Hometown: New York, NY
We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving! December is here and that means we’re getting closer to welcoming eight wonderful writers to our National Conference. This week in our interview series, we’re introducing you to Sierra Blanco, who will be joining us next month!
Sierra’s play The Drill is a harrowing account of an elementary teacher’s attempt to keep her students calm throughout a lockdown drill… that may be more than just practice.
I thought I would start by asking how you started writing plays?
Well, I started because I had this acting teacher and every week she had us write monologues. That was the first year I had her and the next year we did dialogues. And I wrote this play that year called Too Many Rules, and I entered it in the David Letterman Worldwide Play Festival… and it did not win! And then the next year, driven by that failure, I decided that I was going to write a musical. So I wrote a musical called After I Caped Myself in Red. I did win and it got produced Off-Broadway with a couple of other plays. And then the next year I wrote The Drill and entered it in that contest; it won first place as Best Dramatic Play. And then I thought ‘what the heck’ and entered it in (Young Playwrights Inc.’s) NYC division… and won! Then I entered it (for this competition)… and here I am!
And here we are! So tell me a little bit about how The Drill came to be.
I first got the idea in a lockdown drill. I was having the drill and no one was being quiet. Everyone was like nudging each other and like doing noises and messing around. And my first thought was ‘they shouldn’t be doing that,’ and my second thought was ‘I wonder if there was a reason. I wonder if it would make a good play if there was a reason for the kids not to be quiet in a lockdown drill.’ And thus basically the idea was born!
Great! Can you tell me a little bit about your conversation with Morgan Jenness? I know she was really excited.
Well, I was too! It was nice. She had some great insights. She recommended a couple of movies that she thought would inspire me a little bit. One of them was The Birds by Alfred Hitchcock. It was fun! We both agreed that some of the things I would do would most likely come out of just seeing it because a lot of things look and seem different when there are people doing them than anything else.
And it’s such a physical play. It’s so much about being in the small space and how that affects people physically. Has the play been changing at all?
Yes it has!
In what ways?
Mainly, I’ve just been trying out different things and certain suggestions, and seeing if a character did the tiniest different thing, would it affect the whole play or would it affect just them.
And I know you’ve been writing other plays. Can you tell me what you’ve been working on since The Drill?
When I got the news that The Drill was a Finalist, I was already in the middle of writing another play called Slumber, which is about basically a bunch of kids… it’s sort of a reincarnation thing.
Well there’s sort of two parts. There’s a bunch of girls at a sleepover, chatting. And there’s a bunch of boys. And it’s both of their birthdays. And the girl is the reincarnated form of one of the boys.
Oh wow. I’m looking forward to reading it. So you mentioned before that you’d been acting in school. What have you been working on in terms of acting?
I recently did a play at BAM, in French, Six Characters in Search of an Author. Which I learned in French. I learned French over like three months, somehow. It was awesome. It’s cool to be in a play and see people showing things one way that seemed differently on the page.
What are you working on next?
I am writing a new musical. It is called We Have a Winner. It’s about an underage girl who wins the lottery and two incredibly dumb criminals who try to extort the money from her.
Sounds like a really funny story! Are you looking forward to Conference?
What are you most excited about?
I’m really excited about meeting all these people behind all these amazing stories. Also, just meeting my fellow playwrights!
We tend to get most excited about letting the writers become a team together. So we’re looking forward to that too!
Sierra Blanco 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.