, a new play by Susan Yankowitz about a brilliant astronomer struck with aphasia after a nearly deadly car crash, opens tonight at the Baruch Performing Arts Center. We had a chance to ask Yankowitz a few questions about the play, her other endeavors and what she loves about theater in New York.
The L: What projects are you currently working on?
I’ve been immersed in revisions and plans for Night Sky
for the past 6 months and really haven’t been able to focus on much else. Amazingly, though, another project on which I’ve been slaving for the past two years, Seven
, a collaborative piece with six other playwrights, all women writing about women, had its debut performance in London this week, on June 1, just as Night Sky
is about to open.
What long-term ideas and projects do you hope to develop in the months and years ahead?
I’m in the midst of developing a multi-media piece about the trials of animals which took place during the Middle Ages – and actually continue into the present day (but you’ll have to see the play to learn more about this amazing and little known administration of justice). I’m hoping to collaborate with video artists, animators, puppet-makers, and other visual/theatrical artists to bring this project to life. I anticipate finishing the script this summer. I’m also at the beginning of an exploration into a play about women who have delved into the deeps of the ocean – literally!
What’s the best show you’ve seen recently? What did you like about it?
God of Carnage
. I loved the way it sabotaged expectations, starting out as a rather conventional sitcom and gradually transforming into a ferocious comedic drama. It’s like a hooker who appears to be a schoolgirl at first glance.
What show are you most looking forward to (other than your own)? Why are you excited about it?
Mnouchkine’s Les Ephemeres
at the Lincoln Center Festival. Whatever she creates – whether it’s an adaptation or an original – is innovative, a combination of depth and spectacle, and a continuation of a fearless career as a director that began in the 60s.
What has been your most positive experience working in the arts in New York City?
Long, long ago, when I first started out as a playwright, I worked with the inimitable Joseph Chaikin and the Open Theater as the writer of Terminal
. This was my introduction to the theatrical process, a true collaboration that shaped my ideas about the theatre and remains my most satisfying experience.
What has been your worst experience working in the arts in New York City?
My inability to find a producer and venue for my gospel opera, with music by Taj Mahal, about one of America’s greatest tragedies: the deaths at Jonestown in 1978
What’s your favorite New York City venue to work in? What do you like about it?
For process, there’s nothing like New Dramatists: a home that is truly dedicated to playwrights, where the entire staff and environment aid and abet, in every way possible, the development of new plays. Many of my plays, including Night Sky
, had initial workshops there.
If, for whatever reason, you could no longer work in theater, what would you do?
I’d be a singer – if I had a voice. Since I don’t, I’d love to be a researcher in neuroscience, exploring new ideas about the brain, especially in relation to memory.
If you had an opportunity to work in any other sector of the arts, what would it be? Why?
In some area of music – though again, I have no talent for it. But I love the idea of being a member of a small orchestra, string quartet or choir– one instrument or voice that is essential to but subsumed in the beauty of many.
What’s the best show in another sector of the arts that you’ve seen recently?
My sister, Nina Yankowitz’s exhibition and installation, Buried Treasures, also and purely coincidentally, at Baruch's Mishkin Gallery
runs at the Baruch Performing Arts Center
(55 Lexington Ave) through June 20.
(photo credit: Carol Rosegg)