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The Cleverbot Plays

nytheatre.com q&a preview by Callie Kimball
March 18, 2013

What is your job on this show?
Playwright.

What is your show about?
The Cleverbot Plays is a series of six short plays transcribed from conversations between indie playwrights and Cleverbot, one of the most advanced artificial intelligences ever.

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?
I was about nine years old when I was in my first ballet performance. It was a matinee on a proscenium stage in a giant old hotel, and the audience were from a senior center. One of the choreographed pieces we did was basically a ballet class on stage, and we each had distinct characters to play. I was the bratty student who got into trouble for chewing gum but later redeemed herself. The audience laughed when I got sent offstage because I was pretending to pull an enormous string of gum out of my mouth. That was just a really fun feeling to make people laugh. We performed with the lights up in the house and I was so happy to feel connected to the audience in that moment. It was this really big heart kind of feeling--I know it probably sounds overly earnest, but today when I write my plays, I am still hoping for a heart kind of connection to the audience.

What are some of your previous theater credits? (Be specific! Name shows, etc.)
Last May I graduated from Tina Howe's MFA program at Hunter, and my thesis play, "Dreams of the Penny Gods," had an Equity workshop production. I started writing plays back in Washington, DC, where Christopher Henley at Washington Shakespeare Company gave me wonderful opportunities--he commissioned and produced two adaptations from me, "Lucrece" and "Peace." WSC were used to producing existing classic texts, so it was exciting for both of us to be creating and producing something new. It was enormously helpful to be given that much responsibility so early in my playwriting career. I also produced my own plays at the Capital Fringe Festival two years in a row, and that was a terrific and speedy education in playmaking.

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?
My first experience at the Brick was in December of 2007, when I was part of the first One-Minute Play Festival curated by Dominic D'Andrea. It was my first professional production of any kind on NYC, and it was on that trip to the city that I decided I'd move to New York. Of course when I moved to the city the next year, the economy had collapsed, but somehow I had one of those lucky rides and found a way to get by. Over the years, I've had a couple of other short plays done at the Brick, and Gyda Arber directed one play of mine that included an animated dream sequence of a child in a bathtub chasing a whale. Basically I would gladly do anything Gyda or the Brick would ask me to! They've been very good to me and always have original fun ideas.

Which famous person would you most like to get a fan letter from: Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Steven Spielberg, Philip Seymour Hoffman?
Oh without a doubt, Meryl Streep. I just finally watched her in The Deer Hunter, when I think she was 28. It was John Cazale's last film. It's astonishing how over the decades she has transformed herself into so many different characters, but at her core she has this spare, strong authenticity that's so compelling. Also, I love the fact that any time I've seen clips of her speaking in public, she's this mix of goofy and passionate. She's not afraid to be awkward.

Who are your heroes?
People who work to improve the health and poverty of others. I've told myself if I haven't gotten anywhere as a writer by the time I'm 50, I'll change direction and go work for an organization like Heifer International or the Fistula Foundation.