Monday, August 1, 2016
Spotlight On...Erin Breznitsky
Hometown: Scotch Plains, NJ
Education: BA Writing, Susquehanna University; MFA Theatre Sarah Lawrence College
Favorite Credits: It's so hard to play favorites! The first-ever workshop production of my play R plus J was directed by Roxy MtJoy in the open atrium of an art building, which was very cool. And there was something really special about my first FringeNYC experience in 2013 with The Kitchen Table Plays. I had just gotten my Master's the year prior, and I got to collaborate with one of my favorite directors, Tamara Winters—it felt like a wonderful welcome into the NYC theatre community.
Why theater?: Because it's one of the few places where you can have a live, shared intimate experience. There's nothing better than sitting in a dark room with a bunch of strangers for two hours and being transported by a story that's happening right in front of you...in a way that's completely unique and irreplaceable because of you and those other strangers. I love the immediacy of it, and the unpredictability—the curtain comes down and tomorrow's performance is a whole new ballgame. That's terrifying and thrilling all at once.
Tell us about Bodies of Water: Three friends meet up for one last Labor Day weekend in the island shore house where they spent all their childhood summers. The local media is predicting the end of the world, and while the group sits on the back porch overlooking the bay, they try to decide which they should be more afraid of: the thunderstorm approaching from the mainland, the creatures of legend lurking under the water's surface, or the secrets they've been keeping from each other. It's about fear of the unknown, navigating the childhood friendships that carry over into adulthood, and trying to break free of the identities other people assign us. A relationship drama with a touch of mysticism.
What inspired you to write Bodies of Water?: I've been drawn to the water from a very young age, so I was really interested in exploring the physical pull of that. The setting and some of the events are very loosely inspired by an actual house on the Jersey shore where I spent a weekend a few years ago (although I'm happy to report that my experience was much less dramatic than the one in the play!) Bodies of Water actually started as a 10-minute piece for New York Madness in October of 2014, under the assigned theme “Worst Summer Ever.” I felt like there was more there that I wanted to dive into, so I took the basic ideas and reshaped it into the full-length play it is now.
What kind of theater speaks to you? What or who inspires you as an artist?: I love theatre that has a little bit of magic in it. I think live performance gives us so many opportunities to break convention and form, so I respond most strongly to plays that could only be plays, rather than stories that would play out exactly the same in film or TV. Being surprised and challenged by something I've never seen before on stage is what I hope for every time I walk into the theatre. There are so many contemporary playwrights that inspire me, and especially so much incredible work being generated by women: I really love Sarah Treem's writing. Paula Vogel, Lynn Nottage, Sarah Ruhl, Lauren Gunderson, Danai Gurira, Gina Femia...to name just a few.
If you could work with anyone you’ve yet to work with, who would it be?: Oh, so many! The collaborative process is one of the best parts of working in theatre—I really just want to work with smart, engaged, generous people who are just as excited about a given project as I am. Artists who are happy to be in the room.
What show have you recommended to your friends?: Besides the Hamilton in the room... There are some ongoing reading series that I always recommend people check out, like New York Madness, or Six Part Productions' Love Drunk, or Amios' Shotz. They're such cool opportunities to get familiar with new upcoming artists, and they're always great fun. And go see other FringeNYC shows! Open-minded, enthusiastic audiences are part of what makes the festival so exciting, and there's truly something for everyone. (But come see Bodies of Water first...)
Who would play you in a movie about yourself and what would it be called?: It would be called "Not a Morning Person", and I would be played by Bill Murray.
If you could go back in time and see any play or musical you missed, what would it be?: I'd love to see Shakespeare done during Shakespeare's time. (That's a cliché answer, but it's true.) And the original production of Angels In America—that must have been a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
What’s your biggest guilty pleasure?: I don't feel guilty about any of my pleasures. :)
If you weren’t working in theater, you would be _____?: Still writing, probably, in any format people would consume. Or running a bakery that sells Christmas cookies all year round.
What’s up next?: Well, hopefully this is only the beginning for Bodies of Water! My previous FringeNYC piece, The Kitchen Table Plays, is receiving a reading at HRC Showcase Theatre in Hudson, NY, on November 19. I also finished another play last year that I've been dying to do something with. It centers around the General Slocum disaster of 1904 and it's by far the most ambitious thing I've ever written, so I'm really hopeful that it finds the right home soon.
For more on Bodies of Water, visit www.bodiesofwaternyc.com and https://www.facebook.com/bodiesofwaternyc. For more on Erin, visit www.erinbreznitsky.com