not heard them, and to have it reimagined with Cupid and Valentine, and just also this suspense of despondency of love, and also there’s this character Betty who feels like she may never fall in love. It felt like this was such a universal yet epic play, and I’m so thrilled that that play is coming to life and that people will be able to witness the magic that Andrew created. Really, it was just thirty pages of a draft and it was beautiful. It was already beautiful.
Tamara: Yeah, it's a wonderfully powerful play. I enjoyed listening to it so much.
Iyvon: It’s just a brave story, and Andrew has been an amazing collaborator. He’s helped read for Parsnip in our submission cycle. He knows my wide range of taste and also the type of people I want to work and collaborate with. And Blayze, his director, was also a resident director for a Parsnip for some time. So she also knew how best to direct a play for audio in that sense, and so that also gave it a heightened, really fleshed out version of itself that I should’ve known Andrew would pull through, but I didn’t expect it to be so, so amazingly fleshed out as it was for audio. As he got it to be for our recording date.
Tamara: He did a really interesting thing in that it was a stage play, but he wrote it to be heard. In the way that the stage directions were chosen and handled and the information that was given to the audience. It was clearly something that you could only really fully experience if you saw it as a live theatre event, but I could access it through me ears and I still found it to be really powerful. So kudos to him, to the director, to the actors, and to everyone for making that piece. It felt really complete.
Iyvon: Yes, it did thank you. I rave about the play to everyone so I’m just really excited it’s coming out. It’s being produced again in New York, so I can actually see it. I think this will be the first Parsnip play that I’ll be able to see that has been produced. We’ve had a few get produced around the country, but I haven’t been able to travel for them.
Tamara: I can’t imagine how you are as productive as you are because The Parsnip Ship, I imagine, is an enormous amount of work, and then you’re doing a lot of other tings that you’re doing as well. So how are you doing that?
Iyvon: Well I have a really awesome Parsnip team. That really helps to have people you can just trust to do the things. It’s a lot of communication and a lot of rolling with the punches, I start my day being like This is my day: I’m gonna do this and this and this and forty percent of the time it works out the way I have wanted my day to work out. Yeah, I work in many jobs in which I’m producing, so I think that helps. It makes it a little stressful sometimes, when all the things happen at once, as they will in April, so that’s gonna be fun. But in general, it’s nice that a lot of my work can be mobile and it’s also like, a lot of people meetings, is also the thing. A lot of meeting and once you’re facing the people, and a lot of communication, and a lot of Google Calendar and a lot of writing things down.
Tamara: Yes god bless Google Calendar. Thank you.
Iyvon: Yes. Yes.
Tamara: Is there anything else you would like to talk about before we wrap up?
Iyvon: Just that Parsnip is always growing. We love people to talk about us and to use us as a resource. We have so many great plays and playwrights that really run the gamut of intersectionality and diversity that are continuously overlooked by American Theatre. We all know why, but we can resist it by making sure that we share stories that are accessible by people who are not of power, or in power yet, and that’s really important. So thank you for highlighting Parsnip and what we do.
Tamara: Thank you so much. I appreciate this conversation.
Tamara: And now for Part Two with Andrew Rincón. Andrew Rincón is a queer Colombian American playwright based in New York City. His plays have been developed with Rising Circle Theatre Collective, INTAR, The Austin Latino New Play Festival, The Immoralists Theatre Company, Porkfilled Productions, Out Front Productions, and The 24 Hour Plays. He was a member of Ink Tink Lab for Playwrights of Color and the 2017 Fornés Playwriting Workshop. He is a winner of the 2018 Chesley Bumbalo Grant for writers of Gay and Lesbian Theatre, a Dramatists Guild Fellow, and a MacDowell Colony Fellow. He is a company member of Unit 52 at INTAR the New York City Latinx Playwrights Circle. Andrew spoke to me from the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire about his play I Wanna Fuck Like Romeo and Juliet which was featured on The Parsnip Ship in May of 2018. We talked about his experience with Parsnip and how that figured into his creative process writing for audio, the value of readings and recordings for playwrights, and much more. Enjoy Part Two with Andrew.
Hi Andrew, thank you so much for this conversation today.
Andrew Rincón: Thank you for having me.
Tamara: So your piece I Wanna Fuck Like Romeo and Juliet was featured on The Parsnip Ship. How did The Parsnip Ship cross your radar and why did you submit your play?
