MM: When did you begin writing plays? What drew you to playwriting?
RS: I started with writing short solo pieces about 10 or 12 years ago, then worked with a collaborator to devise pieces, which moved into writing plays. Being a performer, I was drawn to writing plays as a self-employment strategy. It’s grown to wanting to tell stories about characters who are grappling with choices I find compelling, set in places I find evocative, through structures that stretch me to grow each time I write. I enjoy the idea of creating smart, interesting roles and worlds for the people I would work with.
MM: What is Parts of Parts and Stitches about? What compelled you to tell this story?
RS: The story is set in the Mianwali district (now in Pakistan) during the partition of Pakistan and India in 1947. It’s about people who have lived together for generations and how political profiteers dupe them into believing they are enemies. It’s about the violence that ensues when people believe in the idea of “enemy” and the physical and psychic shock of displacement. Sound familiar?
My parents' and grandparents' generations experienced this moment in history and were refugees in India. I conducted interviews with them and wanted to document this migration, this family history, in “speculative fiction” theatrical form.
MM: What can audiences expect from the production?
RS: They can expect to be engaged in this story by a stunning cast of actors, a beautiful set, a haunting soundscape, all which have come together through oceans of work by director Cat Parker and a crew the size of Mianwali. Audiences can expect to laugh, cry, be repulsed, be confused, have moments of striking clarity, be enticed, be afraid, be uncomfortable, be surprised, and have questions for themselves and others about how the present relates to this history.
MM: MTWorks (a previous Theasy Featured Artist) is producing this play. Why are they a good fit for the piece?
RS: MTWorks is committed to new work and new voices and big casts! They challenged themselves to produce this play and grow their network of artists, expand audiences, and do the painstaking cross-cultural work that is scary, is a struggle, and ultimately, is a magnificent opportunity to grow as an artist, a professional, as a human being, and as a community. They are interested and active in how theatre impacts individuals and communities. For all of these reasons that are distilled in the two words: courageous and generous. They are an excellent match for this piece.
MM: What do you love about playwriting? What are your aspirations and career goals?
RS: I love creating characters that have powers and agency that can change the world, or at least the moment, and so the momentum. I work from sound, color, smell and movement and love figuring out how to create a blueprint (or script) of these senses that create an emotional and intellectual landscape that will come to life. I love that solitary time to write – it feels so indulgent.
I’m only starting to be exposed to the possibilities of what realities I can create in this theatre journey. Like most playwrights, I want my work to be produced, to experience it embodied. And I want to create opportunities for myself and my tribe, my collaborators, in which we’re taken care of financially; then we have the freedom to develop our craft, evolve our thinking, spend time with our audiences, and share our knowledge and skills. Framing it in Jill Dolan’s terms, I aspire to create utopic moments that rehearse the larger change I work towards in the world.
(Parts of Parts and Stitches plays at the Theater at 14th Street, 14th Street Y, 334 East 14th Street. Performances are March 15th through March 31st: Tuesdays at 7PM; Wednesdays at 7PM; Thursdays at 7PM; Fridays at 8PM; Saturdays at 8PM. Tickets are $18 ($12 for students and seniors). To purchase tickets visit www.mtworks.org or call 866-811-4111. For more information visit www.mtworks.org.)