I've found a monologue titled 'Epiphany' that I want to perform in class but I'm required to read the whole play first.  The title isn't listed in the anthology that I have, how do I find out what play she is from?  
Epiphany is a character in Eye of the Beholder. I know that with many books it's difficult to tell which monologue came from which play, so I've made an index to help: 
 Click here !

Are your plays based on personal experiences?
That’s hard to say.  The best answer I can give you is that every character I have written so far has a bit of me knocking around in there, either as a reflection of an event in my life or a personality trait of mine that somehow slipped in, good and bad.  I don’t necessarily mean to do it in most cases, but I’ve looked back later and suddenly recognized a bit of me lurking in there... and on a few occasions someone else has pointed something out to me that I hadn’t realized was there. When that happens, it can be enlightening or just plain weird, depending on who is doing the pointing.

I am working on Fiona's monologue from Eye of the Beholder.  Can you describe a bit more what the play is about?
‘Eye’ is about the power of perception.  Each of the characters view their personal circumstances in a unique way, quite unlike from what would generally be assumed about them.  Lila, for example, is assumed to be simply a hooker. In her eyes, however, she is doing God's work.  She views herself as a holy conduit and believes that each man she encounters has made a pilgrimage to her...and through her will be healed.
Fiona initially appears to be a completely clueless, elitist bitch - but as she continues to speak she reveals that she is trapped by the perceived power of her own beauty, so much so that what seems simple and natural to most people is just too great a risk for her.  No matter how desperately she wishes otherwise, the unknown is just too terrifying for her to take a chance.

What is Voices in the Dark about?
The short answer is that it is about insomnia.  It explores the reason why several characters in different places from vastly different walks of life all happen to be awake at three o'clock in the morning.

WHY do some of your characters curse so much? Is that really necessary? Can't you write the same character without the vulgar language?
1  Because they do.
2  Yes.
3  No. 

This is the question I hear the most, but I'm glad you asked, because here I can try to better explain
my feelings on it. I understand why someone would feel that some of my stuff isn't appropriate for everyone. I'm not insulted by that, I completely agree. But it is what it is. If you dislike the characters who curse, I respect that. But it doesn't mean they can, or need to be, changed. 

Some of my characters do curse a lot, others not at all. I don't believe in adding 'mature' language for shock value, that's just pointless. It is simply that this is how some of my characters talk. They just do. It would be just as disingenuous to change the way they express themselves for fear of offending someone as it would be to add coarse language in hopes of shocking someone.

The ones who curse do so simply because that is who they are. Safe, for example, curses constantly because it's just her vernacular, it's what she has always known. Henla does so because she loves the way the words feel in her mouth, how they make her feel independent and rebellious and they can be strung together in so many fun ways. Denis curses a blue streak because he is really, really angry and these are the only words that can even come close to expressing his frustration. They each speak the way they do for a reason.

This is why I object when people want to 'perform a character without all the dirty language'. Not just with my writing, but for any piece. I saw a G rated version of a Mamet scene once and it was just brutal. 

***Note: I am NOT comparing myself to Mamet, mind you, I just think his writing is a good example of what I mean. His scenes have a definite rhythm to them, and every word, including every curse word, plays a part in that. When you start to mess around with it, it becomes something very different. The characters are not the same.

Changing or removing a character's words fundamentally changes who they are. Any writer will tell you that every word is there on the page for a reason. ( Sure, small changes here and there are inevitable, what I'm talking about is lines being cut or rewritten specifically to remove any portions deemed 'offensive'.)

I'm not trying to sound lofty, but to me it is like music. If you start removing or rearranging the notes, sure, the song is still there...but it is vastly different from what is was intended to be.

If you feel the need to rewrite something to perform it, then that means it is just not the right piece for you. And that's okay. What you have to do is find something else that you are comfortable performing, as is. Or, just sit down and write something of your own. You might surprise yourself and find that you have come up with a brilliant scene that's perfect for you.

Butchering someone else's work to suit your needs, however, is not okay. Ever.

Also, it’s a great idea to just contact the playwright directly.  In some circumstances, (and if it is possible) playwrights will make some adjustments to a piece to fit the needs of a particular performance. If they feel that they can make some cuts while still maintaining the basic integrity of the piece, they may be cool with it.  Just tell them how much you like the piece and would love to perform it, then explain specifically which parts are troublesome for you and why - and ask if it is possible to make some small changes.  It doesn’t hurt to send an email, and usually a playwright will appreciate that you contacted them instead of chopping up their work on your own.

