In preparation for American Theater Company’s annual 10 x 10 Play Festival, I connected with the featured playwrights about their careers in the theatre, the relevant themes of the play(s), and the role of theatre as a tool for social change. Click here to learn more about the 10 x 10 Festival and please enjoy this wonderful interview with Aurin Squire.
Jacqueline Lawton: Why did you decide to get into theatre? Was there someone or a particular show that inspired you?
Aurin Squire: I decided to get into theatre when I was in college. I would go to see my friend’s in shows because it was cheaper than a movie. I was in a creative writing in the media focus my last 2 years and I had to take a quarter (Northwestern is on a 3 quarters a year system rather than 2 semesters) of playwriting. I received a lot of encouragement from our teacher (Susan Booth) and then went away for the summer and read August Wilson’s “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom” while out in LA. That’s when I decided to write a full-length play and send it in. This was the play that got me a workshop at a small theatre in Chicago and gave me a scholarship to go to grad school.
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?
AS: If I’m writing without an outline, then usually I begin with a riff. It can be a word, sound, phrase, or image. It’s like a single thread that appears in empty space and then I start weaving until I have a whole story.
JL: Why was it important for you to be a part of American Theatre Company’s 10 x 10 Festival?
AS: I discovered theatre while in Chicago. And I found that theatre tends to be more meat-and-potatoes and about social issues. I love that kind of theatre. I just saw “The Iceman Cometh” which was a Goodman Theatre transfer to BAM, and “Rasheeda Speaking” which also came out of Chicago. Both productions were so rich and layered. American Theatre Company is doing great work that fits into the mold of progressive art in the Windy City.
JL: Tell me about your plays. What do you hope the audience walks away thinking about after experiencing it?
AS: The first play I finished was “Mississippi Goddamn” and it’s about a couple watching the news, rediscovering the Nina Simone song that the play is named after, and how they work through the police shooting that’s similar to Ferguson. It’s a reflective piece with an older couple that I want to slip under the audience’s skin.
The second piece is “Putting Wings on a Pig” and it’s about two black cops trying to work and not get entangled in office politics, as well as the occasional run in with fellow white officers. As the title implies I want this to really get in people’s faces about the racism that’s so severe in some precincts, black cops are more scared of their white colleagues than of the criminals.
JL: What role does theater have in advocacy work?
AS: Theatre is the original herald of truth. Beyond the daily news and gossip, theatre took the events of the day and expounded upon their greater meaning and context. In this age of rapid news and shock, I think theatre is vital to ground us in the larger trajectory of human history that is bending before us.
JL: What next for you as a writer? Where can we follow your work?
AS: I’m in my last semester at Juilliard and have a few different fellowships in New York City. I have an artist in residence at Brooklyn Arts Exchange and I present my year-long project in May. I’ve been working on “The Gospel According to F#ggots” which is a radical queer reinterpretation of the Bible. It’s a multimedia piece that’s in verse. Here is my BAX page: http://artistservices.bax.org/residencies/aurin-squire/
And then I have a residency at National Black Theatre in Harlem where I’ll be doing workshops throughout 2015 for “The Zoohouse” which is a radical absurd comedy set in a dystopia that has asylums for the ‘black and criminally insane.’ The Zoohouse is one of those places and we see how history, suppression, and expression play themselves out in this very warped way.
About the Playwright
Aurin Squire is an award-winning playwright and reporter. He is a two-time recipient of the 2014 Lecomte du Nouy Prize from the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and is in his second year of the Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwriting Fellowship at The Juilliard School. For the 2014-2015 season he has fellowships at The Dramatists Guild of America, the National Black Theatre, the Brooklyn Arts Exchange, and a Royal Court Writers’ Residency in London. He is the winner of the Act One Writing Contest at Lincoln Center Theatre. Squire graduated with honors from Northwestern University and worked for various publications like ESPN, the Miami Herald, Chicago Tribune, The New Republic, and Talking Points Memo. His political comedy "Obama-ology" opened at the Juilliard New Play Festival in September 2014 and then opened at Finborough Theatre in London in December 2014. He has been a guest artist and lecturer at Gettysburg College, Malloy College, and New School University. His plays have been produced at venues like Abingdon Theatre, ArcLight Theatre, Ars Nova, Barrington Stage Company, Brooklyn Arts Exchange (BAX), Cherry Lane, Lincoln Center Lab, National Hispanic Cultural Center.
10 outstanding playwrights tackle race, police brutality, and community in Ferguson, New York City, and around the world. 10 inspired directors bring their work to life.
Join us on March 9 at 7:30pm for a uniquely challenging one-night-only engagement at the American Theater Company, as we are proud to present our annual short plays festival, 10x10.
Tickets are free but seats will fill up fast. To make a reservation, send us an email at ATC10x10@Gmail.com. Due to high demand, we are only able to reserve up to two seats per request.
At the door, we suggest a $10 donation to help us cover the cost of supporting the festival, though we welcome you to pay what you can.
This Year's Playwrights:
Jeff Augustin. Kristiana Rae Colón. Matthew-Lee Erlbach. Jacqueline E Lawton. Bonnie Metzgar. Dominique Morisseau. Lucas Neff. A Rey Pamatmat. Akin Salawu. Aurin Squire.
Kaiser Ahmed. Grace Cannon. Amanda Delheimer Dimond. Matt Dominguez. Azar Kazemi. Reed Motz. Hutch Pimentel. Tlaloc Rivas. Samuel Roberson. Conner Wilson.
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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!