As we begin the 27th Annual Seabury Quinn, Jr. Playwrights’ Festival, we’ll be giving the spotlight to our third-year MFA playwrights. Third-year writers graduate soon after their thesis productions headline the festival.
by Steven Strafford
Skye Robinson Hillis is good with words. Whether it be in her plays, or a well-crafted joke over Zoom chat or text message, she knows how to string the words together for great effect. (Often making the writer of this article laugh out loud. And a personal side note: Skye was extremely helpful to me in my adjusting to life in Athens. She always made time for my questions. I am grateful for the care she showed for me. I will miss her jokes and insightful help on my work.)
Skye’s play, The Martha Mitchell Effect is one of our two featured productions this year.
We thought it might be fun to let Skye, in her own words, answer a few questions in interview format for her spotlight piece.
Here is that interview:
Where are you from? What parts of “home” show up in your writing?
Born and raised outside Boston, but also partially raised in southeastern Pennsylvania, and after moving there in 2008 for school, I now consider Chicago home. Basically zero parts of home show up in my writing because I usually prefer to write outside my own personal experience.
What first made you want to write plays?
Dialogue. I tried to be a screenwriting major for a while in undergrad until I learned that nobody cares what your characters have to say in film, only what they do and how it looks.
What is it you hope people leave the theater thinking about with your work and/or specifically this play?
Who are your inspirations? Playwrights? Other writers?
Noel Coward, Edward Albee, Lillian Hellman, Pinter, Tracy Letts, Sarah Ruhl.
What’s a favorite theatrical moment for you as an audience member? A moment that stays with you?
All of the Goodman’s Camino Real directed by Calixto Bieto.
What was the inspiration for your featured play this year?
About two years ago I was listening to the Slow Burn podcast, the first season of which is about Watergate, which is where I learned about Martha Mitchell. I’ve been low-key obsessed with the notion of gaslighting for years and especially the gaslighting of woman of note, so from that point on I couldn’t stop thinking about her. This led to a women of Watergate rabbit hole that I still have not climbed out of.
Skye Robinson Hillis (she/her) is a playwright/director/teacher/dramaturg based in Chicago. A two time semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Award, her work has been seen at the Kennedy Center’s ACTF, Creede Repertory, The Route 66 Theatre Company, Chicago Dramatists, A Red Orchid Theatre, Piven Theatre Workshop, Artistic Home, Columbia College, and the City of Chicago’s In the Works Play Lab at the Pritzker Pavillion in Millenium Park. Her play AND VASTER was awarded a residency at the New Works Lab at Stratford in 2015, winner of the 2015 Ashland New Plays Festival, and winner of the Holland New Voices Award at the Great Plains Theatre Conference in 2017. As a director/dramaturg, she has worked for Hartford Stage, Goodman Theatre, Court Theatre, A Red Orchid, Remy Bumppo, Stage Left, and more. Her other plays include BURY THE REST, ESCAPE VELOCITY, THE ORDINARINESS OF EVERYTHING ELSE, THE RUNNING MATE, INTO PLACE, and SELFISH.
The Martha Mitchell Effect: In his infamous interview with David Frost, Richard Nixon said that “without Martha Mitchell, there would be no Watergate.” And yet the name Martha Mitchell, once ubiquitous, has faded into the background of history. Bringing her story to the forefront, The Martha Mitchell Effect illustrates the world of the courageous women involved in breaking the Watergate scandal and explores their lasting impact on this country today.
Reserve tickets now for this streaming production at The Martha Mitchell Effect website for April 16, 17, 22, 24. And be sure to check out the full slate of new MFA plays streaming during the festival here.