Thursday, October 15, 2015

Spotlight On...Sofya Weitz

Name: Sofya Weitz

Hometown: Los Angeles, California

Education: MFA in Writing for the Screen & Stage from Northwestern University, BA from Loyola Marymount University

Favorite Credits: My commission with Steep Theatre in Chicago last year was such a blast and I had so much fun developing my play The Gleaming with them. They're great people and it was such an exciting experience. I also just participated in the Communal Spaces Garden Project where I was commissioned to write a new play for a specific community garden in New York City. It's a wonderful and important festival produced yearly by Lillian Meredith, and it was such a great welcome to the city.

Why theater?: I had a theatre professor in undergrad who said something along the lines of we're all just here cuz we want to hang out in a dirty black box room until 1 in the morning, drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, making a thing beautiful. I feel like that sums it up for me. You get to hang out with awesome, talented, creative and fun people late into the night, discussing things, running around, being weird, creating inside jokes and moments. It's also the most wonderful three dimensional art form and the ultimate collaboration. I get to write about people, act like people, direct people, and ultimately get to know everyone and tell stories while doing it, stories that will hopefully affect and challenge other people and audiences.

Tell us about LADY: LADY is a play loosely based on Countess Elizabeth Bathory, a powerful woman in the 1500s in Hungary who allegedly killed over 600 young girls and bathed in their blood to preserve her youth, making her the most prolific serial killer in history. My play take an anachronistic approach, looking at her last days with her two remaining servants. It's a power play, exploring the lengths we go to for beauty, sex and power, and really revolves around these three characters and the way they destroy and rebuild each other, with some blood in there, too, of course.

What inspired you to write LADY?: The first draft of this script sort of rushed out of me (luckily, since I only had 8 days to write it!) because at the time I was thinking a lot about female beauty standards and systemized sexism, now and in the past, and studying the "Culture Wars" of the 80s in an amazing theory class in Performance Studies at Northwestern. In many ways, it came out of an anger that had been mounting inside me, and a fascination with the historical character's life and end days, although it definitely deviates a lot. I had written some version of what ended up being the last 10 pages the year before for my theatre company in LA, when we were tasked to write a short play from a villain's perspective. I am intrigued by powerful, complicated women and the shift over time, and it made sense to me to write the pages leading up to her bizarre ending.

What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theatre that feels immediate, that takes risks and assumes the intelligence of its audience and characters. I love specificity and freshness, which doesn't always mean what's current. For instance, I love the Greeks. I saw Luis Alfaro's adaptation of Medea in LA last month and was so inspired by the fresh blood he pumped into that story, which I already loved on its own. Alternately, I just saw The Flick and am consistently impressed with Annie Baker's ability to challenge her audience's attention spans and make this magnificently beautiful piece of theatre in a collection of small but incredibly tragic moments. I crave authenticity when I see plays and I love theatre that uses all its elements to pull me out of my own mind and experience for a couple hours. Designers that are great at what they do as well as directors inspire me immensely. I'm very inspired by the professors/mentors in my program at Northwestern (Rebecca Gilman, Zayd Dohrn, Thomas Bradshaw, Brett Neveu). They're all making relentless, unapologetic, exciting, intelligent new work and passing their knowledge to emerging artists.

If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: There are plenty of people in theatre, but the person that came to mind immediately is David Lynch. I've been a lifelong fan (my mom listened to the soundtrack of "Twin Peaks" while she was in labor with me), and I find myself unconsciously inspired by him in almost everything I do. It would be a dream to work with him in any capacity.

What show have you recommended to your friends?: My professor from Northwestern and incredible playwright Thomas Bradshaw was commissioned by the Goodman Theatre in Chicago and wrote a brilliant play called Carlyle. We got to see a pre-production of it last year and I had the best time. It's harsh and outrageous and honestly one of the most hilarious plays I've ever seen and an entirely delightful experience. They're mounting it as a full production next April-May and I'm going to try my best to make it to Chicago to see it.

Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: I get Zooey Deschanel or Emily Blunt a lot, but I really want to say Rooney Mara for the bad ass cred (and she's just so completely amazing). Title? "She Had No Idea". Background: I wrote a full length mystery novel when I was 8 or 9 about a guy who travels from town to town and pushes his girlfriend in each town off a bridge. It started because my friend and I answered my mom's question: "What's your novel about?" And thus, the answer became the title. I felt similarly about this interview question.

If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I would love to see original productions of Harold Pinter's plays. I've loved his work for awhile, first as an actor actually. Acting in his plays is so exciting, and I aspire to give that gift of ever-changing power play to the actors in my works as well. I also would've loved to see the original Royal Court production of Sarah Kane's Blasted. What a thrilling, brutal experience that must've been.

What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I have a lot of guilty pleasure movies, but the first one that comes to mind is "Dirty Dancing: Havana Nights". I own it on DVD and my best friend and I rewatch it once every couple of years. It probably mostly has to do with my love for Diego Luna.

If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Writing short stories, poems, and novels or teaching writing? Do those count? If not, I'd probably go into psychology or...reviewing restaurants; something that would allow me to eat a lot of food around the world sounds perfect.

What’s up next?: I'm working on a short film written and directed by my boyfriend (Will Arbery, director of LADY) called "Your Resources", which is really exciting.