NAME: Alix Sobler
HOMETOWN, COUNTRY: New York, USA (also many years in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada)
NAME OF THESIS PROJECT: Last Night in Inwood
MENTOR: Lisa Kron
Can you provide me with a brief synopsis about your play or project that you are presenting as part of your thesis?
A major disaster in Manhattan has everyone on the island looking for high ground. For Danny’s family and friends, that higher ground happens to be her one-bedroom apartment in Inwood. As the world outside goes to pieces, Danny tries to keep the peace among the assorted characters gathered in her space. They might make it through this crisis, if they can manage to survive each other.
Can you tell me a little bit about the origin of this play? Where did the idea come from? Did you work on it in class?
This idea came to me over the summer as the US election started heating up. We were watching politics unfold on the national and international stage, but it got me thinking about what these kinds of major political shifts lead to, and then how it effects individuals in their everyday lives. The play takes place inside a one-bedroom apartment and involves a family and their neighbors, but the global politics that have led to their circumstances are well known to all of us. I was also very inspired by my neighborhood in Inwood, New York. It’s a very diverse, friendly neighborhood and in many ways feels outside of the rest of city life. It has a rich, ancient history and one of the only untouched, un-landscaped natural parks in the city. Parts of Inwood are the same as they were pre-contact, and that thrills me endlessly. There is a great mystery nestled in this lesser-known part of New York, and it became an important character in my play.
Who is your mentor? Why did you want them as your mentor?
Lisa Kron is my mentor, and I am so lucky! She is a brilliant writer and theater artist, whose work has long been an inspiration. Way back in my solo performance days, she set the standard in writing and performance. Her brilliant blending of tragedy and hilarity in her work is something to which I aspire. She is also masterful at sculpting a play in way that reflects the message or question she is posing, and I am hoping to do the same in my work.
Is there a question that your play is asking, or that you were seeking to answer when you started writing this play?
I think the work began as a panic response the the way things seem to be unfolding around the globe. I felt a deep sense of anxiety, and I sensed it throughout many people in my community. I created a situation that reflected that anxiety and set to work on unpacking it. Ultimately, I think my play seeks to investigate how we proceed forward when the future is unknown. In some ways, we are all dealing with different crises all the time. It might not be catastrophic on the scale of a citywide disaster, but there are moments in our lives when everything changes and we have no idea what comes next. How can we work together to face the next chapter when we can hardly agree on anything? Where do we find our hope? How do we know what the right move is? These are some of the questions I am working with.
What has been most challenging about this process?
This play has been particularly challenging because there are often six characters on stage engaged in conversation at the same time. Creating a work in which they are all represented, heard, developed, and fully realized has been an ongoing challenge. I have embraced the difficulty because I feel that it reflects the challenge facing a lot of us right now, especially those of us on the left. Making sure everyone is heard, respected and considered is essential, but extremely hard. It’s true in real life, and it’s true in playwriting! Hopefully I will emerge better in both arenas.
What would you like to be doing in 10 years?
I would like to be writing plays and also working in television and film. I would like to be busy, busy, busy, but also able to spend a lot of time with my family and pets. I would like to be living in a free democracy where women, people of color, people of different orientations and genders, people with disabilities and members of every marginalized group feel safe and empowered. I would like to be living in a society that values art as a public good.
Anything else you would like to say?
Alix is a writer and performer from New York. Her plays have been workshopped and produced at theaters across North America. Most recently her playThe Great Divide opened at the Finborough in London. She is a graduate of Brown University, and will receive her MFA in playwriting from Columbia University in 2017. Find out more about her at alixsobler.com