Playwright Spotlight: Elizabeth Heffron

Author of Portugal (2016 Cupcake Spring Readings)

Where did the idea Portugal come from?

Fishing over by the Potholes Reservoir in Eastern Washington many years ago, I met

lots of people who worked out in ‘the Area’ at the fish table. It was the first I’d heard

of the place and I was thoroughly captivated and alarmed by what people were

telling me. Later, I met Tom Carpenter, and the people that work at Hanford

Challenge, this is a non-profit group who are dedicated to making sure the clean-up

stays focused and functional (not an easy task). They also have represented many

whistleblowers and workers who have been exposed to the toxic and often

radioactive substances that are in dire need of being cleaned-up.


What was your favorite moment in working on this piece?

We had an early reading at ACT Theater, where about half the audience were former

Hanford workers, whistleblowers, or activists, and the other half were people who

knew little or nothing about the nuclear reservation. When the play ended, we

solicited comments from the Hanford people, and one person raised their hand and

said: “I know every person you’re basing those characters on.” The play is fiction,

but it’s important to me that it reflect as much as possible the culture and hearts of

the people that work over there, so I was really happy about this.


What projects are you currently working on?

I am finishing a new play, called Mu-Tay-Shun. And I’m also working with Engaged

Theatre on this year’s play that is forged from the writings of the women at the

Washington Correctional Center for Women.


Finish this sentence- “I love theater that…”

Makes me feel closer to humanity.


Who is your current artist crush (any discipline)?

The National Theatre of Scotland, Kidd Pivot, and the Au Collective.


What was the best advice you were given as a theater artist?

To always see yourself as a beginner. To come at the work with open eyes.


What is the one thing you know as an artist now that you wish you could tell

your younger self?

Not to worry about the ‘when’ of things, just worry about the ‘what’.


Outside of theater, what are you really into right now?

My book group!!! I’m a slow reader, so I’ve been reading prose consistently for the

first time ever!


What is your favorite and least favorite word?

Favorite word: yogurt

Least favorite work: trump


Any other thoughts you’d like to share? (About Live Girls! Theater, Love, Life,

Puppies, …really – anything at all?)

Love the whole idea of LIVE GIRLS! Love the brave, fascinating, female voices!


Elizabeth Heffron’s full-length plays include New Patagonia (Seattle Repertory Theatre), Her Mother Was Imagination (Annex Theatre), and Mitzi’s Abortion, which received ACT Theatre’s New Play Award and a world premiere production in 2006. Since then, the play has been published by Original Works Publishing, and recently included in the Rain City anthology ‘MANIFESTO v.3: Here’s to a Theater of Defiance’, edited by Naomi Iizuka. The play has been produced across the country and will run in Minnesota and DC during the 2012 season. Her new play, Bo-Nita, will be part of the 2012 JAW Playwright Festival, this coming July, at Portland Center Stage. Short works by Elizabeth includeIrreducible Howard, Pipe Play, and T-Minus, radio dramas performed before a live audience for podcast through Sandbox Radio Live! (and available for free download at iTunes); Foxy Populi, a Seattle Times Footlight Award winner; as well as Moses Lake and Birds, both Heideman Award Finalists at Actors Theatre of Louisville. She’s written 3 site-specific musicals for Seattle’s One Reel Productions, includingIcicle Times, which featured 250 performers, two chickens, and a horse, and spawned three more years of work writing the Icicle Times Radio Hour. Elizabeth has served as dramaturg for Intiman/STG’s Black Nativity, as well as ACT’s Young Playwrights Festival, and the Cornish College of the Arts Winter New Works Festival. She’s received several grants from the Seattle Arts Commission, and a Playwriting Fellowship from Artist Trust and the Washington State Arts Commission; and currently teaches at Cornish College of the Arts, ACT’s Young Playwrights Program, and at Freehold Theatre/Lab, where she spent 5 years working with the women of the Washington Correctional Center for Women on inmate-generated performance pieces. Elizabeth is the recipient of a 14/48 Glen Mazen Award, and is a member of the Seattle Rep’s Writers Group, the Sandbox Artists Collective, and the Dramatists Guild.