Aoise Stratford

Author of The Closet [Quickies 12, June 2011]

Aoise Stratford grew up in Australia and is now found in Ithaca, NY, where she lives with her family, works as a playwright and attends graduate school at Cornell. Her plays have been produced in Canada, Austria, Italy, Australia, Belgium, England, and throughout the USA. She is the recipient of several awards including the Alan Minieri Award, A Pinter Review Prize for Drama Silver Medal, the Yukon Pacific Playwright Award, the Hudson River Classics New Play Award, and the Gloria Ann Barnell Peter Playwright Award. Her short plays have also won her “Best Playwright” awards at Looking Glass Theatre NY, Turtle Shell Theatre, NY, American Globe Theatre, NY, Last Frontier Theatre Conference, and several others. She has been a finalist for the Actors Theatre of Louisville’s Heideman Award and been nominated for an American Theatre Critics Association New Play Award for her full-length play Somewhere In Between.

She has developed work at Orlando Shakespeare Theatre, the Kitchen Theatre, Centenary Stage, Playwrights Center of San Francisco, Playwrights 6, ATHE, MATC, and with the help of trusted fellow playwrights, directors, and actors all over. She has received residencies from Byrdcliffe, Vermont Studios and Dorland Arts Colony, and she is a member of the Dramatists Guild and of the International Center for Women Playwrights. She has taught writing workshops for various conferences including the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival, Curious Theatre (Denver), and the Last Frontier Theatre Festival. Her work has been published by Smith and Kraus,United Stages and Merriweather Press, and she has a collection of ten minute plays coming out from JAC Press later this year.
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Where did the idea for  The Closet come from?
I remember hearing about the banning of a video on tolerance (oh irony) because in it Sponge Bob Square Pants was holding hands with Patrick and some grown ups (and I use that term lightly) thought kids would be corrupted by the sexual orientation of a SPONGE. It just seemed so sad and so funny, and so alarming.

What is your favorite moment in the play?
I like the moment Bart Sponge tries to demonstrate his removable pants, and I like those moments when Bernard is really crass. It’s just so silly.

Who is your current playwright talent crush?
I have long term and probably incurable crushes on Caryl Churchill, Suzan-Lori Parks, John Webster, an Aussie playwright called Beatrix Christian, another Aussie: Louis Nowra, and also Cheri Magid and John Yearley, both of whom are in New York. I also just reread The Beauty Queen of Leenane. Talk about sad and funny. Martin McDonagh can really write. Like everyone else, I have a crush on Tony Kushner, because Angels is just so brilliant. And I just fell head over heels in love with Maria Irene Fornes’ play Mud–if you’ve never read it or seen it put it on your list!

What advice would you give to aspiring playwrights?
Love it always. Feed it when it needs feeding. And support your peeps because life is not a competition and as Paula Vogel says, “we’re stronger together”.

What kind of theater do you love?
Theatre that surprises me. Theatre that makes me feel something AND think something. Theatre that has guts and brains and beauty. Theatre that belongs on a stage not on a screen.

What are you currently working on?
Three things. Two are about to go into rehearsal: a short play about a couple of dairy cows that I wrote for a director at Cornell, and a full-length one-woman play about a Victorian prostitute. And one brand new piece which seems to be about prophecy and madness and violence and love–but I won’t know till I get there.

Outside of theater, what are you really into right now?
My garden is in bloom (finally), so right now I fantasize about having time to plant things. In a perfect world I’d have six arms and two brains so that I could work, garden, and make quilts all at the same time. And reading to my kids. That’s joy on a whole other level.

Do you have a favorite and least favorite word?
I don’t like the word no–especially when I hear myself say it. I love lots of words: phosphorescence, squidgy, chickadee, pamplemousse — isn’t that a great word? It means grapefruit.

Is there a question you would like to see posed to playwrights featured in future spotlights?
Besides theatre, what kind of art excites you?

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