2017-18 Jerome Fellow (and 2018-19 McKnight Fellow in Playwriting!) Tori Sampson is workshopping BGN: Black Girl Nerd at the Playwrights' Center this week, with director Harry Waters Jr. and actors Traci Allen Shannon*, China Brickey, H. Adam Harris*, JuCoby Johnson*, and Ivory Doublette* (*Member of Actors' Equity Association). A mini-interview with Tori:
How do you approach work based on historical figures or events?
I begin all my plays the same, no matter the subject, and that’s with a question(s) that consumes and excites me. I studied sociology in college where I learned the value of ethnographic work and research. If possible, I commit to both before writing the play.
You recently finished an MFA playwriting program. What advice do you have for writers looking to start an MFA?
That’s a tough one because the programs are unique and a writer’s needs are even more unique so the most blanket advice is to choose a program that values production opportunities for its students. Writing plays is only half the game. The other half is learning how to get it on its feet with collaborators.
What is something you’ve never seen onstage but would like to?
I’m not gonna say because I want to write it.
What play do you wish you’d written and why?
I don’t mind saying this because I’ve revealed this to her personally: Christina Anderson’s Good Goods. It brings me so much joy to read this play. Like real joy.
What do you wish someone would have told you about playwriting that you had to learn the hard way?
Writing plays is painful… like physically. I wish someone told me how much but I probably wouldnt’ve believed them just like whomever is reading this is questioning the validity in my claim.
What is the most rewarding part of the writing process for you?
Typing “The End.” feels very good. But I do getting very jazzed during the research phase also.
What does your writing space look like?
I can write almost anywhere as long as my head is in the game, I’m locked in and ready.
What is something you’re good at that few people know about?
I’m not shy about my skillset so folks are aware. But I love playing sports and I’m a good athlete.
When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?
After I saw August Wilson’s Fences.