Andrew: So I had a couple like, friends and colleagues who have worked with Iyvon and Parsnip. Playwrights that I really admire like Brian Otaño and Keelay Gipson. So it was kind of on my radar that way and so when they were looking for submissions, I Wanna Fuck Like Romeo and Juliet was at like a one act point and it was a very different kind of a play, and I knew I wanted to keep working on it so I thought, I kind of pitched to Iyvon as, Here is the draft of this play and up until 2017 I will be writing it and working on it and working on a full length and whatnot. Yeah, so I heard about ebbs and flows in the community about Iyvon and what they were doing and I had listened to some and really liked what I heard.
Tamara: You started with a one act play and you developed it into a full length piece for the reading on The Parsnip Ship.
Andrew: Mhm (affirmative).
Tamara: How did you prepare your play for audio? Like what did that shift do for you as a playwright?
Andrew: Yeah, in mean, my experience with Parsnip was I think kind of unique to a lot of the playwrights, at least that were in my season, and I think from what I’ve understood about seasons after us. Generally people came in with a play that’s been either workshopped or they’ve heard aloud before, and so I had a different kind of pitch in terms of like… it unlocked something really incredibly in my life, knowing that I was gonna, rather than prepping for like, a normal reading like, in a downtown space with music stands in front of an audience, I was like Oh, I’m getting to have a thing, and will just focus on listening. And so it was this really incredible experience and it really unlocked my creativity in a way that I don’t think I quite ever had before. And I’ve told this to Iyvon many times and I think the success of my episode and everything was due to this, but it really unlocked, I think... it was an opportunity that really pushed me to be more the writer I wanted to be, because I was prepping for audio rather than… and I wan’t constrained by the limits of what theatre can be. I think most playwrights sometimes have to wrestle with that devil on my shoulder just like This is producible, and Most opportunities are for less than five actors, and Most opportunities are about producibility, so I was able to write this piece that moves from outer space, to Hackensack, to spiritual realms, to magic, to realism to… and everything in between. So it really unlocked something for me in writing through that lens.
Tamara: I feel like you took so many risks with this piece, which I loved by the way, I think it’s beautiful. So the content, I feel like, is beautifully vulnerable and expansive and inspiring, which is it’s own risk, but you also took risks, as you mentioned, with some of these design elements, and as I was listening I was thinking about how a team might actually stage this as a live theatre piece and I can’t wait to find out because…
Andrew: Yeah, you and me both, yeah. I think that was the thing I think I had… I think what the platform that Iyvon gave me and trusting me… you know Iyvon didn’t like… Iyvon checked in with me… like I found out I got into Parsnip the June before that February, right? And Iyvon was just like, Great I’ll see you in February and gave me the space and time to really sit with that and let myself risk in a really exciting way. And I think because I didn’t have to worry about all of these limits of how this was gonna get done, because it was gonna get done either way because we're just listening to it, it really let me be as vulnerable and honest as I wanted to be, which I think is why, you know… I have other plays, but I Wanna Fuck is really the play that has done the most for my career as a playwright, I think, just because people responded to the honesty, if that makes sense, in it? Like, Oh that’s him, I think no one else could write that. I didn’t event think I was, at the moment, thinking about it being a risk, I think I was just like, Iyvon gave me the space and time to be myself. If that makes sense.
Tamara: What has happened to the piece since the reading on The Parsnip Ship? You have an actual production coming up is that, right?
Andrew: Yeah, yeah, in May. It’s gonna be my kind of, as people like to shout in my face a lot, it’s gonna be my New York premier with reviews and a full production and a full run at the Flea Theatre downtown. Yeah, the play’s... it got a lot of views I think, and this will be something that Iyvon can correct me on if it’s not, but I think its the most downloaded episode?
Tamara: Mhm (affirmative).
Andrew: To be honest I think that’s all just… the name kind of pops, in a pile. I Wanna Fuck Like Romeo and Juliet sounds like a weird thing. And it’s had a lot of readings around the country and I’m now prepping for the production. I’m actually right here at a residency at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire, and I’m actually working on rewrites for the play right now in prep for the production.
Tamara: First of all, the title is amazing.
Andrew: [Laughing] Thank you.
Tamara: I mean marketing is a little bit sticky, but it’s totally worth it, because every playwright wants to have a title like that. I mean it’s like, boom, right in your face, love it.
