Sunday, January 23, 2011

Playwright to Playwright: Mishelle Apalategui (1 of 3)

Mishelle Apalategui
As we quickly approach the Opening Night of Downward Facing by Mishelle Apalategui, I wanted to talk to her about the script and her unique playwriting style.

How did you get hooked up with Dream Theatre? What drew you to their style of theatre?

I answered an ad. No, really. In 2008 I moved to Chicago after living in Milwaukee for 10 months doing a (god awful) life changing acting internship. I give it shit, but it actually was life changing, because I learned the most important lesson of all-what I didn’t want to do with my life. 

Learning that has made everything else much more apparent. Not any easier, but more apparent. I was tired of acting because it just didn’t feel right. It felt forced and stringent and exclusive but in a outdated way. So, I decided to focus on writing. I creeped websites like Chicago Artists Resource for postings for Playwrights. Play festivals. 10 minute plays. All that. And I saw a call for playwrights for Dream Theater’s Theater Of Women 24 hour festival. I sent in some samples and Jeremy sent me an email saying he liked my writing style and I joined the process. I knew nothing of the theatre except what I saw on its site and I really liked the visual aesthetic, I could tell they were a group that didn’t want to impress you, they wanted to effect you. And after I wrote for the 24 hour festival up to the day Jeremy asked to produce one of my plays, I never missed a show there. I couldn't, they drew me to their style

I just sat forward in my seat, gripping my knees  and got involved. 

Your plays are written in a very unique style. They are truly lyrical with very heightened dialogue. You almost seem to reject realism in your work. What drew you to this style?

Katherine Swan as Flax
There wasn’t one style I was drawn to. I look back now and I see a myriad of tiny influences instead of one big one. Beckett, Rivera, Edward Gorey, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Sara Kane, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Chaplin those are all definitely in there. And most recently, Jeremy because he was the first playwright who’s work I found absolutely accessible to me without question or dissection. But influences don’t write my plays like style doesn’t write my plays, the people in them do. I’m not sure I reject realism, I just write theatrically, which is why I write plays and not movies. I also find it very difficult to write realism at all because I’m not sure I totally understand it.

Instead of presupposing a play and writing it, I just get it one day. I don’t write all the time veraciously, the ideas sit dormant for a stretch of time and I have no idea they’re even in me. First, I’ll get an itch where I know I need to start writing some self-aware stream of consciousness babble-what I’ve experienced and observed in the past weeks or month-to purge and stimulate the part of my creative mind where I am always collecting information as fodder. So I’ll go to a bar to make sure I’m around people but not anyone I really know, no one to distract me, then I’ll take out whatever I can find in my bag, a pen, a highlighter and the back of a gas bill I’m subconsciously forgetting to pay, and write. Sometimes there’s an imposed structure like poetry with limiting rules, sometimes it’s everything I am thinking for an hour straight but nothing planned. As this is going on and my side of mashed potatoes comes, another part of my brain the one always looking for the next play latches himself onto something; a phrase a couplet of dialogue, a previously unknown whim or desire…something, and I stop. I change my motive and begin to write a scene. It’s always a short dialogue between a few characters that sort of just walk in the space and play for me. I write that until I get too distracted. Then I have the core of the play. Many a time that scene ends up being the first or last. So, through all that, I can’t really surmise what the style is exce
pt, it’s really just me and the way I perceive the things around me and how I find it best to interpret them. Ha! You know the way you talk to yourself out loud when you’re trying t figure out what to say to someone? That’s it, that’s my style.

- to be continued

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