, a native New Yorker, has had her plays produced/workshopped in New York and Los Angeles with Naked Angels, NY Stage & Film, PSNBC, Dixon Place, The Culture Project, NY Fringe Festival and Home for Contemporary Arts. Her full-length play, The Something-Nothing
was recently workshopped at
the Lounge Theatre with the Mineral Theatre Co. and was a semi-finalist in the Attic Theatre’s National One-Act Competition. Her newest play, Admissions
was a semi-finalist in Reverie Productions, ‘2008 Next Generation Playwriting Contest’ and was workshopped at NY Stage & Film and Naked Angels with John Pankow. Her one-woman show, Coke-Free J.A.P.,
was performed in the NYC Fringe Festival and received the “Best of Fringe award” from Backstage
. It premiered in LA and had a four-month, sold-out run at the McCadden Theatre with director, Craig Carlisle. She has written and produced two short films, “Cranky Puss” (directed by Charlie Stratton) and “The Longest Nap” (directed by Adrian Fulle). Her newest play, Sugar Daddy
, is scheduled to premiere summer 2010 in the inaugural season of the Hollywood Fringe Festival. She currently lives in Los Angeles and teaches creative writing at Los Angeles Community College. She graduated with a B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania.
Fielding Eldow interview, with Joshua Fardon
How much of this play is autobiographical?
I was in a private writing group in New York and one of the guys was obsessed with Rilke and he gave me a copy of Love and Other Difficulties. I thought, “Oh, my God, he’s different than any man I’ve ever been with…he’s given me Rilke!” We had one kiss and then we had an email relationship. For two years. He lived six blocks away. He was instrumental to me in finding my voice. I wrote completely unfettered, uncensored email letters for two years. I have a book.
He compiled them as a present for me. So that’s the Liza-Sam connection. It was just such a specific, egregious time in my life and it made me start thinking about intimacy in the electronic age and how we develop a quick false intimacy through email.
It’s almost like Liza and Sam don’t know how to talk to each other outside of emails. They speak at cross purposes to each other.
Yes. And I think 27 is the narcissist’s age. Whatever you say has a direct correlation and effect on what I’m going to do or what I have done. These are beautiful characters and they’re all part of me, but they’re also mired in their own mishegas, so they’re not as emotionally generous as they could be.
In my opinion, the least generous character is Sam, who, to me, is a fucking dickhead. You’ve really nailed a personality I’ve encountered several times in life but never seen quite so accurately depicted onstage.
Men have said that to me and that’s such a compliment.
It’s that weird passive-aggressive behavior – the self-absorption, suddenly changing the subject, acting hot then cold…
Everyone can relate to the hot/cold thing. It was a hallmark in my twenties that someone would call me at 3:00 for a 3:25 movie and I would feel so special that they were just calling me. It’s like someone who makes themselves out to be a movie star or some big catch…
Or a big poet. It’s like Sam’s playing at being a poet without actually being one.
“Something Nothing” is used to describe Sam, but it also seems to perfectly describe the relationship between Sam and Liza.
Or all of them. I think they’re all unavailable to themselves. They’re still in the process of discovering. Liza holds everything close to the vest. She’s not really saying what she wants. She says she is desperate for a boyfriend but chooses the ones who always have their eye on the exit sign. And she has no lucidity or handle on the actual reality.
And what’s going on with it is right in front of her. But then there’s this fantasy of what she wants it to be.
I think that fantasies can be so much more seductive and compelling than actually saying “I’m sitting down at the Greek cafe on West Fourth Street.” And Liza’s absolutely not ready for a relationship, which is why she chose this distant unavailable poet. One of the emails I got from the guy in New York was a letter which a girl who was interested in him had sent to him. So my email was a letter from another woman. He wanted my advice.
That’s wrong on so many levels.
That’s like, email abuse! So, I’m very interested how we can seduce and hurt over a keyboard.
