Your play, Northanger Abbey, A Romantic Gothic Comedy, is based on a novel by Jane Austen. What attracted you to this particular work of hers?
I have always been a fan of Austen novels. I have also been drawn to classics as a performer and have experienced first hand the lack of challenging classical roles for women. I was initially attracted to the novel Northanger Abbey because of its cleverness and accessibility. The story of a young woman distracted by a fantasy world connected with me and felt like a contemporary dilemma. Northanger Abbey was written as a satire of the gothic horror novels which were so popular in Jane Austen's day; Ann Radcliffe's The Mysteries of Udolpo, in particular. Once I began working on the play, I realized that Northanger Abbey could not be fully realized without the inclusion of The Mysteries of Udolpho. That is how my adaptation evolved into a melding of the two novels.
I believe you've adapted Jane Austen for the stage before. What is it about her work that strikes a chord in you?
Actually, Northanger was my first Austen project. I am always fascinated by reading and research so while I was working on this script I got an idea for a Christmas play about Jane Austen's youth and family. I stopped writing Northanger to write Innocent Diversions, in which I adapted some of her juvenilia. It just so happened that I completed it much more quickly and it was produced first! It simply grew out the way one thing can lead to another.
You are one of several writers in Playing With Canons who also acts. What do you like about doing both? And how did you first start doing both?
I have been on stage since I was a child. My mother was an actress in musical theatre and she would drag my brothers and me to rehearsals. It wasn't long before we were all doing shows like Oliver! and The King and I. I just never stopped. When I was at university, I became a resident acting company member of the Minneapolis Playwrights Center and worked on a number of original scripts there and locally in the Twin Cities. It wasn't until I got to New York that I began working so much in the classics. Becoming a playwright was a natural evolution of my theatre experiences. I think actors make some of the best playwrights (Shakespeare being a prime example). Knowing what it is like to be on stage can really inform a writer's choices. I really enjoy the collaborative aspect in the artistic process of mounting a production. I view the script as a sort of blue print for a living, breathing kinetic sculpture. The script or story is the architecture that holds all the other elements in place and it takes a team of people working together to achieve that final result. If there is a down side for me as playwright; it is how much time I have to spend working alone creating my "blue prints". I am by nature a social creature.
A brief glance at your writing and acting resumes reveals a long association with the classics: you have adapted and/or performed in works by Schiller, Shakespeare, Brecht, Synge, and Moliere, to name a few. What do you like about the classics?
I think I am primarily attracted to the language of the classics. I love words. The communication of ideas and the beauty of poetry. I grew up learning and speaking German and when I first read Shakespeare as a teenager it made sense to me. A lot of his sentence structures and vocabulary evoked the German language. I understood it innately and I never found it "foreign" or confusing. I loved it! I never want to stop learning about it. I find period/styles acting more challenging and fulfilling at times; but it can also be a breath of fresh air to perform in a contemporary drama as well. I think actors thrive best on variety.
What are some other things you'd like to write or adapt?
I have a list of ideas for plays that is pages long! My biggest dilemma is finding time to shut myself away from the world to create the scripts. I am usually working on three or four different projects at once. Currently I am working on an original script about the Bronte family called The Fatal Seduction of Branwell Bronte and I am also working on an adaptation of the civil war writings of Louisa May Alcott. I am very excited about both of these projects and I hope to have one of the scripts drafted before the end of the year.
What's up next for you? A new play, or are we going to see you on stage again?
My next project is a new production of Northanger Abbey, A Romantic Gothic Comedy at Theater Ten Ten. The show runs October 20 to November 19th. The script has had a few productions and more potentially are in the works. I am really pleased by the reaction and interest it has received. It is gratifying to me as an artist to see the play begin to take on a life of its own.
Interview with Lynn Marie Macy was conducted by Michael Criscuolo September 2006.