Hi everyone! Welcome to our interview series with the current rockin MFA playwrights, leading up to Seabury Quinn! Philana Omorotionmwan is a 1st year MFA playwright and wrote a new, provocative play about race and casting called “Strong Face.” She is known in the playwriting world here for her love of language, her soulful style and her shy and edgy demeanor! Check out the interview below and then see the reading very month,Saturday April 23rd at 1pm!! Also watch out for all 7 of the other interviews with our other writers!
1. Your first year play delves into issues of actors of color and casting. What made you interested in exploring this issue?
I was and remain more interested in portrayals and perceptions of black women in general than I am in actors and casting specifically. The idea that black women are stronger (both physically and emotionally) and less “feminine” than women of other races is deeply embedded in the foundation of this country; it had to be in order to justify sending women to work in the fields side by side with men. Because I think the media has a lot to do with continuing to perpetuate those representations, actors and casting became the vehicles I used to develop a story exploring my interests. Of course, #OscarsSoWhite took off right around the time I completed a first draft of the play so that conversation has definitely influenced the play as I’ve developed it.
2. You’re a playwright who seems to have a lot of interest in language and why we say things the was we say them. What about exploring language does it for you?
There are a lot of reasons I think about language in the way that I do, probably including that English is neither my mother nor my father’s first. I suspect I became convinced that if they could have just picked the right word at the right moment when talking to each other, things might have gone differently. I also believe another reason is that deep down I really just want to be a musician. The first thing I remember answering when asked “What do you want to be when you grow up?” was a singer. But I couldn’t sing. I tried my hand at the piano and the clarinet but didn’t have the discipline needed to become good at either. However, there’s still this part of me that longs to make music. Arranging words on the page is the closest I’ll probably ever get to doing that.
3. If your play wanted to propose to me, how would she do it and why?
My play probably wouldn’t propose to you because she doesn’t want to share her life with anybody. Because that would require being vulnerable. Which is not her thing. So she’d probably just tell you really bad jokes that you’d find offensive until you decide to leave her.
4. What’s a fun fact about you?
In the year following my college graduation, I had a total of six jobs: pizza buffet restaurant waitress, grocery store cashier, public school substitute teacher, dental and vision insurance claims data entry temp, ACT/SAT test prep tutor (which I continued to do for seven years), and youth mentor in an after-school abstinence-only program. And my parents said no one would hire me with an English degree.
Now that you love herrr, come see her play reading!
by Philana Omorotionmwan
1:00 pm, Saturday April 23rd, Elizabeth Baker Theater, Kantner Hall
About: Maybe it’s her “energy.” Maybe it’s her hair. Or maybe it’s just her skin. Whatever it is, no one in Follywood seems to be able to see that actress Bentley Jones is a woman. But when she learns that major studio 19th Century Cocks has green lit a pick-a-flick guaranteed to earn its female star an impOSTOR nomination, Bentley has to decide if she’s ready for her real close up.
Also check out our page on Seabury QUinn
More about Philana
Philana Omorotionmwan was born and raised in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. She uses writing to create images that explore the intersections of race, gender, class, and sexuality. Her short plays have been produced at Ensemble Studio Theater, Manhattan Theatre Source, and Berkeley Rep. Her poems have been published in New Delta Review and African American Review. Philana earned her BA from Stanford University and is excited to be pursing an MFA here at OU. You can find out more about her work at philanaplays.weebly.com.