Playwright Spotlight: Maggie Lee

Paper & Ink [Quickies 15, April – May 2014]
[Cupcake Reading Series, Sept. 2013]
The Sunshower Bride [Quickies 13June  2012 & Cupcake Reading Series, October 2011]


Where did the idea for Paper & Ink come from?
I’ve been writing a lot of comedy lately, and I wanted to try to switch things up with a really creepy horror piece. I first starting writing plays by adapting H.P. Lovecraft stories at Open Circle Theater, and I’ve always loved the idea of bringing more horror to the stage. Not like campy funny horror, but truly unsettling stories that grab the audience by the collar and make the most of immersive theatrical effects. The Lovecraftian style really appeals to me because I am not so much into blood n’ guts horror; I prefer that quiet sort of creepiness that gets under your skin and makes you leave the lights on at night.

What was your favorite moment in working on this piece?
For inspiration, I decided to thumb through a few of my favorite Lovecraft stories as research. It was a little like visiting with old friends, and really helped get me in the right frame of mind for the atmosphere of the piece.

Considering this year’s theme for Quickies, what excites you more right now, science or magic?
I was a huge sword & sorcery fantasy nerd as a kid, so I would say I naturally lean more toward magic. We started playing D&D in my neighborhood when I was still in elementary school, and I just loved it. I remember looking in the game handbook for any spells containing ingredients we had our kitchen so I could try them out on my sister. One time, I made a paste out of garlic and ginseng tea and smeared it on her while she was asleep to try to cast the “Awaken” spell. She wasn’t too happy about that.

Finish the sentence- “I love theater that…”
…is fun! Whether it’s a comedy or a tragedy, it should still be an entertaining experience for the audience. Just because something is fun doesn’t automatically make it frivolous. A play shouldn’t need to make people feel terrible in order for it to be considered meaningful. You can have a thoughtful story with complex characters and themes, and still have it be fun.

What projects are you currently working on?
On March 23, I had a staged reading for my play “The Tumbleweed Zephyr” with Pork Filled Productions. It’s an action-packed Old West science fiction train adventure, and one of a trio of plays based in a steampunk alternate universe.

Who is your current artist crush (any discipline)?
I have been on a bit of an Akira Kurosawa binge lately. I had never seen any of his films, so I am working my way down the list. I am especially fascinated by Toshiro Mifune in his movies. He’s such a twitchy, sweaty dude, but he moves like lightning, and his eyebrows are like a whole separate character.

What is your favorite and least favorite word?
I’ve been in an old-timey sort of mood lately, so I’m currently enjoying the word “crackerjack,” as in “That’s a crackerjack idea, old bean!” But my least favorite word is “obligation.”

What was the best advice you were even given as a theater artist?
My wise college lighting design teacher used to say: Never say no right away, even if you are being asked for something completely insane. Instead, say, “I’ll try it and see what happens,” and then actually try. It might work! Or else then you have concrete proof that it doesn’t work, and they can’t give you crap for not trying.

. . . . . . .

Maggie Lee is the lead sketch writer and a performer for Pork Filled Players, Seattle’s Asian American sketch comedy group, and she designs lights, props and puppets for many local fringe theaters. She writes plays that reflect her love of comedy, science fiction, and horror; her work includes H.P. Lovecraft adaptations at Open Circle Theater, Greetings from Styx and King Arthur and the Knights of the Playground at Balagan Theatre, Kindred Spirits at ReAct Theatre, 14/48, and The Sunshower Bride at Live Girls! Quickies 13, Recently, her steampunk adventure play The Clockwork Professor was staged by Pork Filled Productions. She was also a panelist at the 2011 National Asian American Theater Conference in Los Angeles, and was twice featured at ACT’s Local Writers Showcase at the REPRESENT! Multicultural Playwrights’ Festival. She is a member of the SIS Writers Group and an Artist in Residence at Theatre Off Jackson.