Welcome to our interview series with the current rockin MFA playwrights, leading up to Seabury Quinn! This year the interview series will be a little different since different pairs of writers interviewed each other! These pairs of writers were chosen by the head of the program to be “writing partners” and give each other feedback on each others plays throughout the spring semester.
This interview is questions for Inna Tsyrlin by second year playwright Philana Omorotionmwan. Inna Tsyrlin is a 1st year MFA playwright and her play Tattoo On Your Arm is Thursday April 20th at 1pm in Baker! Check out the interview below and then see her play!! Also watch out for all of the other interviews with our other writers!
Philana Omorotionmwan: Your first-year play (and a few of your Madnesses) explores issues related to preserving environment. What makes you interested in these issues?
Inna Tsyrlin: We share this planet, but we humans have created the most negative impact on Earth. We take from Earth, giving almost nothing back. I’m guilty of this too. It is a constant moral dilemma that I have, about how much of a footprint I’m leaving. I’m trying to explore this in my work to make sense of it, but I doubt I will come to an answer that feels satisfactory. It’s like when you feel good about yourself for not buying bottled water because plastic bottles are bad for the environment, but when you’re feeling lazy you get into your car and drive half a mile for your pizza instead of walking. How do we live in harmony with our surroundings and yet still live in this modern civilization? I don’t have the answer, I just spend a lot of time thinking about it, and this is what’s coming out in my writing.
Philana: Your play is currently titled Tattoo on Your Arm. How did that image first come to you?
Inna: Tattoos often represent something important or special to people who have them, and for one of my characters, her tattoo represents her connection to the Amazon rainforest. The tattoo is of the Inca god, Virachocha, who is the creator of all things. In my play, this is a reminder that there is something greater than humans, be it a god or nature. The image itself is very interesting, a figure of a man wearing the sun for a crown and holding thunderbolts in his hands, while his eyes are filled with rain tears. For me there is a duality in this image: humans trying to both conquer and find a way to live in harmony with nature (I hope we’re trying to live in harmony with it).
Philana: You’ve spoken before about being very interested in exploring ideas in your work, perhaps more so than plot or character. What has your process been like trying to strike a balance between ideas and plot while writing Tattoo On Your Arm?
Inna: I don’t know if I’ve reached a balance. Too early to say. One of the reasons I came to grad school is to try to find a way to express ideas and not sound didactic or arrogant or that I know more than my audience, because I don’t. What I am grateful for, in regards to plot, is that it keeps me grounded. It keeps me thinking about how to engage the audience with the story so that those ideas have a place and express something honest rather than opinionated. We can’t see or touch ideas. So plot makes me think about, how to give those ideas physical manifestations so that they feel relatable and perhaps even universal.
Philana: What’s it like being an Australian playwright living in America?
Inna: Culturally there are differences that have proven to have some challenges. For example, Australians are pretty self-deprecating while Americans are… not (I’m trying to be politically correct). For most Americans, I’ve met Australia seems like an exotic destination; while for Australians, America is just a destination, but we still all come here. Australians come to America and all you hear from us is “oh… it’s like in the movies”. In Australia, Americans are enthusiastic about everything, even if it’s experiencing an American thing/creation but doing it in Australia; e.g. drinking Starbucks (I was in Sydney airport once when I overheard a group of Americans cheering joyously at the sight of Starbucks).
I’m really grateful that as an Australian, and because America thus far has pretty friendly political relations with Australia, the transition to life here has been relatively smooth. As we all know, it isn’t the same for all cultures and nationalities. So if I have to role my “r” when I ask for a glass of water, I’m happy to do it because I do really like being here.
Philana: Part of the writing process is re-writing. This can be painful at times, but it can also be a way to either challenge yourself or find something new to discover in your initial idea or draft. How do you approach re-writing? What gets you through it?
Inna: I try not to re-write until I have the first draft down. Then I begin working out how do I dig deeper into the story. Some re-writing is painful and as one writer told me, it’s like you are amputating a limb. On the days I’m doing the amputation I try to do it in small hits; re-write two scenes and stop. Other days, I re-read my work and I see the beginning of an interesting idea or image and get excited to explore it more. I give myself permission to write about that idea/image without thinking about the whole story. Then I go back and try to see if there is anything useful in that burst of energy to use in my overarching story.
Generally, I’m trying to cut down words, ideas, and story lines. Deadlines are usually the things that get me through. Also the sense of responsibility that if I have people in the room that are giving up their time to read my work, I at least have to give them a finished draft, which doesn’t mean it’s a good draft, it only means there is some type of resolution in the story.
Now that Inna is your fave Australian playwright, go see the reading of her new play at Seabury!
TATTOO ON YOUR ARM
Written by Inna Tsyrlin
1:00 pm, Thursday April 20th, Elizabeth Baker Theater, Kantner Hall
A mysterious occurrence in the Amazon has left its mark on Ben. Abandoning his work as a fashion photographer, Ben feels compelled to help an ancient tribe save their land; their physical and spiritual home. Can Ben preserve the forest and its purity? To do so, he’ll have to choose between honoring his Peruvian fiancée’s connection to the forest or becoming entangled with a powerful financier.
More about Inna
Inna Tsyrlin is currently pursuing her MFA in Playwriting at Ohio University after taking classes at HB Studio (New York City) and at Primary Stage (ESPA, New York City). Inna’s one act plays performed in New York City, include: I (heart) Subway (2014) and Happy Anniversary (2014) (Emerging Artists Theater: New Works Series); My Wife (HB Playwrights Foundation shorts series); Principal’s Office (semi-finalist of Manhattan Repertory Spring 2014 One Act Competition); Fat (Mount Carmel Theater Winter 2014 New Works program). Her one acts, Coffee and Murakami (2014) and Bentley (2013) have had staged readings as part of the Jack & Julie Project at HB Studio; while she has also had readings (2015) for Lama Theatre Company, and a reading of her full-length Animals (2015) in New York City. Apart from plays, Inna has written and produced shot films, reviewed Off-Broadway and Off-Off-Broadway plays for stagebuddy.com, and contributed to Australian lifestyle publications. Her work tends to focus on exploring darker and unusual aspects of relationships and how these reflect in our current social and political environment, with particular attention to freedom and identity.