Wednesday, May 28, 2014

5 Questions with Alexa Derman

With the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival just a few days away, it is time for our annual 5 Questions with a Playwright series: NJYPF edition! We go alphabetically by last name and present a playwright from the High School Division each day. So, today we begin with...

Alexa Derman
12th grade, Westfield High School
 1.      What inspired you to write Hurricane Season?

Hurricane Season was initially part of a series of short plays by a number of playwrights called SOS: Stories of Sandy performed by Contagious Drama Workshop. When I was offered the chance to write for the production, I knew immediately I was going to write something about mortality. Sandy was a crazy experience for me because of the same reason as Kim, in the play -- it burst the illusion of invincibility provide by growing up in the suburbs. I was actually assigned my actors in advance, before I wrote it, and when I met with the pair, a (relatively shy) boy and a (relatively outgoing) girl, they both said they wanted to play roles that challenged them. Thus, for the boy I created the boisterous Joey and for the girl, the more reserved Kim.

2.      You have won multiple awards for your writing in a variety of genres. How does your writing process differ between forms?

I think my writing process doesn't differ so much between forms as between types. What I mean is, I have stories that are very dialogue-based the way Hurricane Season is, and the process for those works are similar: usually some argument just explodes out of me around 2 am and then I refine it. But I also have plays and prose pieces that are more "involved," more focused around a single character, and more collage-based -- right now I'm writing a play that collapses into a Shakespeare one at its climax. For those pieces, I usually end up doing a lot of research and planning. 

3.      You have also won awards for your work as a hair and make-up artist. Please tell us more about that work!

I'm the hair and makeup artist in my school theatre department, and it was definitely a happy accident -- my director asked me out of the blue to take over my sophomore year, and I jumped in despite having zero experience. Many hours of YouTube videos and practice later, it's become something I really love to do. We did Bat Boy last year, in 2013, and creating a half-bat half-boy mutant was one of my favorite projects. Every day it took about an hour to get him ready, but it was worth it!

4.      What has been your most memorable theatre experience to date?

It's a tie. This past fall, my high school did a production of Mary Zimmerman's Metamorphoses, based on the Ovid of the same name. It's a beautiful show about myth and transformation -- and it also took place in a massive pool we built in our pit! The cast and crew was very small, and the show was gorgeous and emotional. It was a great final fall play. (And then we were lucky enough to win Outstanding Overall Production at the MSU Theatre Night Awards!) On the flip side, four or five years ago I was Dorothy an all-girls cast of The Wiz at my hippie drama sleepaway camp, and even though it wasn't of the highest "quality" I had such a fun time jammin' to "Ease on Down" and bopping with the eight-year-old munchkins. Just a really, really fun time. 

5.      If you could have any super-human power, what would it be and why?

Definitely super-human memory. Not only would it save me time on Calculus homework, but also because it would be really cool to just be able to launch into page-long speeches and poems whenever they feel relevant.

See Alexa's play Hurricane Season at the 2014 New Jersey Young Playwrights Festival on Tuesday, June 3 beginning at 7:00 p.m. Performances will be held in the University Center Little Theatre on the campus of Kean University. Please reserve your space by contacting us at See you there!

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