Theater, especially black box, is most often an intimate experience, both for the audience and for the actor. Award-winning playwright Raegan Payne talks about her playwriting and what attracts her to this kind of storytelling.
A Poor Man’s Art Form
“I like being forced to tell a story with just dialogue and almost no resources,” says Payne. “It’s a poor man’s art form, anyone can do it, that’s what I love. Inversely, it should also be accessible for the poor to see and often times it isn’t.
Tell a story with just dialog and almost no resources.
“Also, theatre has an immediacy as well as intimacy that can be missing in other art forms. And the audience influences the work – actors hear their response to their performance and that motivates them to change what they’re doing. Both sides of the stage are affecting each other.”
Feeding the Muse
“I think my ideas come from a few places,” says Payne. “I read a lot – news, fiction, non-fiction books. Sometimes I’ll find humor in a dark news story or maybe I’ll want to rewrite a story for a modern audience. It depends on my mood.
“My writing secret is that I always have more than one project going at a time. I don’t get writers block. If something scares me or I can’t work on it that day I jump to another project. My rule is one page a day at least, but I don’t say what subject.”
Acting on the Web
Payne acts as well. Her experience includes a number of episodes on the web series Lonelygirl15. She comments on the web series as a story medium. “Working on Lonelygirl was great because we were kinda inventing the form as we went along. It’s a legitimate medium that needs to be treated as it’s own beast.
It’s an intimate person-to-person entertainment form.
“Not all of the rules of TV will work, some of the rules of theatre will. It’s an intimate person-to-person entertainment form. I think fewer characters, deeper more ‘private’ moments or reveals work brilliantly online. I’m really looking forward to seeing some inventive new work in that medium.”
The Female Perspective in Art
“Women are under-represented on the stage,” Payne says, “as playwrights, producers, directors, and as executives in Hollywood. I think lack of the female perspective in artwork helps propagate disrespect. I remember being a young student at Groundlings and being told there were eight places for men and two for women in the troupe. When I asked why, their explanation was basically, ‘Well girls just aren’t funny.’ That idea needs to disappear.
“Girls are often told that they shouldn’t talk about certain things because it isn’t ladylike. Women need to be free to express themselves just like men.”
Raegan Payne’s plays: The Reaper just finished a run in Santa Monica, California; Things Unsaid goes up in Hollywood and Washington, DC in October.