Jacqueline Lawton: How long have you lived and worked as a playwright in DC? What brought you here? Why have you stayed?
Helen Pafumi: I have lived near DC ever since I graduated college. My husband got a job here, and we stayed. Now with three kids in school and a company I co-founded and now run, I would not think of leaving. As for writing, while I have written for most of my life (mostly prose), actual playwrighting is fairly new to me. I started back in 2007 with some short pieces, and did not produce a piece until 2010.
JL: Have you ever been a member of a DC area playwrights writing group? If so, did you find it useful? Would you recommend that other playwrights join them?
HP: Nope. Although for a while a friend and I would routinely meet to give each other feedback about our work. I found it most helpful in that it forced me to think about having something cohesive to share on a given date - I produce work with much more clarity when I am on a timeline.
JL: In DC, we have the Capital Fringe Festival, the Intersections Festival, the Source Theatre Festival, the Kennedy Center's Page-to-Stage Festival, the Black Theater Festival, and the Hip Hop Theatre Festival. We also have the Mead Lab at Flashpoint Theater Lab Program. Have you participated in any of these? If so, can you speak about your experience?
HP: I have done the Page to Stage Festival. I enjoyed sharing my work there immensely and it is a great audience to put new plays in front of.
JL: What kind of work do you do to pay the bills? How do you balance this work with your writing?
HP: Theatre work in general pays the bills, but it is far flung. I used to do graphic design, but have thankfully been able to let that go in the past year. Now I do dialect and monologue coaching and teach drama classes. I also run The Hub Theatre, which is doing pretty well, even in its youth. *Knocks wooden things quickly*
JL: How many plays have you had produced in the DC area? Were any of these plays self-produced? If so, where and what did you learn from that experience?
HP: I have had 2 plays produced in this area. Both were produced at The Hub. Both experiences were really invigorating. Although they were produced under The Hub's roof, it would not be fair to call them self produced. I have heard from playwrights how difficult the process of self production can be, and I was lucky enough to have the support of my theatre company and all that comes with it.
JL: If you could be produced at any theatre in DC, which would it be and why?
HP: I have no idea. I know that there are artists that I want to work with, so I suppose I want to work where they work. It is the people that make the process and the product wonderful.
JL: DC audiences are ...
HP: ... always a surprise.
JL: DC actors, designers and directors are ..
HP: ... committed, talented and adventurous.
JL: DC critics are ...
HP: Are you asking me to critique a critic?
JL: Ha! I suppose, yes! Okay, now how do you feel the DC theatre community has addressed the issues of race and gender parity ? How has this particular issue impacted you and your ability to get your work produced on the main stages?
HP: DC is slowly opening its mind to stories from every corner. It still has plenty of room for growth. For myself, I want no special consideration for being a woman. I only want special consideration for doing great work.
JL: What advice do you have for an up and coming DC based playwright or a playwright who has just moved to D.C.?
HP: I wish I could give advice about getting your work done, but I have done almost no self promotion. I would not know where to start. As an AD who regularly slates and develops new work, I would say find your voice, make it clear, and then be true and daring with it.
JL: What's next for you as a playwright? Where can we keep up with your work?
HP: I am working on a new play at the moment - THE DIRT COLLECTORS - its too much of a mess (no pun intended) to talk about yet, but we will do a staged reading of it at The Hub sometime after the new year. And Theatre Alliance is partnering with Hub to remount WONDERFUL LIFE this December at the H Street Playhouse. I think it will be the last show there before they hand over the keys. It seems a perfect last thought to leave in a space that has seen so much theatre, so many stories, so much exploration of all the highs and lows of humanity. The play ends with George sending a thank you out into the world. I am honored to be a part of that moment.
I'm a playwright, dramaturg, and teaching artist. It is here where you'll find my queries and musings on life, theater and the world. My posts advocate for diversity, inclusion, and equity in the American Theatre and updates on my own work. Please enjoy!