The 24th Annual Seabury Quinn, Jr. Playwrights’ Festival officially opens tonight! The featured, Thesis Productions of our Third Year MFA Playwrights debut this weekend in Kantner Hall on the Elizabeth Evans Baker Stage. To celebrate the opening of the featured productions, and leading up to the festival staged readings on the 26th, 27th, and 28th, we will be featuring daily interviews with the current playwrights about their work. We’ve interviewed the 3rd Year MFA Playwrights, Philana, Cristina, and Natasha on their Featured Thesis Productions, now learn a little more about the upcoming staged readings presented by the 2nd and 1st Year MFA Playwrights!
Second Year MFA Inna Tsyrlin (pictured below!) was interviewed by Third Year MFA Cristina Luzárraga about her play, Exodus of Dreams.
Cristina Luzárraga: Your play Exodus Of Dreams is about Russian Jewish immigrants in New York. As a Russian Jewish immigrant to Australia, what do you see as the differences between the American and Australian immigration experience?
Inna Tsyrlin: The wave of Russian Jewish immigrants from the late 80s to mid-nineties all had similar experiences, irrespective of where they ended up. A majority came to America; then many went to Israel; some to Canada, the UK, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. Many of these immigrants, myself included, experience a mix of gratitude to be free from Soviet anti-Semitism and a strong nostalgia for Soviet culture that is difficult to replicate in Western countries. The assimilation of Russian Jews into Australian society is more evident than in American society, but that’s mainly to do with the larger population of these immigrants to America. I would say that irrespective of where Russian Jews are, leaving the former Soviet Union was a necessity and there is immense appreciation to those countries who opened their doors to us.
Cristina: Trump has obviously changed the state of immigration in the U.S., and your plays are often politically charged. How does Exodus Of Dreams relate to the current climate?
Inna: My intension with Exodus Of Dreams was to write a play that focusses on the story of an immigrant family looking for salvation and opportunity in America. The current administration wants to literally wipe out immigration to America, a country that, despite its strict immigration policy (even before Trump coming to office), was known as a country of immigrants not only from a historical perspective but as part of its identity. If my play sheds a new light or reaffirms the importance of both continuing immigration to America – and other Western counties – and supporting immigrants who try to build new lives post their arrival, then I feel like I’ve added something to the heated and currently fraught conversation on immigration.
Cristina: Your characters are very committed to keeping kosher. What’s your own relationship like to Jewish laws and tradition?
Inna: I’m Jewish in faith, ethnicity and identity. How much I practice or don’t practice changes as I feel a greater pull to certain aspects of the faith, while other aspects I’m still attempting to understand. I’ve always been told that because I went to a Jewish school, my parents and grandparents felt more connected to Judaism, something they never physically experienced in the Soviet Union, like having a seder (Passover meal) every year since we came to Australia.
Cristina: Your play centers on the dilemma of transplanting a pig heart into a human. How close is this to reality? When might we expect to start harvesting animal organs?
Inna: From the research that I’ve found the answer is soon. There are shortages of human organs and animals are probably the next best thing, as long as the human body can accept the organ. Additionally, the chromosome structures of pigs are very close to our own, so the idea of pig organs being a viable option isn’t far-fetched. There’s the saying “you are what you eat”, perhaps it will be a phrase that isn’t only apt for healthy eating.
Cristina: There is a talking pig in your play. If you could have a talking animal as a friend, what would it be, and why?
Inna: Can I just be friends with all the animals in the zoo? Animals are fascinating to me and I’d love to get their perspectives on life; from the ones that fly to the ones that crawl. Can you imagine what it would be like to have a bat describe its life and compare that to what a platypus may tell us? I’d like to ask my dog a few things; like would he prefer to watch a rom com or thriller… I like getting a group consensus on the important things.
Inna Tsyrlin at five years of age left Russia to emigrate to Australia where her and her family no longer had to face an anti-Semitic social and politic system. She now lives in America, trying to reconcile her own identity and politics in her writing. Her plays include Tattoo on My Arm (The Rising Sun Performance Company 2017 Lab Series, NY); I (Heart) Subway and Happy Anniversary (one acts for Emerging Artists Theater, NY); My Wife (HB Playwrights Foundation Shorts Festival, NY); and Principal’s Office (semi-finalist of Manhattan Repertory 2014 One Act Competition). More info: innatsyrlin.com
New American Dreams
by Inna Tsyrlin
4:00 pm, Thursday April 26th, Forum Theater, RTV Building
Can a kosher child live with a non-kosher heart? While Avram struggles to integrate himself and his family into American society, and meets constant obstacles in keeping his faith, his daughter befriends a pig. This pig may be the answer to the family’s heart transplant predicament, but if Avram accepts a pig’s heart for his sick daughter, will he still be a good Jew?
Tickets for the Stage Readings are FREE and open to the public.