*Note:  If you do send an email, know that simply being nice and respectful goes a really long way. 
You don’t have to write a soliloquy singing their praises, just remember that this is a human being that you are contacting - not an automated writing service - and their life is just as busy and stressful as yours. You are a thousand times more likely to get a response from an email that is courteous rather than one that makes it clear you assume the world revolves around you. 

You wouldn’t believe how many emails I’ve gotten from actors/students randomly demanding that I do something for them and that I absolutely must do it right away because they really really need it for their performance tomorrow and everything is going to fall apart if I don’t do my part and do I really want to be responsible for disappointing so many people?  Yeah, emergency circumstances do happen, but not that often, and it’s not the playwright’s job to save your ass just because you waited until the last minute.  If you do have an emergency, by all means explain it, they’d probably be happy to help you out if they can!   (Just don’t make up an emergency, because they will see right through it and you will look like a douche.)

So, in short: send email, be nice, do it ahead of time. Easy!

I went off on a bit of a tangent there, sorry! To finish answering your question; I write the characters down the way they show up in my head, and I do my best to stay true to what they would naturally say - which ends up covering the full spectrum of language. 

Love them or hate them, they just are who they are.

I am going to be playing the part of Henla from Small Mercies.  Could you please give me a synopsis of her point of view?
Henla begins every conversation somewhere in the middle, as if she has already been speaking for some time and you have just missed it...and as far as she is concerned,you snooze, you lose.  Her age range is irrelevant;  she appears ageless, so whether she is played as a twenty-five year old or a fifty year old shouldn't matter.
She carries everything she owns in her bag, and although she has lived in this park for years, that fact is not readily apparent. As far as she is concerned, she is just always on her way to somewhere else.Where she is now is not her home, it is simply where she happens to be at the moment. As she says later on, she has just ‘lost her bearings’ for a bit.
Henla is the philosopher of the play, but with a completely cut-to-the-chase, no  bullshit approach. She is shrewd and impatient, speaks plainly and directly, and has no tolerance for self pity of lofty world views. She believes that  everyone is as lost as she is but is too afraid to admit it.  She believes that people couch themselves in feel-good sentiments and complex belief systems in order to focus on the minutia of what they choose to believe,and how it differs from what others want to believe... when deep down, it all comes down to the same thing:  that gnawing hole in the middle of your chest.  Everyone has it, and no one knows why, and that puts us all on a level  playing field. 

She watches for people whom she thinks pretend to know a great deal, so she can point out that none of us really knows anything.  Henla has a lot going on beneath the surface that is left unsaid. She is wise, and a bit of a spitfire, but still not able to help herself. The irony of her character is that although she can see right through anyone, she is unable to see herself clearly. Or, more precisely, she chooses not to. She has disdain for others who are ruled by their fear...but, of course, she is as well. 

Your characters all seem to be a little weird, a little dark, generally a little messed up in the head in one way or another. Are they based on real people?
Ha ha! Yes, it's fair to say that none of them are the picture of mental health...but who is?
For the most part, my characters aren't based on any specific person aside from me, in one way or another. There have been very few exceptions to that rule so far.

The general rule of playwriting is to base a story around a specific conflict. You don't seem to do that.  Why?
Well I do, but my characters tend to wrestle with internal conflicts. It's true that my writing is a little nontraditional, I guess, and that fact has certainly been a hindrance on occasion... but all I can do is write what is inside my head. I admire writers who are able to sketch out a plot line and craft a story accordingly - that takes a great deal of talent. Unfortunately I've never been able to do that. I struggled with it for a long time, and then eventually decided to just write the way that felt right for me. Not everyone's cup of tea, but that's okay.

I began writing because I was an actress who was frustrated at having to search so hard for a female character with some depth to it. There were so few at the time, and hundreds of actresses fighting over them. I started to write the kinds of pieces I wanted to perform; a small window into the secret life inside a person.

Not to sound trite, but I think it it is a lot more interesting to write about what we all have in common and just rarely admit. Let's be honest, we are all f-d up on the inside, we just are. The details may differ, but the bottom line is that we are all walking train wrecks; no matter how vastly different we may appear to be to each other, we all suffer the same struggle to overcome whatever hell is inside of us. Hells differ, suffering is the same. I think that's pretty fascinating.

