DREAM BOSTON: Playwright Q&A

Playwright Q&As by J. Sebastián Alberdi and Melory Mirashrafi

For Melinda Lopez’s play, By the Rude Bridge we asked the playwrights: 

What is your favorite Boston landmark or fun fact?

Click on the locations in the interactive map below and see the playwrights' answers. 

Brenda Withers:
The Longfellow Bridge, it's not that exciting, I just like how it makes me feel. Because when I first started coming to Boston it was under construction forever, it had been under construction, it would be under construction, and everyone I talked to about it, was like yeah obviously, what's the problem. And you know I didn't grow up in a place where construction was such an anomaly. But there was something about the fortitude of the people about being like 'it's going to take 7 years,' same with the Big Dig! Same with the Big Dig actually, I'd put them both up there. With people saying yeah, we're just going to have to suffer through that, and we're good with it. Bad answer!

Kirsten Greenidge: So, Myles Standish Hall on Boston University’s campus. I think Eugene O'Neill… died there? He was born in a hotel and died in a hotel. And apparently he haunts that dorm. The fourth floor or the top floor. I believe that is the lore. And I love ghost stories, love them. Just this afternoon I fell asleep reading an article called “If you’re quarantined with a ghost, what do you do?” I’m half laughing, half terrified out of my mind because… what the hell? What would you do?! I don’t know because I fell asleep… I’m gonna go back and read it. My sisters were talking about it, because they see a ghost in here—I’ve never seen her, but they’ve seen her. So when I drive by, and one way to get into BU is to drive by that dormitory, sometimes I’m just like, please don’t let there be traffic by this hall, because I will lose my mind if I drive by that window and see Eugene O'Neill's ghost just like… waving at me.

Melinda Lopez: Thoreau, when he was writing Walden about eating and being alone in the woods, went home to his mother's occasionally for lunch and she made him lunch and baked for him.

Kate Snodgrass: Hmm, I love that dome… but when I first came to Boston, this is over 30 years ago now, I was driving along Massachusetts Avenue, and if you cross the Massachusetts Avenue bridge toward MIT, there are two lights. There’s one light that’s a crosswalk, and then you hit the next light. And if you are stopped at that light and look to your left across the street, there is the Metropolitan Storage Warehouse. And on the side of the building it says, Metropolitan Storage Warehouse: Fireproof. But. If you’re stopped at the light, the corner of the building juts out and you can’t read the whole thing. What it does say is, Metropolitan Rage Warehouse: Ireproof. It’s wonderful. That is my favorite, favorite place. Rage Warehouse, Ireproof… you can’t beat it. I’d like to think it was on purpose, I’m just not sure. Those MIT people. You never know.

For Kate Snodgrass’s play Overture, we asked the playwrights:

What is your favorite 4th of July tradition? 

Brenda Withers: Well on the 4th of July my theater company Harbor Stage closes because no one comes to a play on the 4th of July so my favorite tradition on the 4th of July is to do nothing. (laughs) It's to go to a parade, have a Bloody Mary at 11 in the morning and then keep going because suddenly, it's the one time all summer I have off. It's the best day in the summer. It's a little irritating because everyone else is also like celebrating. And they don't know it's like, this is my day off, this is my Independence Day.

Kirsten Greenidge: We watch the Boston Pops every year, no matter where we are. I get really weird about the fourth of July: I want to actively discuss the things that are wrong and celebrate simultaneously. And so what will often happen is, if we’re invited someplace, I get upset. Like, how could people invite us someplace? This is my time to talk about the Fourth of July with my family, and just be here, and watch the Boston Pops. But then, if we don’t get invited anywhere, I turn around and get really upset, like why isn’t anyone having a party? We’ve got to celebrate the United States. It’s crazy. But if we get invited someplace, then I’ll turn on the Boston Pops, and usually we’re heading home by the time they’re on. I love the fireworks. I love the idea of going to the esplanade… everyone in my family, they’re mostly introverted people… I’m a Leo. I would love to go to the esplanade and just be in the crowd, but no one will go with me. No one will go. I would go by myself if I didn’t think it would scar them. Like, “Mom left us here by ourselves!” That day will come. I will go down there. They will see me on TV. I will be the one dancing by myself. Like, “Is my mom drunk?” No, I’m not drunk. I’m just by myself dancing. I’m fine. Thank you.

