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.
Caroline V. McGraw is one of the five playwrights whose works will be featured in festival readings. She took time to talk about part of her literary life and provide a glimpse into her favorite writing space.
Playwright Caroline V. McGraw's writing desk.
Caroline V. McGraw
I Get Restless
Describe your favorite place to write.
I really like writing on my sofa, even though I shouldn't. I always admire people who 100 percent are like, “I arrive at my desk at the beginning of the day, and I treat my writing like a job, and then when I leave my desk that means my work day is done.” I can't do that. I am carrying my computer all over the house, to the kitchen, to coffee shops, to the main branch of the Brooklyn library. But I do write a lot at my little desk. I never really made a dedicated space for myself until last year and it does help to have a spot where I don't watch Hulu or mess around on the Internet, and I know when I'm there it's time for writing. I really like the fox lamp from Cracker Barrel my husband gave me for Christmas a few years ago, and my otter tape dispenser. Being surrounded by animals is helpful.
What stories did you read as a child in secret?
I never really hid anything I was reading. I started reading Stephen King when I was 10, but it wasn't a secret—my parents let me check-out whatever I wanted from the library and I read whatever I could get my hands on. (Pauses) I might not have been super forthcoming about reading Flowers in the Attic...
When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?
I was very lucky that the Cleveland Play House offered free weekly playwriting classes to high school students. When I was a freshman, my English teacher nominated me, and playwriting just immediately made total sense. I loved theater but hadn't really thought about who wrote the plays.
What play changed your life?
I was assigned a scene from Top Girls in acting class in 11th grade. I played Marlene and I read the play and I was just like "Whoa. One play can do all this?" I'd really only read the greatest hits boys club, Williams, Miller, all that, and reading Caryl Churchill was a bolt of lightning. That play just does it all seamlessly—carefully wrought realism and fantastical theatrics, weird but infinitely relatable. I've come to realize all of my plays are just me trying to talk to Caryl, meet her worldview with mine.
What should we know about I Get Restless?
I started writing the play during spring of 2016, as I was starting to take steps to get engaged—it became an exploration of how quickly a life, and history, can change, and reinvention as a core American value. While it's about a woman in her early 30s, it's (fingers crossed!) a pretty universal story about taking stock of one's life, aging, and reconciling the push and pull of safety and adventure over the course of a lifetime.
The PPF reading of I Get Restless is Saturday, April 21, at 10:30 a.m., on the Segerstrom Stage.