Tamara: So, as a playwright, can you just talk about the value of having your piece read in front of an audience? So part of the question is, alright, great it’s wonderful to have a reading in front of a live audience, but it’s also great to have a reading in a podcast form that can go out to the world.
Tamara: So, can you talk a little bit about how readings fit into our development as playwrights and their value?
Andrew: Yeah, you know and that’s just, I think there’s some really incredible things with the, kind of, the readings circuit that playwrights go on, but it’s really indicative of that kind of development hell that emerging playwrights get into. You know a play will have… like I Wanna Fuck at this point has had like… it’s about to have another one in March in LA, so it’s about to have like six readings at professional and non professional theatre around the country. The readings for, I think, emerging playwrights, especially at my level, are always invariably attached to any kind of development opportunity, and sometimes it doesn’t really lead to anything else. In terms of what Iyvon was doing with this, in terms of having a reading also in front of a live audience and still get that…
I mean we’re not playwrights for the money right? We’re playwrights ‘cause we kind of like that electricity of a live performance, but also the gift of having something that’s done… and it’s different than a radio drama, which is what I like about Parsnip, like they’re just giving us a product almost. Like I was able to, when I started pitching myself to artistic directors around the country and sending my work out, in things, I could always attach the podcast to the thing, and it gave a platform. Especially when Parsnip moved to Spotify and things like that, it really gave a platform for like, sending the work out in a way that, normally, that development hell doesn’t really sort of allow, right? If I talked to you as a producer, I could be like Yeah it’s had six readings but that doesn’t really tell you much about how the play lives off the page, which is the kind of trap that a lot of playwrights get into. And I feel like with this play, for example, sometimes I think people get really intimidated by all the outrageousness of the world. When you hear in the podcast and you hear the way the audience kind of leans into it, I think it shows you that, oh, this is really meant for the stage, this isn’t anything but.
And I think also, and this is kind of selfish but, Parsnip, having that recorded thing was such a beautiful moment because as a playwright it’s kind of very ephemeral you know? It was this great thing like, my family, you know, I have family in South America and Florida, it’s very far from New York, and we don’t always have the resources just to come up here no matter what, particularly just for a reading here or there. And so it was really great to be able to just send my podcast to people who meant something to me.
Tamara: Mhm (affirmative).
Andrew: I think that having it recorded just really broke that routine of a reading, another reading, another reading, you know, fifty people see it here, thirty people see it here, ten people, five people see it, and the other two. I could really share it with the world in a way that I’m not normally allowed.
Tamara: I also think there’s something to be said for having some proof. Like you can share it with a producer and say, you wouldn’t say it like this, but say “Look! People liked this! Do you hear them laughing? Do you hear them making these sounds?”
Andrew: Yeah, I totally agree it’s like, so I’ve been listening to the podcast a lot while I’ve been rewriting, so that’s actually another thing that I’ve just discovered while I’m here. I gotta be honest with you that I listen to the podcast all the time and it feels like this weird self-masturbatory thing when I do it but, what’s really great is because… that night was really magical, and I think Iyvon can support me in that my specific night of recording was so beautiful and there was an energy in the room and that podcast really captured that. So even in my worst moments… and the actors I got for my podcast were unbelievable, like incredible actors. So they really leaned into the, just having fun and the vocal quality of it. I was also bringing in pages in on like, the last rehearsal with them, so they were also really excited at really hot off the presses new work.
Tamara: Mhm (affirmative).
Andrew: Just in hearing it in rewrites, when I’m rewriting, like I was just working on the third scene rewrites, and I was listening to it as it was happening and I remembered, Oh right, the audience really responded to that! Or like Oh, this joke didn’t really quite land, or like, Ooh, the silence or like people leaning in and humming with some things. All really literally palpable cause I can hear it on the podcast. It’s like so helpful. I wish every play had a professional recording, like I need it. It’s really great.
Tamara: Yeah, because sometimes get so close to the work or tired of certain jokes and you just forget that for other people this is fresh, and they might respond to it but we’re just bored with what we’ve been doing.
Andrew: Yeah, or like when we’re doing rewrites it just looks like, I fucking hate this bastard already. It’s like a child that won’t behave, but I remember with the podcast it’s like Oh people like this child.
Tamara: Right right. and I also really appreciate that she has interviews with the playwrights at the conclusion. It’s a nice way to get to know you but also a reminder that an actual real person made this.
