Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Writer Wednesday - Theresa Giacopasi

Today I'm featuring someone I've wanted to feature for ages and ages, my dear friend from high school, Theresa Giacopasi. (For having been a very normal and run-of-the-mill public high school, we really produced quite a number of interesting and good human beings.) We've been buddies since the days of Drumbeat. Theresa is a ridiculously talented playwright, who is studying at Iowa right now. Her plays are touching, funny, and subtle. I can't wait until she moves back to New York and starts getting me comp tickets to all her plays on Broadway starring James Franco. (Or, like, Patrick Stewart. That is your post-grad plan, right, Theresa?)

Theresa Giacopasi by Matthew Posorske
Photo by Matthew Posorske

Who are you? I’m Theresa! I’ve known Kristin for ages now, since we were wee fellow poets on our high school literary magazine. Kristin, thank goodness, followed poetry (she knows, I hope, how dearly I love her work) – I moved on over to playwriting. I studied it at NYU for undergrad, and am now getting my MFA at the University of Iowa.

Where can you be found online? Do you have a blog or other online receptacle for your work? If so, how would you describe it to a stranger you've just met while on vacation? You can find a barely-passable website for me at theresagiacopasi.com; it’s just a headshot and bio, but it’s a place to hang my internet hat. You can also read an excerpt of my play Chicken. here.

I’m always trying to articulate a specific feeling or thought I have, usually intangible or barely a sentence long, and often by smashing incongruous things together. In The Monster Play, I’m placing fairy tales and monster stories alongside autism to explore fear; in Chicken., depression and surrender of agency with playing chicken with cars. I’m currently doing rewrites on Order Now, a play where I’m exploring the recent celebrity of SEAL Team Six and what that means by placing it alongside infomercials.

What inspired you to start writing/blogging? When did it happen? I’ve never not written. I started dictating stories to my mom around three, and apparently was very bossy about it. I went through a lot of writing “phases” as a kid and teen: journalism, prose, poetry. It didn’t occur to me for a long time that I could write plays, even though I loved theater and acting (although I wasn’t very good at it). The light bulb finally lit up around 17 or so. It felt like finding the perfect size in a dress you’re madly in love with, or eating the perfect meal when you thought you were too hungry to know what you wanted.

Why do you write? I write plays because theater is, I think, the best tool we have to experience and teach empathy. You can turn off TV or the internet. You can put down a book. You can walk out of the movie theater. I guess you can walk out of a play too – but the fact that it’s real live people up there, who can see you doing it, changes the interaction. That immersion and awareness is important to me.

On a larger scale, I write because if I don’t, I become intolerable. I think other people experience this with exercise; I know athletes that become absolute monsters without physical activity. I do the same thing, only with writing. But just like exercise, I do dread it until it’s over, often.

Your writing inspires me. Who inspires you? Oh goodness: everyone. I don’t read established playwrights to get jazzed to write; they just bum me out with their success. But anyone in my playwriting “cohort” is a superstar to me; the members of my writing group in New York, The Cockpit, knock my socks off. I like my peers. I like reading what they’re writing: poetry, long form journalism, weird unnecessary memoir, short stories. That’s what gets me inspired.

In keeping with the admittedly loose travel theme of Not Intent On Arriving, if you could have an all-expenses paid trip anywhere in the world, where would you go? Bhutan. Australia, because I don’t think I’ll ever justify the expense otherwise. I have a long-held yen to spend a month or so in Argentina, so that would be swell, too.

What is your favorite place on earth? A quiet bar, made mostly of wood, with good people in it drinking good things, on a cool summer day with the water nearby and trees visible from the table I’m sitting at.

Anything else you'd like us to know? I’m teaching playwriting to ages 4-14 this summer, and you know who gets structure and clear storytelling the best? The youngest kids. Those guys have Freytag’s Pyramid DOWN. If you ever have an opportunity to have a bunch of kindergartners shout “exposition!” at you, take it, for god’s sake.

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