It's not all dark - we all harbor secret dreams and delights as well. There is an entire world going on inside of every single person you meet. That's what I try to capture - at least a glimpse of it.

Can you tell me more about the woman in ‘This Dream’?   
The woman in ‘This Dream’ is in her late forties. She feels trapped by a life she never intended to have - one that includes an abusive marriage and a terribly lonely existence. She  began her adult life with great promise - an intelligent woman full of dreams and so much potential. Suddenly she looks up and realizes that twenty-five years have passed her by. One compromise led into another and another...and now she finds herself sitting in this  house, looking out the window for hours on end, dreaming of the  plans she'd once had. All the things she'd meant to try and explore and never did.  Most shocking of all is the realization that she has somehow managed to become married to someone who brutalizes her. She just can't wrap her brain around any of it.   
It is  impossible for her to believe that this - this sad,lonely, hopeless,  person -is what has become of her. She simply cannot face the reality of her situation,or the possibility that life has passed her by. Worst of all is the knowledge that she allowed all of these things to happen to her. Her choices put her here.  To face this truth is far too painful...more than she could possibly handle.
So, instead, she chooses to believe that she is still twenty years old...and everything around her right now is simply a bad dream. It must be, she rationalizes, because she would never let any of this happen to herself. She just keeps telling herself that sooner or later she will wake up from this terrible dream, and then she can begin her real life.  
Deep down, of course she knows the truth, but is using all the energy she can muster to keep from facing it. At the end of the piece she is begging with all she's got to make it true: to make this life of hers be just a dream. She would give anything, do anything, for that to be true. But of course it isn't.

I've been studying Denis from Small Mercies. I'm trying to get a better idea of where he is coming from.  Can you give me some background?  My director and I disagree on whether or not he is mentally ill.
I'm glad to hear that the two of you disagree!  I wanted Denis' sanity to be left up to personal interpretation. I've found that personal perspective really shapes how actors see him. I can tell you that he has definitely been pushed to his limit-he's angry, frustrated, and has been forced to question his internal barometer of what is real and what is self-created. Right now he really has no idea what is going on, and it pisses him off.   Whether he is sane or not -well, it's been interpreted both ways and each side has had a strong argument to back up their choice-so it's really up to you and your director to decide.  If you remain at a stalemate, I suggest arm wrestling, two out of three. Unless, of course, you have the means for a steel cage match...
Having said all this, do I think he is crazy?  No, but I don't believe any of my characters are crazy, just...um, misunderstood.

Do you get paid every time someone buys one of those anthologies that has one of your monologues in it?
Nope.  Every playwright I have ever met has received a one-time payment of about $25 per piece, period. The anthologies are really great because they help us get our work out there across the world for people to see - and also hopefully interest them enough to want to read the rest of the play too - but as far as any income for the writers, not so much. Still, the editors that I’ve met have all worked extremely hard to put together books that offer new, interesting and challenging pieces from playwrights that most people don’t know. (yet!) That’s no easy feat, and I really appreciate it.  

Also, for the few that I’m in - I get to be in such incredible company. I’m thrilled to have something I’ve written included next to some amazing writers that I really admire and respect.  So, I promote the books on my website and encourage people to check them out, even though there is no money in it for me. 
The more opportunities people have to discover new writers, the better.

Do you have a favorite performer?  Someone who writes and performs their own work, I mean?
Eddie Izzard, hands down. He is consistently hilarious and completely original. There is no one else like him.  How many performers can you say that about?

Do you like musicals? What are your top 3 favorite soundtracks? Do you ever plan to write one?
I do, but I usually lean toward more non-traditional types; I love Hedwig and the Angry Inch, I think John Cameron Mitchell is a genius. Passing Strange by Stu is has some of the most gorgeous and inventive lyrics I've ever heard. I still know every song in Les Mis by heart, and Sondheim's Into the Woods is just brilliant and never gets old. 

In the ‘old school’ category, my favorites are Guys and Dolls, (probably because I was in a production in high school, ha!)  and Cabaret.   Cabaret is perfection. (Yes, I realize I have trouble counting to three.)

I am actually working on a musical right now, but no projected date yet on when it will be finished.


What is the fastest land animal?   
The cheetah!
(Ten points if you can name the film!)