21st Century Voices Interview with Playwright Gina Stevensen

December 26, 2018
As 2018 comes to an end we’re looking forward to kicking off the new year with new plays! Our 21st Century Voices: New Play Festival will run January 3rd-6th featuring five staged readings and talkbacks with playwrights from all over the country. Here’s an interview with New York based playwright Gina Stevensen whose play THE COLONY will be presented on Thursday January 3rd at 8pm.


Synopsis of THE COLONY

In 1924 Virginia, a dirt-poor young woman named Carrie Buck is brought to a mysterious medical facility. No one will tell her why she’s here, or where her two-month-old daughter is. All she knows is that her mother lives here – the mother who abandoned her when she was a child. The Doctor in charge is a charming progressive, a student of the new science of heredity and genes. In Carrie, he finds the missing link his entire movement has been searching for, placing her at the center of an unbelievable chain of events that will lead all the way to the Supreme Court. Based on true events, The Colony asks the question: how does our society, past and present, determine the value of its female bodies?

What are you most looking forward to about 21st Century Voices?

I am absolutely thrilled to be participating in 21st Century Voices! I’m looking forward to collaborating with a new team of artists and learning more about my play by experiencing it alongside the St. Pete community. (I’m also not disappointed to get a break from the NYC weather…!)

What inspired you to write this play?

In the summer of 2017 I stumbled upon the text from the Supreme Court’s 1927 decision in the case Buck vs. Bell. Its language and its shocking ramifications transfixed me. The more I researched the more invested I became in the story of Carrie Buck, the woman at the center of the case, and in the necessity and relevance of her story to our country right now. I set out to write this play as a warning, a way for us to look back at this slice of our recent past, but then…well, no spoilers. To be intentionally vague, let’s just say that the more I learned the more things got REAL. Like, really real.

What has the life of your play been like thus far?

I started researching and writing this play in the summer of 2017 for my MFA playwriting thesis at Columbia University. After the thesis production this past April, it was chosen for a summer reading series at the off-Broadway theater Urban Stages. I continued to develop and re-write the play with a writers’ group in NYC called The Joust, who then produced a workshop of it in November.

What do you hope to gain from having a director and actors work with your piece?

The rehearsal room is my favorite place on the planet. The impulses actors and directors bring to a play inevitably allow me to see the text in totally new ways, which is humbling and more than a little magical. This will be my first time working on this play with a director and actors who don’t know me at all. I can’t wait to experience the play through their eyes, and discover what lives clearly on the page and what isn’t quite communicated clearly enough.

What would you like to gain from having an audience hear your play?

There is no better way to learn about your play than to sit in the back of a room and experience it alongside an audience who has never heard it before. The moments of restlessness in an audience, of laughter and sharp intakes of breath all provide essential information about what works and what isn’t yet working. And perhaps more importantly, I’m SO excited for the talkback. I can’t wait to hear what you take away from the play and what questions arise from it. I love talkbacks!

What do you want people to take away from your play?

My dream is that after seeing the play, audiences will run home, do some furious Google searching on the subject matter, tell five friends about what they learned, and then that cycle will repeat until everyone in the country is aware of what the play attempts to unearth. But at the very least, I hope people leave the play with a new awareness of the ways we have not yet shaken off many of the most troubling parts of our nation’s history. And with a desire to change that.

What are your hopes for the future life of your play?

Broadway, of course! But really, my priority is actually to get this play to communities all across the country. My hope is that folks who don’t typically see theater will have the chance to see this play, and that there will be talkbacks after every performance which will stimulate a necessary dialogue about class and race and gender.

Do you have any advice for aspiring playwrights?

Read and see as many plays as you possibly can, so you can find inspiration and also so you can steal things. Keep writing exactly the stories you need to tell, the stories you wish you saw more of, the ones that keep you awake at night – those are the stories the world needs!

Visit americanstage.org/new for more info and tickets to our 21st Century Voices: New Play Festival.
Individual Tickets: $10 per reading
All-Access Pass: $40 General Public | $30 American Stage Subscribers & Act 1 Club Members*
*Subscribers & Act 1 Club Members need to call box office for offer.