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Tow Foundation Playwright-in-residence: Caroline V. Mcgraw


Originally published on HowlRound Blog

The Tow Foundation’s Playwright-in-Residence at Page 73, Caroline V. McGraw, discusses her residency and upcoming play, Ultimate Beauty Bible:

Talk a little about what being in a residency means to you as an artist and how the notion of residency influences your artistic practice.
When I’m juggling a survival job and writing, it can feel like feast or famine in terms of writing time. There’s little chance for consistency, or for the dreaming that is necessary for me before I start a play. Residency means the difference between moving forward with purpose and standing still. The Tow residency has allowed me to make more of a schedule for myself, and to claim a little corner of the Page 73 office as my space. I’ve been writing a lot, but I’ve also been able to travel to see my productions out of town and to The Humana Festival, take a walk to the Brooklyn Museum on a Wednesday morning and scribble about paintings in my notebook, meet directors for lunch to hash out notes, see a movie in the middle of the day like Don Draper, and read a lot. It’s allowed me to build up my artistic questions so I have fuel for the next few years of work. Idleness, a canoe ride, and the quiet to let an idea in are all very important to my practice.

What are you working on during your residency?
I’ve been workshopping and rewriting my play Ultimate Beauty Bible, which Page 73 is producing at the New Ohio from October 25-November 19. It’s a play I began and developed when I was the Page 73 Fellow in 2013. Because the wonderful Stephen Brackett has been attached to direct since the beginning, we’ve gotten to really develop the play together. I’ve also gotten to interview cool people about the beauty/magazine industry.

I also wrote a new play called I Get Restless and did a workshop of my play Believeland at the Williams College Summer Lab. I’m taking an American Sign Language class, and taking a theatre trip to the UK after Ultimate Beauty Bible closes. I’ve been researching my commission for Yale Rep, a retrofuturist play that spans the 1950s-80s. Answering this question is making me feel like I’ve been very productive!

How do you define home as a playwright? How important is it to have a place you call your ‘artistic home?’
I happily have quite a few artistic homes—both institutionally, and people-wise. If you’ve gotten that anxious 2am email (“hey here is this new thing I don’t know what it is yet but can you read it ahhhh”) from me, congratulations, you are one of my artistic homes! Page 73 has been my anchor since I moved back to New York after grad school. They are pretty much the first people I email when I have good news, theatre and otherwise. At least one person from Page 73 is always in the audience of my New York projects, and Michael Walkup and crew have gotten many of those anxious 2am communiqués. My artistic homes sustain me in the way my actual home does—I can go to them in good times and bad to reflect and recharge.

What are your aspirations as a playwright? When you imagine yourself ten years from now, where are you and what are you doing?
I find that in a first draft of a play, I write my main characters a little older than I am at that moment, and then I catch up with them as I rewrite and workshop. I look back at the last ten years and my plays are a map of my obsessions and urgent questions about the world. I have no idea what new ideas and images and questions will preoccupy me in the years to come, and that’s thrilling.

In terms of practical goals, I want to write a musical, I want to write for television, and I want to write for young audiences. The first play I saw was The Wind in the Willows and I remember it so vividly—I would love to write a youth-oriented play that glows in someone’s memory like that! In ten years I’ll still be writing for the actors and directors I love, and getting to grow along with them. I hope my plays are being done in cities I’ve never been to, and that I get to learn more about America through those theatres. I hope in ten years I have dozens more friends and collaborators all across the country.”