Melinda Lopez: A pig roast with a lot of rum and a lot of family.

Kate Snodgrass: Oddly enough, I’m afraid of crowds, so I’ve never been to the Boston pops or the amphitheater to listen because it is so crowded. I’m from Kansas and there’s a lot of space out there, here in Boston everything is very closed off, and I start to feel anxious. So I don’t go where there are crowds, but near me there’s a highway that has a bridge that goes high up onto stilts, and cars on the Fourth of July park on either side of bridge, and families get out, and they watch the fireworks over the Museum of Science and along the river. We’re very close, so that’s what I do, and I feel like it’s a good thing for me because then I can enter in and still be part of everything, and not feel claustrophobic.

For Brenda Withers' play McKim, we asked the playwrights:

What is the last book you checked out of the library or what book would you like to check out?  

Brenda: I think it's probably an old book. I have a lot of copies of certain books, books I love, which seems actually very selfish right now. I'm like, "I don't need two copies of Franny and Zooey, someone could be reading this," but I think I'd like to get my hands on a hardbound copy of Leaves of Grass. That'd be great. Not to check out, but just to look at.

Kirsten: You know, this is embarrassing, but I never read The Pillowman. And I’ve never seen it. So that’s my next thing to read. I’ve been teaching a class for emerging playwrights at Company One, where I’m a Mellon Fellow, and since they don’t have in-person programming right now we’ve been doing workshops once a month, and we brought in designers to talk to those emerging playwrights. And so I asked one of those designers what play they would want to design, and they said “The Pillowman,” and then the sound designer was like, “Yeah, me too.” And I was just like, oh… that’s embarrassing. Why haven’t I read that? Or seen it?

Melinda: Some giant illustrated copy of 100 Years of Solitude that is too big to put in your purse that has like art. Is that a thing? It should be a thing.

Kate: One book I recently checked out was Bright Air Black by David Vann. It’s a wonderful, poetic story of Medea from her point of view. I cannot say enough wonderful things about it. It’s rough reading. It slows you down, because you feel everything that she does, and it’s just a spectacular book.

For Kirsten Greenidge's play The 54th in the 22', we asked the playwrights:

What is your favorite Boston date spot? 

Brenda: I think it's like... again struggling between indoor vs outdoor. Honestly, part of me is going to be like, Mr. Bartley's burgers. I really like going to a dive and having some fries. I can't even eat hamburgers, but I just like going to a greasy dark place that makes me feel young, cause I'm not anymore (laughs) but there's something about Boston and Cambridge that for me is like eternally youthful and I like that you're allowed because of the high percentage of graduate students to always pretend like you're in school. You know there are college towns where that's not acceptable it's like you're either a professor or you've stayed around too long and not so in Boston and Cambridge. You can study forever. So I'd say any college joint is a lot of fun for me.

Kirsten: Right near the Calderwood there’s Picco, that’s a nice date night -- you have pizza and you have ice cream. And you can sit outside! But I don’t need to see a show. Theatre is wonderful, and everyone should see more shows, but I like good restaurant date. And I like the date to be a long, long eating experience. If they usher you out, I’m like, “This is horrible!” Very upset. Any long dinner is good for me.

Melinda: Dali, a restaurant in Somerville, MA. It's like behind Inman Square, it's technically Somerville/Cambridge, on Kirkland.

Kate: Anywhere by the river. Anywhere by the river would be my choice. And also, there are some restaurants along the river, especially up near the Museum of Science that I love. For a first date I would like to go to dinner, but water is really important to me. And I love the ocean, but the river is so Boston… so, walking along the river. That’s what I would be doing.

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