Hometown: Wayne, PA
A journey started just about a year ago: eight young writers from around the country sent their plays to the 2014 Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition. Those plays were distributed to our team of readers, who wrote an evaluation for each of them. They moved on to be rigorously discussed by two separate committees. Once selected as winners, those eight writers were paired with professional dramaturgs and directors to explore and develop their work. And now they’ve traveled across to country to join us!
We are thrilled to start the Young Playwrights Conference, where the playwrights will see Broadway and Off Broadway shows, meet with artists like David Henry Hwang and Sarah Ruhl, and ultimately rehearse and present their plays at the Cherry Lane Theatre! You can reserve your tickets for the reading series here: http://www.youngplaywrights.org/attend-a-young-playwrights-inc-production/
And now for this year’s last installment of interviews with those eight wonderful writers.
Meet Emily Clark! Her play Road Runner is a poetic exploration of a mining town and those who pass through it, those who are trapped in it, and the mysterious hole growing larger at its center.
You’ve been submitting for at least two years now. How did you first hear about the competition?
I first heard about it through Philadelphia Young Playwrights. My teacher talked to me about submitting to the regional competition. Then, when I placed in that, the letter said ‘go ahead and submit to the (Young Playwrights Inc. National Competition).’ So I looked it up and I saw the website and I thought it was a great organization and competition. So I submitted last year and this year.
I like the people over at Philadelphia Young Playwrights – they’re really nice.
Yes, they are. And they have great criticism; I really appreciate when they write to you and critique. That was a big influence.
Your writing style is very compelling. Has there been an influence for your poetic, image-based writing style?
I really enjoy Gabriel García Márquez and his work with magical realism. My favorite book is One Hundred Years of Solitude. I love how you can have those very poetic images and beautiful, outlandish symbols – while also staying grounded in reality and adding to your own lifestyle. I think that’s one of the most fantastical and also beautiful ways to add both the unreal and the real together, by using those components to create a mix between the experience and what you want to experience.
So it’s somewhat of an expressionistic style. I can really see the real and the unreal inRoad Runner. It feels so gritty and so grounded in those characters’ economic and social reality, but then it’s so poetic with the hole growing in the middle of their community. Was there a particular inspiration for Road Runner?
Not really! I sort of just had this idea of people stuck in a place where they can’t move and they’re all just waiting for something to happen to them. And this young girl’s journey where she’s growing up and she doesn’t really know what she can do, she’s just stuck in this community that doesn’t go anywhere. And all of these symbols of trains and shoes and trying to get from one place to another. And it’s about her mental growth as well. And she keeps Danny, her brother, as one means of escaping this oppression, or she has to stay and grow up like the rest of them and be suffocated by this smoke that continues to grow around her. The town sort of represents hell. Then there’s Sly, who’s the gatekeeper of this town. She doesn’t see a way out unless she herself can move past her brother’s death and just say goodbye to everything she’s known and move forward.
It’s certainly moving when she really has to reconcile what that loss means to her. So you’ve been working on it the past few months. Has it been changing?
Yes, I find that rewriting is one of the hardest parts of writing in itself. But my dramaturg Emily Schwend has been really helpful. She told me a lot of really great criticism about fleshing out the characters’ motives, and also mentioning Danny earlier to create a more logical and more obvious manifestation of his loss. She also talked about the difficulties of writing stage directions and making them real as well as creating that imagery. So she’s been a great help to me. And I recently talked to my director Kim Kefgen on Friday about the play as well. And she really had some great creative input about finding and fleshing out the characters’ motivations. So I’m hoping to rewrite more, just to keep working on it.
You’ll definitely have an opportunity to do that at the Conference! Are you working on other writing projects at the moment?
I’m always trying to write new plays and work on some stories of some sort. I haven’t had a lot of time to write because it’s been the first year of college. But I was in this playwriting class where I got to be a reader, and I heard a lot of great ideas. It’s been interesting to hear other students’ work. I wrote a play a few months ago – a children’s work and it was interesting to try to tap into a younger audience while also creating a bridge to more adult themes.
I can see the kind of imagery you use being really compelling in children’s theater. Would you mind telling me what that one’s about?
Sure. I was trying to write about children’s literature; I incorporated it into this girl’s overall journey and how she tried to find herself. I was writing this for my school; they asked me to write a children’s play for the 5th grade. Which turned out not to really work out – it was too ambitious, they said. It tapped into different stories. I used Harold and the Purple Crayon, and Bridge to Terabithia, and The Jungle Book, and Owl and the Pussycat and all of this children’s literature, while also maintaining this one girl as she tries to find her sister through these different literary works and each one taught her a different lesson and she was moving forward to try to figure out her own place. It’s located in a time, in the 1920s, where there was the Women’s Movement, so she was looking to see if she wanted to take that normal woman’s role in society or find her own as a writer.
That sounds fascinating. Are you looking forward to the Conference?
I am definitely looking forward to the Conference. I can’t wait to meet all the playwrights and all the directors and everyone who has helped to make this happen. It’s been a real honor.
We’re honored to have you in the Conference!
Emily Clark is joining seven other playwrights at the Young Playwrights Conference in New York City, January 7-15, 2015. We hope to see you at Cherry Lane Theatre 0n January 12th, 13th, and 14th for our 7pm readings!