And Sam does these things that are so abusive with just one line. Like when he says “You remind me of my third girlfriend” to Liza right after they kiss.
He knows she’s ensnared in the trap. The abuser always preys on the person who’s not going to say “What the fuck is that?” They specifically target the person who says “Okay, I’m going to pretend like that never happened.” And the characters in this play want desperately to get out of themselves. Maybe some more than others. But, Luna is very much in her body and having lots of sex and very in touch with herself in a way.
There’s an interesting contrast between Luna and Sam. Sam is this ethereal poet-man, whereas Luna is very much about flesh, sex, realism, pragmatism…
…carnivorous, hedonistic… she is the id of the play if we were to ask Freud.
And you’ve placed Liza in between them. In the end, she rejects both of them.
Luna and Sam are diametrically opposed. I remember putting them together because I was fascinated by what they would do if they were together. And the connectors are sex and wanting to strike back at Liza.
Sam seems to be sexually into Luna, because she’s unavailable to him.
Yes, and forgive me, but I think that in general guys are into bitchy self-actualized women, and Liza seems like a nervous little ten year-old. So Sam likes that Luna’s not as prissy or shut down. I don’t think Sam’s ever actually met anyone like that.
Someone who would stand up to him.
He’s a bullshitter. A lot of people can hide behind Neruda and Rilke, but after a while it’s like, “Dude, can we just talk?”
Luna talks to audience, which is the only time the fourth wall is broken, but it totally flows. It almost seems like her personality’s too big to be contained by the play.
I struggled with that. I’m glad now because I think the device does work. To me, Luna has superpowers. Originally, I modeled her off of the Stage Manager in Our Town. I wanted her to be a lesbian Stage Manager. And then I felt that she’s so larger than life. She’s like, I want you all to suck me and eat me and drink me. It’s like she wants the whole audience. She feeds on that. It’s not so much that she wants to be admired, it’s more like a Gatsby thing - she wants to people to think she’s the most fabulous person who ever lived.
Do you write from an outline or do you let the characters guide you?
I’m not really an outline girl. I learned about playwriting from Brooke Berman. She’s very much about making writing a visceral experience. And Maria Irene Fornes talks about asking “where are my characters taking me?” For me, it’s a deeply spiritual experience to write. I impose my will on so many other aspects of my life, but I really try not to do it in my writing. I let the characters speak to me. What usually happens is I write a tiny one-act, then I take it to someone who’ll say “keep going with it.” But I’ve also learned to really streamline my interfacing with the world and only give my plays to people I truly trust and respect. In terms of rewriting, I try not to get too clever for my own good or be too jokey. That’s what the last year or two has been about for me, about really learning how to tell a story and allowing the characters to breathe and have their own space.
How do you relinquish control when you write?
I’m a big over-writer: I’m verbose, I’m wordy. Then I give it to my trusted people and go back through it myself. And in live readings, I think when I get bored or a little listless when a monologue is going too far, it’s like the Universe is telling me it needs to be cut. The longer I’ve been writing, the more self-trust I’ve developed. And I think it all comes down to: the characters come before me. The story comes before me and my ego. Also, when I teach writing, I teach about the Element of Revenge. And a lot of my work is revenge-based, so I have to make sure it’s not self-indulgent in that realm…
What is the Element of Revenge?
Like, for example with this play. I got very hurt by that guy. And I thought, “I'm not going to let him get away with that. I’m gong to write a play about it. People are going to see his noxious transparencies, his towering ego built on feathers.” So this is my writerly theatrical indictment. However, I chose him, I woke up at 4 am checking my AOL but now I have a 300 page "book" which sits on my shelf. Revenge helps me get back on the spiritual plane. It’s a healthy channel of my anger. Better than cookies and Jack Daniels.
And it gives you a passionate reason to write.
Exactly. It makes me excited. And then I’m like “Oh my God, I’m so excited, I get to write again!” Because I really love my characters. Even Mr. Sensitive ponytail poet man.