In preparation for Advocates for Youth’s world premiere production of Out of Silence: Abortion Stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign, I had a chance to speak with playwright Allyson Currin, author of RUAH, about her writing process, inspiration for the play, and the power of theatre to serve as a tool for social advocacy. Please enjoy this wonderful interview!
JACQUELINE LAWTON: Why was it so important for you to be a part of Advocates for Youth’s Out of Silence: Stories from the 1 in 3 Campaign?
ALLYSON CURRIN: I have always been an ardent supporter of a woman’s right to choose. As soon as you described the project to me, I was in! It is urgent to get the stories of brave women told, and to dramatize TRUE stories from these brave women was a project I was eager to join. And when I was told the names of the other amazing playwrights involved? I was honored.
JL: Tell me about the play(s) you wrote. What inspired it?
AC: The play that I wrote is called Ruah, which is the Hebrew word for breath or spirit. The source material – the personal stories – that Advocates for Youth provided for us were amazing. Each woman was telling her nuanced story so courageously and so unapologetically that it was challenging to pick one to turn into a theatre piece. I ultimately chose the story I did because it was told with such humor and self-awareness. I felt an immediate connection to the speaker – she felt a lot like…well…me had I ever found myself pregnant as a college student. I felt a lot of gratitude for her frankness and I knew that her story was the one I wanted to tell. I admire her candor. If I ever got the opportunity to meet her, I just know we would click.
JL: What was it like to turn this story into a play? What was your process? What research, if any, did you do?
AC: This play pretty much wrote itself. Honestly. Usually when I’m writing pieces like this, I’m in knots. I sweat, I re-write frenetically, I doubt myself. But not this time! Not sure why…I think it was the marriage of my convictions and the truly inspiring source material.
JL: What role does theater have in advocacy work?
AC: That depends. I certainly don’t want ALL of my theatre to feel obligated to attach itself to issues. That being said, theatre is uniquely qualified to act as an advocate and forum for social issues because of its immediacy, and the directness of the sense of community it creates. I have watched audiences profoundly affected by theatre. Changed. I have listened to people from different walks of life, races, experiences, come together to LISTEN when united by their shared experience of a play. That’s a real, tangible difference that theatre can make in the world. It makes me so proud to be a theatre practitioner.
JL: What are you working on next? Where can we follow your work?
AC: Fortunately, a LOT! I have four world premieres of my work in 2015 – count ‘em, FOUR! Cincinnati Playhouse commissioned me to write a new play for them, HIGH SCHOOL ALIENS, and I have been working with their amazing artistic team on the play’s development. It opens in the fall. In DC, Doorway Arts Ensemble will produce my comedy THE COLONY as a part of the DC Women Playwrights Festival, and I’m working on a new devised piece for Factory 449 that also opens in the fall. The biggest DC premiere, however, I can’t announce yet! Stay tuned there… And, as always, I continue my amazing collaboration with my fellow Welders. Our third production will be Bob Bartlett’s darkly hysterical play DEATH BY HIBACHI at Atlas Performing Arts Center in May, and I am so happy to serve Bob in his capacity as Artistic Director (as he served both me and Caleen Sinette Jennings in our artistic directorships). You can check us out at www.thewelders.org, and follow my work at www.allysoncurrin.com.
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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!