Thursday, August 19, 2010

I Interview Playwrights Part 239: Leslye Headland

Leslye Headland

Current Town - Los Angeles, CA

Q:  Tell me about your play that is at Second Stage and just got extended

A;  Bachelorette is a play about the in-between space. The place you are when you're reconciling who you thought you were gonna be when you grew up with who you've become. The place when partying starts to look a lot like addiction. The moment you used to pass off as a bad night of drinking, sex and mistakes has suddenly extended into a bad life of drinking, sex and mistakes.

This production was produced by the Second Stage Uptown series which is an incredible program that gives younger, less-established playwrights a chance to see their work on its feet professionally. It was directed by Trip Cullman. It stars an incredible group of young actors: Tracee Chimo, Carmen M. Herlihy, Celia Keenan-Bolger, Fran Kranz, Eddie Kaye Thomas, and Katherine Waterston.

Q:  What else are you up to?

A:  I'm in the middle of writing a play called The Accidental Blonde in which the two lead characters live out their frustrations on either side of the stage. It's like a split-screen play. So there are two stories going on at once. In my Seven Deadly Play series, this is the sin of "Envy".

Q:  Tell me, if you will, a story from your childhood that explains who you are as a writer or as a person.

A:  I was always planning productions that never happened. I would just decide one day that me and my friends would do "Peter Pan" and then I would enlist all of them to help me make posters, hold auditions, try to find a public space to perform in... all before dinner. Then I would have to let go of the whole idea because it was never gonna happen and I'd eat my dinner sad that I wasn't old enough to direct and produce plays.

Q:  If you could change one thing about theater, what would it be?

A:  I wish some sort of Federal Theatre Project-type thing that could exist and employ thousands of theater artists. But that's impossible to do without government censorship or interference. So I guess I would just outlaw musicals based on old movies or an artist's catalogue of songs.

Q:  Who are or were your theatrical heroes?

A:  John Cassavetes, Sarah Kane, Hallie Flanagan, Brian Wilson, Charles M. Schulz,

Q:  What kind of theater excites you?

A:  The complete opposite of what I write. I love stuff that takes risks narratively especially non-linear re-magining of classics. My favorite theater is directed and produced by Janicza Bravo, a brilliant artist living in LA.

Q:  What advice do you have for playwrights just starting out?

A;  You need to get your heart broken. Otherwise, what you're writing is bullshit. Also, quit your day job as soon as possible.

UPDATE from Leslye:  a better way to put it is Quit the Job You Think You Need. obviously you gotta pay the bills. but I'm always encouraging other writers to make writing their full time job and do whatever you need to do to pay rent. If you have to work 50... hours a week to make rent, THEN MAKE YOUR RENT LOWER! I lived on a couch for two years so I could write Mon-Thurs from 9-5 and work 14-hours at minimum wage Fri-Sun. I saved money by not getting a car in LA. And any LA-native will tell you is NOT a public transportation/walking city. But I did it for years. Even after I started getting paid for writing.

I'm not flippantly suggesting that people quit their jobs because i'm some sort of trust-fund case without any grasp of what living in the real world is like. I did it! I quit my job, wrote full-time and I survived. It paid off! I got an agent and a young theatre company started producing my plays. I can't promise that'll happen to everyone but I know it never would've happened if I'd stayed answering phones 50 hours a week, writing on the side, and trying to get my theatre companies/agencies to read my unsolicited submissions.

Q:  Plugs, please:

A:  Tune in to TERRIERS, a show I wrote on this year, premiering Sept. 8 on FX. Created by Ted Griffin (Ocean's 11). Produced by Shawn Ryan (The Shield).

The Accidental Blonde will premiere Oct. 8 in LA. Go to for details.


Jane said...

Thanks for these great interviews, Adam. They are all very inspiring and a great historical record.

In Leslye's interview she advises "quit your day job." Like Leslye, I worked at Miramax for awhile and have continued to work in film. And while I'd love to quit my day job - what kinds of positions should playwrights be looking into? This is something I think about a lot.

Leslye Headland said...

Honestly, the best thing I ever did was quit Miramax, work a shitty $8/hour job, live on a couch and write consistently for two years. I can't promise you'll get an agent and get produced if you do this. But I did. I wish I'd done it sooner.

Anonymous said...

What a load of BS. What a jerk. That play is fueled by drugs and misogynistic garbage. Why was it produced?
Are people that nostalgic for the 80s?