The paragraph above is the blurb for Annah Feinberg’s new play The Beautiful Beautiful Sea Next Door at ArsNova. Annah is one of my favorite fellow theatre friends; she is warm and wonderful, as well as stylish, and oh so smart. She is also getting her MFA in Dramaturgy at Columbia, and in the class behind me, scheduled to graduate 2013. Before she arrived she was paired as my dramaturg buddy; we emailed about exciting grad. school things. Like new highlighters!
I cannot wait to see The Beautiful Beautiful Sea Next Door; I even purchased my ticket in September, and so I sent Annah some questions for this “blog-terview.”
Ellen: What prompted you to create The Beautiful Beautiful Sea Next Door? Was there an initial kernel of an idea that you wanted to explore, or an image, or a question? When did you first start working on the piece?
Annah: This play actually began as an assignment in an undergraduate dramaturgy class. We were supposed to write a ten minute adaptation of a Greek myth, and I chose to riff off a poem entitled "Medusa Cuts Her Hair" by Jean Monahan. The initial iteration was part of what is now part 1, and only included Medusa, the Hairdresser, and Poseidon. Then, I expanded it into a one act to use as one of my writing samples to apply to Columbia. It was during this draft that I realized what was at its core: the conflict between reality and myth. I became obsessed with the ways in which we create our own myths and how much scientific truth really plays into that.
Ellen: How beautiful is "beautiful beautiful"?
Annah: So totally beautiful, especially to Pegasus, who is 15 and has never left the Hairdresser's beachside hut in his entire life. He desperately wants to be a marine biologist but his parents are afraid to confront him with the reality of his destructive, mythical circumstances.
Ellen: Is this the first production of the play? (If not, I'd love to hear about the piece's production history!)
Annah: This is the first production! I've been working on the play with director Barbara Harrison for about a year and a half. She directed a semi-public reading of the one act version in April of 2010, and the positive response from that reading inspired me to expand it. She and I have done a few private readings of the play to further develop it, and had many conversations about it over many many cups of tea.
Ellen: Since you are getting an MFA in Dramaturgy at Columbia right now, I am curious-did you work with a dramaturg on this piece?
Annah: Honestly, I would consider everyone who has been part of our development process to have contributed to the dramaturgy of this play. We had a dramaturg on the first reading, James Stull, who is going to do some dramaturgical consulting on this production. And Barb has really been functioning as a dramaturg on the piece for the past year and a half as well.
Ellen: What have you found most challenging, and most rewarding about the rehearsal process?
Annah: It has been thrilling and terrifying to begin to step away from the piece. I have been doing pretty minimal re-writing during this rehearsal process, since it is so quick, so I really see myself trying to pull myself away from the rehearsal room and let Barb and the glorious actors (Sharina Martin, Nick Lehane, David Sanchez, and Alex C. Ferrill) do their brilliant thing. I really could not be happier with the way things are going. The play has a very specific tone, and the actors are really beginning to grasp it and own it.
Ellen: What are you working on next? How can we see it!?
Annah: I'm working on a couple of other plays right now: NUMISMATICS, which I began working on in Leslie Ayvazian's playwriting class last year at Columbia. It is about coin collecting, obsession, and religiosity. There are songs. I haven't touched it in a little while, but I am planning on picking it up again and working with director Lila Neugebauer to develop it once AntFest is over. I also recently started a new play called WE MUST MEMORIZE THIS BOOK, which I read the first 10 minute of in Inkslingers' [untitled] reading series. I played both parts and sang the song. I had to get really drunk before I could drum up the courage to do that. That play is about siblings and outdated scientific information.
In non-writing land, I run the R&D writers group at The Civilians and am the artistic assistant at LCT3. Also, grad school.
Ellen: Many many thanks to Annah for sharing this with us! Go buy your ticket now! No seriously, stop reading this, go buy it here.