We're only one day away from Constellation Theatre Company's world premiere of Zorro! As you know by now, one of my favorite things to do is meet new playwrights and learn all about their writing process and artistic journeys. Playwright and co-author of Zorro, Janet Allard, was gracious enough to share her experiences with us here. She also gives us more insight into the world of Zorro. Please enjoy!
JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
JANET ALLARD: Alice in Wonderland maybe? My aunt and uncle were Broadway dancers so we always had cast albums of Broadway musicals on the record player (now I sound really old). I daydreamed all the time. Then, somehow I found acting and through that writing. I won the Very Special Arts Playwright Award at the Kennedy Center and the Young Playwrights Festival in NY. After two professional productions at a young age I was hooked.
JL: Next, tell me a little bit about your writing process. Do you have any writing rituals? Do you write in the same place or in different places?
JA: I wish I was one of those people who wrote for a few hours each day, but I find that I will not write for a month or two and then write day and night to complete a draft. I like Deadlines. Pressure fuels me. So does collaboration. I’m not much for routine so I write different places – anywhere, anytime when there is a play to write I can just drown out the world and write.
JL: Describe for me all the sensations you had the first time you had one of your plays produced and you sat in the audience while it was performed...what was different about the characters you created? How much input did you have in the directing of that work?
JA: The sensations I had the first time I saw my work done are the sensations I still have. A sense of astonishment that what I wrote is up there before an audience with actors speaking the words that began in my head. I always feel nervous, there’s a sense that what was very personal is now becoming public. It’s very thrilling—and at the same time I’m just watching, not actively participating in the moment – the way an actor does, so there is a feeling of helplessness – which is also kind of thrilling. And I’m always sort of making little adjustments in my mind – what I could add or subtract or do differently. The best is when I forget to do that and just get lost in the story or am surprised and moved by the actors’ performances.
JL: What do you hope to convey in the plays that you create--what are they about? What sorts of people, situation, circumstances, do you like to write about?
JA: Very different things. I tend to write about people searching for their identity – outsiders trying to define their place in the world. Zorro really fits into this.
JL: What compelled you to co-write Zorro?
JA: Eleanor came to me with the idea and I love collaborating with her – and once I read the original pulp novel I was drawn into the Diego/Zorro search for identity – and how he gets trapped in his own superhero mask. With Eleanor as co-writer I became interested in our vision to write a “creation of Zorro” story – what causes Diego to dawn the superhero mask. The father/son story I find compelling and also the politics – which resonate in today’s world.
JL: What was the co-writing process like?
JA: We work very well together. We would take turns on scenes or sometimes write together. If I was at a loss for what should happen in a certain moment, Eleanor had ideas and vice versa. It’s been a process of discovering things together Johnston McCulley created Zorro in 1919 as part pulp-fiction series.
JL: What makes this story of romance, heroism and adventure relevant to audiences?
JA: Super-hero stories are timeless. They tap into a very deep-seeded need we all have for justice and greatness as well as our fear of failing our world, our families, our romantic partners etc. The core actions of Zorro – trying to right wrongs, trying to make the world a better place, trying to win the love of the girl, trying to win his father’s approval are timeless.
JL: What advice do you have for up-and-coming playwrights?
JA: Write and keep writing. And meet people. Lots of people you love to work with. And persuade them (somehow) to do your plays.
JL: What next for you as a writer and where can we follow your work?
JA: I’m in the final stages of getting the rights to make a musical stage adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book Into the Wild about Christopher McCandless. It’s an amazing story – so that’s the next adventure.
A few of my plays are published by Playscripts Inc. and Samuel French and I’m a member of the Playwrights Center in Minneapolis– that’s a good way to follow me.
Janet Allard's recent works include Pool Boy at Barrington Stage, Vrooommm! A NASComedy published by Samuel French, Speed Date, Incognito, Loyal and Untold Crimes of Insomniacs, published by Playscripts, Inc. Her musical The Unknown: A Silent Movie Musical won a Jonathan Larson Award with P73 Productions and appeared at NYMF. Her work has been seen at The Guthrie Lab, The Kennedy Center, Mixed Blood, Playwrights Horizons, Yale Rep, The Yale Cabaret, The Women’s Project, Perseverance Theatre, Joe’s Pub, Barrington Stage, with P73 Productions, and Internationally in Ireland, England, Greece, Australia and New Zealand. She is a Fulbright Fellow, has an M.F.A in Playwriting from the Yale School of Drama, has studied at the NYU Musical Theatre Writing program and teaches at University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
WHO: Constellation Theatre Company
WHAT: Zorro by Janet Allard and Eleanor Holdridge. Directed by Eleanor Holdridge
WHERE: Source Theatre 1835 14th St. NW
WHEN: January 17- February 17, 2013.
OTHER: Audiences aged 10 and up. A parent or guardian should accompany any child under 13.
Constellation Theatre Company Mission:
Constellation Theatre Company’s mission is to spark the curiosity and imagination of the people of Greater Washington, DC by bringing stories to life from all over the world. Visual spectacle, music and movement unite with an exuberant acting ensemble to create an exhilarating entertainment experience.