The Playwrights of PPF: Madhuri Shekar and Kevin Artigue


by 
Tania Thompson
 | Mar 26, 2018
Pacific Playwrights Festival

South Coast Repertory's Pacific Playwrights Festival (PPF) has been a launching pad for many plays and playwrights, including David Lindsay-Abaire's Pulitzer Prize-winning Rabbit Hole, Jordan Harrison's Marjorie Prime, Lynn Nottage's Intimate Apparel and Vietgone by Qui Nguyen.

The 2018 festival will bring the total number of plays presented at PPF to 137, including many works that have become mainstays of contemporary American theatre.

Madhuri Shekar and Kevin Artigue are two of the five playwrights whose works will be featured in festival readings. They took time to talk about parts of their literary lives and provide a glimpse into their favorite writing spaces.


Madhuri Shekar Writing Space

Madhuri Shekar in her writing space.

Madhuri Shekar
House of Joy

Describe your favorite place to write.
I do most of my writing at home, at our small kitchen table, but it's a total mess right now and the lighting is not great​. So, instead here's my actual favorite place—my friend and Juilliard classmate Krista Knight's apartment, which has incredible lighting, a freaking neon “Playwright” sign in the back, a skeleton mascot, a cute cat, an endless supply of writing hats and props and, of course, coffee. My favorite writing place!

What stories did you read as a child in secret?
An embarrassing amount of Draco [Malfoy]/Harry[Potter] and NC-17 slash fiction.

When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?
I always wanted to do theatre, and I had been writing since I was very young. The two came together in college in India when I started writing plays for my friends and I to perform in. I went to a women's college and there isn't exactly a surplus of plays for casts of all Indian women to perform, so we started writing what we wanted to see on stage. I loved theatre, that I knew; and I quickly discovered that I liked the role of playwright the most. There have been many other moments of confirmation since, and moments of resolution, but college was when I realized this was my thing.

What play changed your life?
Mahesh Dattani's Dance Like a Man showed me that there was a path ahead for me—that I could write plays in English about Indian characters and worlds. That I could merge all the things that excited me.

What should we know about House of Joy?
Writing this play was a great source of joy—it's right there in the title! With the world feeling scary to me, and our future feeling uncertain, I started writing this play in order to live with a lead character who would be brave, who would inspire me, who would show me a better way to be human. I wanted to live in my favorite historical period and bring the romance and the terror and humanity of Mughal India to life. I wanted to write combat roles for women! And, I got to do all of that. It's a really fun play. I think you'll enjoy your time with us.

The PPF reading of House of Joy is Sunday, April 2​​2, at 10:30 a.m.

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Kevin Artigue Writing Spot

Kevin Artigue's writing spot.

Kevin Artigue
Sheepdog

Describe your favorite place to write.
I was born in south LA and the city has always felt like home. So, when I'm in LA for work, my friend loans me this Silver Lake patio. But, because I'm so comfortable, I can have a hard time feeling inspired (when I have the time to seek inspiration). That all changed when I starting crashing on the Eastside. I love the hills, the trees, the homes and the coffee. This patio sits high up on a hill, so it's quiet, with a kind breeze.

What stories did you read as a child in secret?
My peak reading years were ages 9-15. I read so much illegally under the covers after lights were out. Brave New World secretly scared the hell out of me.

When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?
I'm a late bloomer. It really wasn't until my late 20s that I started writing full-lengths and understanding that you could approximate a living from playwriting. That there were these things called MFAs. I REALLY knew I wanted to be a playwright when I interned at the Public Theater in the literary office and sat in rehearsals for Naomi Wallace's Fever Chart. I wanted to do that.

What play changed your life?
Tarrell McCraney's The Brothers Size will always set the bar for me.

What should we know about Sheepdog?
You should know that the play was written with the huge assistance of several brave and forthright police officers, willing to speak candidly about their experience as officers of color. I share the play with them.

The PPF readings of Sheepdog will be on Friday, April 20, at 8 p.m.​, Saturday, April 21, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, April 2​2, at 2:30 p.m., ​in the Nicholas Studio

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See the full PPF lineup and buy tickets.