Hometown: Santa Barbara, CA
This past week I interviewed Tatjana Mutinelli, another winner in our 2011 Young Playwrights Inc. National Playwriting Competition.
My first question is actually a pretty simple one: How do you pronounce your name correctly?
Oh, it’s Tatjana (Tat tee ahna) Mutinelli (Meau tin elli).
Got it. Do people often mispronounce your name? What are some of the ways in which that has gone wrong?
Yeah, I guess the most common is “Tat Jana”, to pronounce the J like a soft G. And I have actually gotten “Tat Hana” once as well, because I live in Southern California and in Spanish they pronounce the J like an H.
So you are from California and you are currently attending school there now?
Yes, in Santa Barbara. I am at a small Christian Liberal arts college called Westmont.
And I have to ask because I am calling from a rather raw New York City climate right now: What is the weather like in California?
Right now, it feels like 65 degrees, very sunny and nice here.
I am officially jealous. I thought I might be.
Most people are.
I have to admit, talking about your play in this interview is a bit of a challenge because there is a big reveal at the end. I wanted to ask you, what can we say about Murphy’s Lawwithout being a spoiler?
Well, I guess an interesting fact about it is that it has not been a spoiler for everyone who has seen it. There have been a few readings of this play. One in my high school in a playwriting class where I wrote the play, and afterwards I asked people when they figured out what was really going on and there were people who knew it from the very first scene and people who didn’t figure it out until the very end. There were similar responses when it was performed at the Rubicon Theater in Ventura [California]. So that is one of the things that I really like about this play is that the big reveal isn’t necessarily at the end its whenever the audience members realize it is.
Maybe we should leave it at that for those who might read this and also come to see your play. Would you be able to share what your inspiration was for writing Murphy’s Law?
It all came from…I spent Christmas in Berlin with my family—my mother is from Germany—and we were there for about two weeks. As we were driving through Berlin I just saw two people standing on a street corner and the way they were looking at each other, the relationship between George and Murphy just came to my mind and the whole play came from the look they were giving each other. It’s kind of strange, isn’t it?
No, I think that’s great. It is a question I have been asking playwrights not only as part of these interviews but also when I am working as a dramaturg, and inspiration can come from so many different places.
Right! Thank you!
So you mentioned that this play has had readings before, so it sounds like you have some experience as a playwright. When did you start writing plays?
Sophomore year of high school I was in a playwriting class, and that is when I wrote Murphy’s Law, but I’ve been a writer for most of my life, since kindergarten, if you can believe it. I love writing stories…and I feel like that is a big part of my calling in life: to tell stories, whether that be through plays or comic books or novels, short stories. I love to write, so I took the playwriting class and then I took the same class again my senior year and wrote another one-act.
So you write in other forms as well?
I do… I am a huge nerd—let’s just put that out there—I am a big geek and I am writing a sci-fi series in novel format and I’ve drawn some sci-fi comics, and written some short stories. I think science fiction/action adventure is my preferred genre but within those genres the relationships are always what is most important to me and that is what Murphy’s Law is about too. It’s all about the relationship.
You have this draw towards science fiction and comics, so who are your theatrical superheroes? Which writers to you admire?
I think most of my inspiration has come from writers who are not theater writers like C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien. When I was little I liked Avi. I don’t know if you have heard of him but he writes children’s books and they are really good. Kind of out there. He had an effect on me.
I’d like to talk more about your identity as a writer. Can you think of a defining moment that made you into the writer you are today?
My senior year I mentioned that I did playwriting again, and part of the class was we had our one-acts read by professional actors and done by professional directors at the Rubicon Theater in Ventura, which is about 45 minutes south of here. This time we had a panel of T.V. writers and scriptwriters for theater and they talked about what it was like to be a writer and to have that kind of career. Just listening to what they said it was impressed upon me that writing is my calling because I had been going back and forth and I had been dabbling in cartoons and those sorts of things. But it really impressed upon me that writing is powerful and that it is very much a part of who I am and what I am supposed to do here. I think it was a defining moment because it renewed and affirmed that calling to me.
What else can you tell us to help get to know you?
Writing is definitely going to be part of my future. I hope to write all my life long but right now I am trying to get my degree in psychology so that I can counsel veterans with PTSD. So that is my goal right now and we will see where I end up. And I am a Christian, I am at a Christian college. And I am working on my sci-fi book.
I can’t wait to get to meet you in person and introduce you to the other playwrights. Thank you for taking the time to speak with me.
With the approaching holiday we are especially thankful for the opportunity to work with Tatjana and all of the young writers who submit their work to Young Playwrights Inc. Next we will be interviewing winning playwright Josh Brown from Denver, Colorado.
Tatjana Mutinelli will be joining seven other playwrights at the 2012 Young Playwrights Conference in New York City, January 4-12. This year we will be inviting members of the Young Playwrights Family (like you!) to the readings of these talented young writers. If you are interested in attending the readings contact us at reservations[at]youngplaywrights.org.
The deadline for writers in the United States 18 and under to submit a play to our 2012 competition is January 2nd.
Until next week!
Elizabeth Bojsza, Literary Manager