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LDTE Playwright’s Corner: TIRA PALMQUIST

We love our writers. We wouldn’t be here without them! To get to know them better and to help inspire other playwrights, we are launching a new series entitled “LDTE Playwright’s Corner”.
This month we spotlight Tira Palmquist; she is an LDTE commissioned writer and an all-around fantastic woman:
  1. What are you working on now and why?

In addition to working on my commissioned work for LDTE, I’m also working on a new draft of my play The Way North, a play about immigration post-Trump, and the border between US and Canada. I started this play because I had read an article about immigrants who were so distressed and afraid of the changing political climate that they were willing to brave dangerous conditions to make their way to Canada. I was moved by their bravery, their desperation, their courage.

I’m also working on a short play about baseball — not that I know MUCH about baseball — for Mile Square Theater and their 7th Inning Stretch fundraiser. I’m writing about the bullpen and relief pitchers, because I suppose I sympathize with these pitchers who either have very specific skills or who are way down in the roster, and so make a kind of career in waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

2. What is the most important thing to you as a writer? (Can be anything!)

The most important thing, right now, is the refusal to say no. For example, the play about baseball, above? I never would have thought that I’d be writing a play about baseball, but the artistic director emailed me to see if I’d be interested, and without thinking too much about it, I said, “Oh, of course!” Now, of course, I’m a little afraid of what I’ve gotten myself into, but I think that’s another thing I value: being just a little afraid. By that I mean, one has to be willing to risk something in the process — either by taking on big and scary topics, or by tackling “hot button” issues, or even by tackling a project that is maybe a little out of one’s reach. When it comes right down to it, deciding *not* to take risks, deciding to stay safe means that one’s writing stay safe and non-risky. There are already a ton of safe plays out there. Why would I want to add to the list?

This also, not coincidentally, applies to the play I’m writing for LDTE. When I was approached by Yvonne and Jason, I was flattered, to be sure, but also knew I was stepping into some fairly scary territory. The topic would, I knew, challenge me. But these kinds of challenges are important — for our development as artists, for the kinds of conversations we’re willing to have with our audiences, for our ability to actually make a difference in the world.

3. Why do you write?

I write because, apparently, I can’t *not* write. One of my earliest memories is being absolutely swept away by reading and I think that I’ve been trying to recapture that moment in my writing ever since. I didn’t always know that I’d be a playwright, but I’ve always been writing something. I got my BA in acting and my MFA as a poet, and so it all makes sense in retrospect — that is, how I got to where I am, now.

But the answer to why I write is, fundamentally, pretty simple: there are stories that we return to because they speak, profoundly, to what it is to be human, and these are the stories that I find the most satisfying. These stories are often dark, but being drawn to darker stories is a common virtue among playwrights: we’re compelled to overturn rocks and look what’s underneath, because that’s where we find the good stuff (good stuff = what makes us deeply uncomfortable = what makes for great drama). Obviously, to be successful, I have to write from a deeply personal perspective – and, obviously, this isn’t groundbreaking. It’s just took me awhile to answer not just what matters most to me, but what stories and people I had to put on stage. I recognize that I have a certain amount of privilege (even if I don’t come from wealth), and answering the question of why I write starts with re-examining the privilege I have. This extends to what I think makes for worthwhile theater. I mean, I’m just not going to write a play set in a mid-town New York apartment. There is nothing wrong with a play set in a mid-town New York apartment, but do we need another play set in a mid-town New York apartment? And if we do, do I need to be the one to write that play? Nope. If I’m going to contribute anything to the larger American conversation, then I need to write about the people and places I know, and to examine whose stories need to be told, and when, and where.

Find and Follow Tira on:

Web: www.tirapalmquist.com
Twitter: @TiraPalmquist
Instagram: tira.p