Cynthia Wands cross-examined:
1. How did you become a playwright? What brought you to theater?
I was a working actress for several years in San Francisco and Boston. As a child I loved going to see plays (a rare opportunity as my father was in the military and we moved frequently). I remember seeing the Scottish play when I was in junior high school in Northern Maine and it blew my mind.
2. What is your favorite play of yours? Why?
I used to think that Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” was one of my favorite plays, until I had to play Titania in a run for over 100 performances. I would be okay never seeing that play again. Now I tend to remember Christopher Fry’s “The Lady’s Not Burning” as a favorite, but I haven’t seen it in years – so it might be another old chestnut.
3. What is your favorite production of one of your plays? Why?
I had a reading of my script “The Lost Years” at the Dramatist Guild Footlight Series in Los Angeles that was really wonderful – the cast was very special.
4. What play by someone else has moved you the most and why?
I remember sobbing at “Rabbit Hole” because of the subject matter and the performances. It really gutted me.
5. Who is your favorite playwright? Why?
I like Wendy Wasserstein, and Tina Howe, but I find them dated, in my own conveyor belt of time. I also like Mary Zimmerman, but some of her writing feels thin and watery. Maybe it was the rain onstage.
6. How has your writing changed over the years?
I’m trying to stay away from the easy laughs.
7. What type of plays do you write? (Dramas, Comedies, Plays with Music, Musicals, Experimental, Avant-garde …) What draws you to it?
I write comedies that have a lot of drama in them.
8. Do you write any other literary forms? How does this affect/enhance your playwriting?
I’ve written screenplays, and two novels. They’ve informed my character research, although I have to say that my acting life informs a lot of my approach to conflict within a character’s reach.
9. Why did you become a blogger for LA FPI?
I read a few of the blogs on the LA FPI page and thought “Wow, these women are so honest about their writing and what they live with. I wish I could do that.” So I did.
10. What is your favorite blog posting?
There was a recent blog on the LA FPI from a writer who wrote that she had a planned her blog to be about being the most unsuccessful playwright ever, and just in the past few days, she had a playwrighting opportunity and that changed her. I loved reading that.
11. Who do you consider an influence where your writing is concerned? And, why?
My influences are a crazy quilt of what entertains me: Old roadrunner cartoons, Emily Dickinson, Jessica Tandy, performance art and my husband’s gothic glass art. The images and voices inform me of my own searching.
12. When did you find your voice as a writer? Are you still searching for it?
I ‘m still searching for my voice as a writer. Sometimes I sound like my twin sister. Sometimes I sound like a sitcom writer. And other times I can hear my own voice.
13. Do you have a writing regiment? Can you discuss your process?
I woke up at 3:30am this morning and wrote for two hours and then went back to bed. Usually I like to write late at night. But I haven’t had the 3:30am call to write before. I got enough down on paper that it was worth it. Although I may feel differently by 3:30pm this afternoon.
14. How do you decide what to write?
My subjects seem to find me. Or chase me until I write about them. (Now apparently they find me at 3:30 in the morning…)
15. How important is craft to you?
That’s an odd question for me – that’s like asking an actor or director how important is craft for them? If they’re (we’re) not skilled enough to create a magical event, then it’s really not the theatre I want to help create. So I feel craft is what we use to create theatre – so I think it’s very important.
16. What other areas of theater do you participant in?
I will sometimes read scripts as an actor for other playwrights, but that’s the extent of my participation.
17. How do you feel about the theater community in Los Angeles?
I’m not really as engaged as I would like to be in the Los Angeles theatre community. I have a lot of family issues on my plate and it’s a challenge to participate. And frankly, because I haven’t been “produced” in Los Angeles I feel like I don’t quite belong here.
18. How do you battle the negative voice? (insecurity, second guessing)
I have an ongoing battle with my back biting voices. They can stall my work and create a kind of paralysis. The only thing that seems to work for me is to belong to different writing groups and be accountable for showing up with pages.
19. Do you have a theme that you come back to a lot in your work?
I seem to write a lot about the duality of the human/mystic experience. It’s hard to cram a lot of jokes in that one.
20. What are you working on now?
I’ve been working on a “new” script for the past year. I’m in rewrites and it feels like I’m trying to rebuild one of those Christmas gingerbread houses (oh no the marshmellows are melting all over the gumdrops). Okay, so that was not the best image for this script. (Again, my problem with going for the cheap joke.) But it’s probably time for a coffee and aspirin!
I am looking to create language based plays which explore the mystic and historic elements of our consciousness.
I worked for many years as a stage actress in San Francisco, Boston and Los Angeles, and had the opportunity to work with some extraordinary theatre artists. My work included plays produced at the Magic Theatre, San Francisco Rep, Celebration Theatre, and the Berkeley Shakespeare Festival. I have also had the opportunity to read as an actor for new works for the Theatre Series on KCRW (The House In The City), and independent play readings at the Coast Playhouse (The Crimson Thread), Burbage Theatre (Pearls & Marlowe), and the Marin Playwright’s Festival (Sarah Bernhardt).
My exposure to the plays and playwrights gave me an appreciation for magical realism, and my writing explores the connection between the natural and unknown.
My theatre writing has been informed by studying with Dakota Powell at UCLA and also with Murray Mednick at the Padua Playwrights Workshop. I have also studied playwright classes with Leon Martell at UCLA, and studied with Jack Grapes in his Method Writing classes.
I have developed scripts at the Ohio State University retreat for playwrights with the ICWP (International Center fro Women’s Playwrights). The Dramatist Guild has hosted a reading of “The Lost Years” in November 2007 for Footlight Series in Los Angeles.
I am a member of The Dramatist Guild, ALAP (Alliance for Los Angeles Playwrights), LAFPI (Los Angeles Female Playwrights Initiative) and ICWP (International Centre for Women Playwrights). My theatre works include: Best Fest Forward, The Lost Years, Emily, and The American Woman. Screenplays include: Whitley Heights, The Wedding Ring, and The White Datura.
I am the author of two novels, Gift of Afternoon Light, and Improbable Fiction. My short stories have been published in Mo+h Magazine and Bombshelter Press.