Andrew: Yeah, yeah. I remember being also, I mean, like all playwrights, I was like shitting myself, like right before. And Iyvon can tell you. I mean, you can hear it in the podcast in the begging when I talk to them like nervous as all hell. But I think what was great is Iyvon also did such a good job of just talking. And Iyvon’s such a real person, which is what I appreciate. Like whenever I see Iyvon it’s always like seeing a cousin or something. So, she just really let me be myself. And I think in hearing the way I talk and I talk about the work at the end, it sounds like I Wanna Fuck, it sounds like the person that wrote that. At least I think it does. I think it sounds like to me, when I listen to that part. And sometimes, I gotta be honest, sometimes the interview part is hard to listen to. For a lot of reasons but it’s also like, I don’t know, hearing your own voice is… and then I also, Keren Abreu who did the music along with Chris Peters on the guitar for that, it’s just… like I just saw the two of them at Rockwood Music Hall. Their kind of music is just incredible, so I also just love listening to Keren and Chris play and sing and play in it. It’s just, it gives such a really cool dimension to this idea of what a reading can and should be, you know?
Tamara: Yes, I agree, all three of those components, the reading, the music, and the interview. It just makes for a wonderful evening with artists.
Andrew: Yeah. I mean like how do you, as someone that sees also readings in person, how does it feel comparatively? When you listen to an episode of The Parsnip Ship? Whether it’s mine or not, like does it just feel so different?
Tamara: Well I feel like I can listen in a different way, because I feel like when I am at a reading as a live person, sometimes I feel like there’s an extra layer of being an audience performer. Which can be wonderful, you know, you want to lean into the piece for the playwright and the actors and all of that, but sometimes that can get in the way of me actually listening to the piece. And I also like that I can re-listen to the things that I’ve missed, because that to me is always, you know, there are always magical moments in the theatre that I will remember forever, but they are really ephemeral, and I wanna listen again and I wanna feel that thing again.
Andrew: Oh, that’s great, yeah. I totally hear you. Audience, performative audience. Yeah, that’s definitely a big… for sure.
Tamara: And I mean, that might be a thing that’s just about me and that’s kind of weird, but I think from a playwright’s perspective, having that collateral, having that proof is vital and that all playwrights should just be able to have that. It’s such a gift.
Andrew: Yeah, for sure. Absolutely.
Tamara: Do you have anything else that you would like to share, either about where you want to take this play, or about The Parsnip Ship, or anything we haven’t covered related to this experience?
Andrew: You know, in terms of where I wanna take this play… I don’t know know I’m still kind of deciding, I think because it’s having such a big moment, you know. I Wanna Fuck has been… it brought me closer to the artist I want to be, it brought me closer to the writer I hope to be. I think more than anything, I mean, yes, all the things we’ve been saying about the great platform of hearing a reading again, just literally the fun of doing it and the exposure that it gave me, but I think more than anything we can… you know we’re both, you and I are both, and Iyvon as well, we’re all in this place of trying to make art our career and our career our art. And what I Wanna Fuck did for me as a play, and I really could not have gotten here, I could not have gotten this award for this production without Iyvon and Parsnip, but more than all the opportunities that I Wanna Fuck has come and hopefully that it will continue to have, and maybe a life after this production in New York, and after we see what happens but, more than anything it just… this opportunity with Parsnip and Iyvon just let me, I don’t know, figure myself out as an artist. And it reminded me of why I love to write and that I’m good at it and that I have my own point of view. And I think it’s like this gift that keeps on giving. People here at MacDowell with me are asking a lot of questions about I Wanna Fuck and just, 'cause when I think of my body of work now, I think of that as like the play that is most me. I don’t know, I’m just really grateful that Iyvon is also about the art and she just gave me the opportunity to discover something about myself as a playwright, like she didn’t do it for me she just gave me the platform, which I think all great producers do. Yeah, I just can’t speak highly enough about her or the podcast, and Parsnip. I guess that’s all I would add.
Tamara: Wonderful. Well, thank you so much for your work, which again, I just think is brilliant, and I can’t wait to read some of your other pieces as well, but I wish you great and wonderful success this year and beyond.
Andrew: Yeah, thank you so much Tamara. This has been lovely to talk about everything.
If you would like to continue today's conversation, please visit howlround.com and follow HowlRound and Artist Soapbox on Twitter and Facebook. A big thank you to the staff at HowlRound who make this show possible. Our music is Spring Idle by Penny Miles. Check out the show notes for links and for more information. Thank you.