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 eachother! 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 Catherine by first year playwright Katherine Varga. Catherine Weingarten is a 3rd year MFA playwright and wrote one of the 2 mainstage plays, “This is How You Got Me Naked” Check out the interview below and then see her play!! Also watch out for all of the other interviews with our other writers!
Katherine Varga: “This Is How You Got Me Naked” is inspired by your time at Bennington College. Can you tell me more about your experiences there, and how they inform the play? Did you ever go to a Dressed to Get Laid Party?
Catherine Weingarten :My high school was pretty preppy so when I got to Bennington for the first time it felt like a weird, artistic hipster commune of awesomeness. It was the first place I really felt like I could be myself: that I could like learning, that I could make plays about chicks eating cake. It really set me free in a way and I owe a lot of who I am as an artist to Bennington. At Bennington everyone is an artist in some way and is always talking about their work; which is kinda trashy/funny sometimes (when their work is insanely odd like studying hair??) but also super freeing.
Hahah ahh I went to the Dress to Get Laid party twice! The time it was the most intense was when I was a freshman cause I just got to Bennington and had no romantic experience at all and was a hyper-prude; so the party was completely overwhelming, similar to how Jackie feels, the protagonist in my play, when she first gets to the party. I remember I had a crush on this guy who wrote poetry and smoked at me and I really wanted to hookup with him, but it didn’t really happen because he was dressed ironically as a box so I couldn’t really dance with him or get too close.
Katherine: You are a third year playwright, and a co-producer, so I consider you an expert on the Seabury Quinn Festival! What’s your favorite part of the festival? Do you have any wise words for those of us new to the festival?
Catherine: My favorite part of the festival is how much of a binge fest it is! You get to see like 3 of your classmates readings in one day and also get to hear fun, insider critique from random famous-ish people. Ohio’s MFA program is so incredibly rigorous, so by the end of the semester it’s fun to just kick back and celebrate eachother’s work and drink a bit too much after all the readings are done.
In terms of advice for newer mini Ohio playwrights like you Katherine, who is interviewing me, I would say really take advantage of your rehearsal period to learn a lot about your play. Be curious and ask questions and let your actors help you uncover who your characters are and what they need. It can be tempting to just shut down during rehearsals and start critiquing quality of the work, but I would just say try to be open and just realize how lucky you are to have high class, good looking actors working on your stuff and helping you figure it out!
Katherine: Tell me more about what it’s like writing for a full production! Has working with actors / designers changed your writing process?
Catherine: Writing for a full production is so different! First of all it’s like getting Jillian Michaels to give your play a fricking beat down! Your play will change because you will be tailoring it for a group of actors and also it needs to be workable with a small budget, which playfest has. Also sometimes when you do a reading, you don’t worry about how changing a line affects an actor but if it’s going into production that line could affect a costume decision or a piece of blocking. It’s all so interconnected in a great, hippy kinda way.
I don’t know really if it’s changed my writing process, but it definitely does it for me! I can get very in my head about whether something working and when you’re in rehearsals you get instant feedback. Its way less lonely! I also am happy that all my actors are supa supa smart and thoughtful and are not scared to ask me questions about their characters choices and their through lines.
Katherine: You write a lot about relationships with older men, especially men who are authority figures, and now your boyfriend is directing your play! Is having your boyfriend-as-director as hot as it would be in a Weingarten play, or does the work come first?
Catherine: Ooo saucy question! Hah yes, guilty as charged I do love writing about older men and my BF is 5 years older and also currently directing ma play.
It sometimes can be hot since we are doing something new together and are both terrified and excited. But also sometimes the work comes home and I almost throw 20 mirrors at him cause I didn’t like one of his blocking choices. So there’s some hotness and intimacy, and also some danger since it’s my thesis and I want it to not suck. I think it can be risky working with a love interest on a project, but I didn’t get into theater to be safe 😉
I feel lucky though that I get to work with Ben on this project, since we both have a similar aesthetic and love trashy, strange comedy. Also he just has a way of making actors feel comfortable and let their guards down.
Katherine: People are always talking about the need for writers to create “strong female characters.” Your protagonist Jackie is fun, artistic, and determined, but also unsure of herself and completely boy-crazy. Is she a strong female character? Can you tell me more about your philosophy concerning writing women? And maybe point me to a cool Howlround article on the topic? 😉
Catherine: Hah this is a good interview Katherine! I really can tell you actually write for a newspaper!
I don’t think Jackie is a strong female character because I don’t really write strong female characters. I want to write real, flawed, complex chicks! Jackie is actually based on me and I would consider myself passionate and determined etc but at the same time sometimes I make the drunkest choices and get completely lost, which can be funny in retrospect. I love writing about chicks who get into a lot of trouble and have to find a way out of it; who make crazy bad choices. I just think the idea of a “strong” character sounds kinda flat and insanely boring to me. Like I’m asleep just thinking about it.
One thing I try to do as a writer is to create more outsider chick roles for actresses who don’t fit the “hot blond ingénue type.” It’s really great to work with Kristin Yates on this part because she’s a little black firecracker who has the most insane comedic timing and also an innate innocence and nerdiness. I love finding actresses like her who are a little different and weirder than the typical random hot chick actress.
Haha here is the Howlround article I recently wrote about the case against strong female characters: http://howlround.com/creating-complex-female-characters
Now that Catherine is your new OBSESSION, go see her play!
This is How You Got Me Naked
by Catherine Weingarten
Directed by Ben Stockman
8:00 pm – April 13th, 14th, 19th & 22nd;
2:00 pm – April 22nd, Forum Theater, RTV Building
It’s the “Dress to Get Laid” Party: Jackie is dressed as a sexy trash bag, aka Looking Good, and ready to hit on her sexy male dancer friend who is a junior so he will LOVE her so hard he can’t even feel his own body!! Is Jackie destined to be another tragic tale about the perils of hookup culture? Or will she be the lucky GF of a dancer who is hot?
-There will be a special talkback on Friday April 14th with Professor Thomas Vander Ven about hooking up and drinking culture in life and in the play.
Tickets for the Featured Productions are $5 general admission or FREE for OU Students (with valid student ID) through Arts for Ohio; available at the Templeton–Blackburn Alumni Memorial Auditorium box office.
More about Catherine:
Catherine Weingarten hails from Ardmore, PA also known as the area that inspired the preppy sexy TV show “Pretty Little Liars” and is a NYC friendly playwright. Catherine’s comedic plays delve into the societal pressure placed on young women to be both impossibly good looking as well as ridiculously intellectual, humble, kind as can be but sexy. Her plays usually include some hot fantasy sequences which helps attract the common man into the theater! She graduated from Bennington College in Vermont where she studied playwriting with Sherry Kramer. Her 10 minute sex fantasy play “Pineapple Upside Down Cake” was a National Semi-Finalist at the Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival. Her full length playwriting credits include: staged reading of Are You Ready to get Pampered!? produced at the Dixon Place, Less Than Rent and Last Frontier Theater Conference Playlab series; staged reading of This Car Trip Suckss produced by Piper Theater Productions; and Karate Hottie produced by West of 10th in NYC. She is currently the playwright in residence for “Realize Your Beauty Inc” which promotes positive body image for kids by way of theater arts. catherine-weingarten.squarespace.com