Interview: Native American playwright Larissa FastHorse
WLPG: Was there something in particular that motivated you to start writing for young audiences?
Larissa: I was writing film and TV (because I live in LA) when Peter Brosius and Elissa Adams at Children’s Theatre Company in Minneapolis located me through the Sundance Native Film Program. They were looking to commission Native American writers, and after a meeting we decided to work together. I gave them a few ideas for plays and they picked one that became AVERAGE FAMILY. The process of developing and producing that play with CTC was life changing. I fell in love with the creative, collaborative freedom of playwriting and have made that my career.
WLPG: Why is it important to write for children and young people?
Larissa: I don’t write theatre for kids; I write for families. The Lakota are a mulit-generational family system, like many others. I believe that giving families a space where they can come together and share an experience that causes them to engage with each other is the most important work I can do. TV zones us out, but theatre engages us. It makes us talk and think and see each other. We need more places where we can connect as families.
WLPG: What is your typical writing process?
Larissa: I have been fortunate to write mostly on commission, so my process always involves a specific theatre, whatever we have agreed upon as a topic and any physical limitations they have. From there I am an organic writer. I don’t outline or plan scene by scene what will happen. (I make up stuff for proposals, but I don’t ever look at those when I’m actually scripting.) I do a ton of research and thinking on the characters and their world until they form in my head. Then I let them live. My job is to follow them around and write down what they say and do. It is a messy process that requires a lot of rewriting and drafts, but it is exciting for me because I never know what they will do next!
WLPG: Is there any real difference between writing for young audiences and writing for adult audiences?
Larissa: I am writing my first play for adults now, and besides the ability to swear, there has not been any difference in process or approach. I was writing for adults when CTC found me, and they told me not to change anything about how I write when doing family work, so in going back to plays for grown ups, it is all the same. All audiences are humans who need certain things from a theatrical experience to allow them to connect to what is happening on the stage. My job does not change, no matter who the audience is.
WLPG: What question would you like to ask your fellow playwrights making plays for young audiences
Larissa: What has to change for family theatre to be considered equal to “regular” theatre?
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