On September 2nd, the Semi Finals of the New York New Works Theatre Festival will take place at The Elektra Theatre at The Times Square Arts Center. Among the over a dozen plays being performed will Flicker of Light, a play written by one of its youngest competitors, Deanna Hartog.
While this may be Ms. Hartog's first time seeing her work performed in such a fashion, she is no stranger to theatre. She's been appearing in local theatre for the past couple of years. I had a chance to ask Deanna about her theatrical back ground and what inspired her to start writing.
So to start, where did your interest in theatre begin and how did you transition to writing?
Growing up, I’ve always been surrounding by theatre. My parents, Marc and Cindy Hartog, are both actors. When I was younger, I would beg to accompany them to auditions, rehearsals, and performances. Eventually, I decided to get involved by auditioning for my first show when I was twelve. I absolutely loved the adrenaline of standing on stage and the relationships that developed backstage. I continued to do about one show each year since then. But, since I can remember, I have always had a true passion for writing. It didn’t really matter what type: essays, journalism, stories, and plays. When I was in second grade, I began writing scripts for my classmates. I would have auditions, cast them, direct them, star in them, and them perform them once a week. I guess with my experience with both writing and acting, it made sense to combine them into one craft: playwriting.
When you sit down to write dialogue, what is the most important element you want the audience to pick up on?
With dialogue, it’s really important to me that it is completely natural. I don’t want it to sound like a soap opera. My goal, essentially, is that the audience feels as though they may have experienced a similar conversation in their life and can relate. I like to say that my playwriting is like a slice of life. You feel like you are sitting in the room with the characters and watching them interact, instead of watching from afar. I really try to knock down that wall between the stage and the audience, and bring the two together.
Tell me about Flicker of Light, where did the inspiration come from?
I always had a really unique relationship with my grandfather. Even though he passed away when I was young, I always felt as though I understood him as a person. Recently, I stumbled upon an old photograph of him, and I began to understand that his personality was one that a lot of people could relate too. All too often, relationships between parents and children become complicated by life’s twists and turns. I wanted to write something that told his story in a relatable and realistic way.
You're also directing the latest performance of it, how has that gone? Do you see directing as another route for you as well?
I have never thought of myself as a director. Originally, I had planned on finding a director that could take leadership of my show and bring it to life. However, those plans fell through, and I realized that I probably knew my show best. In all honesty, directing it has been a lot harder than I expected to be. Since I wrote the words myself, watching them come from someone else clouded my judgement, and I couldn’t truly see it objectively. I guess, when I write scripts, I’m almost seeing and directing the show in my head. I definitely have a lot more respect for directors, now that I can understand the challenges that they face. Personally, I don’t think directing is for me, simply because I just don’t think I have the eye for it. I think it’s a very specific skill and craft that either you have, or don’t.
What's the next step for you?
Moving forward, I really just want to focus on honing in on my craft by writing as much as possible. It’s a pretty cliché saying that practice makes perfect, but with writing, it’s really true. The only way to become a stronger writer is to write some bad pieces, rewrite them, rewrite again, and eventually create a piece that you are proud of. It’s really a lot about endurance and perseverance, but throughout it all, you learn a lot about yourself as a writer, and as a person.
To order tickets for Flicker of Light and other plays from the festival, visit http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/2064958.