Hometown: Deposit, New York
We’re less than a month away from welcoming the winners of the National Playwriting Competition to NYC for the Young Playwrights Conference!
This week, we’re introducing you to Maddie Lobdell. Her play, Ms. Mayfield’s Aquarium, is a subtle, complex portrait of friendship as three teenagers spend the summer navigating difficult family situations and forming a bond with a lonely man.
How did you start writing plays?
I wasn’t into theater that much, but a couple years ago I really fell in love with musical theater, and for a couple of years I thought I wanted to direct. When I was younger I really loved writing as well. So one night I just sat down and started writing and that was that, I guess.
Was Ms. Mayfield’s Aquarium something that happened spontaneously or was it inspired by something in particular?
I think it was pretty spontaneous. But for a while I thought about writing something based on two of my cousins, who are also two of my best friends. When I started writing this, I realized I wanted a lot of these characters to be like them – I wanted it to be like their lives if they had different experiences and didn’t have the good things they have now – but to have the same personalities as them.
It’s a very empathetic play; it’s really big-hearted toward all of its characters. Has the play been changing at all since you sent it to us?
Yeah. After I sent it in, I realized my format wasn’t really that great, so I worked on that a lot. I added a little bit more of the characters’ parents, and a little bit more what happens at the very end and how it wraps up.
Did you find yourself connecting more to the younger characters than you did to the parents?
Yeah, I did, definitely.
It’s good to recognize that and work on it! Is that something you’ve been talking to your dramaturg, Rachel Bonds, about?
Yeah. It was really cool talking to her because she told me that she could not write like me when she was fifteen which is crazy because I haven’t written anything else before. And she mentioned that: that I might want to put a little bit more in with the parents. So, I worked on that because I really wanted to make sure they were a part of it somehow. I’m excited about writing more about the parents, because I kind of made the parents look like really bad people, I think, and I didn’t really want them to seem like that. So I’m excited to make them seem like they have reasons for the way they’re acting. I’m excited to make them look like better people. I don’t think I write bad characters. I write troubled characters because I want them to be real. I want each character to have flaws and strengths.
I don’t think they come across as bad people. I think they come across as troubled, and flawed, definitely, but it doesn’t seem like you’re trying to make them villains or anything like that. So, are there any writers that are inspiring to you?
What really inspired me was: my sister and I had been watching all of the films of Wes Anderson. We had watched one called The Life Aquatic. And right after we finished watching it, I said ‘I have to write.’ I don’t know what that movie did but it made me realize that I had to write. I think I took a lot of inspiration from those movies and they made me realize that this is how I want to write and this is how I want my characters to be.
Who are some of your other favorite filmmakers?
Right now I am very interested in the Coen brothers. I love the darker sense of humor in what they do. I’m also influenced by comedy writers. For a long time I have admired female comedy writers like Mindy Kaling, Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. They create very funny, relatable female characters and I try to do that.
Are you looking forward to the Conference?
Yeah, I can’t wait. I’m really excited to see how it goes, and I look to learn a lot from it, because I don’t know a lot now about putting on a play. So I’m really excited about that.
We are too!
Maddie Lobdell will be joining seven other playwrights at the 2015 Young Playwrights Conference in New York City, January 7-15. We will be inviting members of the Young Playwrights family (like you!) to the readings of these talented young writers.
The deadline for writers in the United States aged 18 and under to submit a play to our 2015 competition is January 2nd.