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Interview: Playwright Lindsay Joelle Always Making Her Work TRAYF-ier

Geffen Playhouse’s next live production in their Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, Lindsay Joelle’s TRAYF opens March 10th

Interview: Playwright Lindsay Joelle Always Making Her Work TRAYF-ier

Geffen Playhouse's next live production in their Audrey Skirball Kenis Theater, Lindsay Joelle's TRAYF opens March 10th (with previews already in progress). Maggie Burrows directs the cast of Ilan Eskenazi, Ben Hirschhorn, Louisa Jacobson and Garrett Young. For those unfamiliar with the term "trayf," Oxford Language dictionary defines trayf as "adjective: (of food) not satisfying the requirements of Jewish law."

I had the opportunity to throw out a few questions to Lindsay amidst her final rehearsals.

Thank you for taking the time for this interview, Lindsay!

TRAYF world premiered in 2018 at Theater J in Washington, D.C. Have you made any tweaks to your script for its west coast premiere at the Geffen?

Yes! Audiences at the Geffen will be seeing a brand-new version of TRAYF -tighter, funnier, TRAYF-ier! While the story is essentially the same as the premiere at Theater J, I wrote a few new scenes and interludes for this production to give audiences a closer look into some pivotal private moments for each character.

Interview: Playwright Lindsay Joelle Always Making Her Work TRAYF-ier What would your three-line pitch of TRAYF be?

Orthodox teens and lifelong best friends Zalmy and Shmuel are intent on saving the world, one mitzvah at a time.

But when a curious outsider draws Zalmy into the forbidden secular pleasures of 1990s New York City, Shmuel must do everything in his power to keep their dreams intact or risk losing his friend forever.

This road-trip bromance is a funny and heartwarming ode to the turbulence of youth, the universal suspicion that we don't quite fit in, and the faith and friends that see us through.

Interview: Playwright Lindsay Joelle Always Making Her Work TRAYF-ier You have seven plays in your resume. How hands-on are you in the pre-production of your premieres?

Do I? (checks website) Yes, you're right! (Although I'll clarify that some are projects in various stages of development, some are musicals, and one is a sci-fi audio play on Audible.) To your question, I am usually in residence at the world premiere theaters so I can work closely with the various artistic teams as we are all trying to learn as much as possible about the play. Usually, the script continues to change and grow until opening night to strengthen the storytelling and tailor the production to the specific needs of each theater. I'm grateful to the Geffen for recognizing and honoring that this is a new draft of TRAYF and making it possible for me to be present during the rehearsal process to collaborate on this production.

Interview: Playwright Lindsay Joelle Always Making Her Work TRAYF-ier When does your script become set in stone? After a workshop? A dress rehearsal? Post-opening night?

My understanding is that a script becomes set in stone once it is published. Until then, it's a living document.

How does the granddaughter of a WWII survivor in Poland's Underground Youth Resistance and the daughter of a first-generation Israeli-born American end up with a career in writing? Did you start writing as a child?

Yes, I was constantly writing poems, short stories, and songs, but my dream was to be a musical theatre performer. While I majored in English at Columbia, I would take the subway down to NYU/Tisch between classes for voice lessons. I studied at the British American Drama Academy in London and The American Theatre Wing's SpringboardNYC. I was really committed to building a career as an actor. Shortly after I graduated college, though, I was Interview: Playwright Lindsay Joelle Always Making Her Work TRAYF-ier accepted into the BMI workshop as a lyricist. It was there that I found a real sense of artistic community and started to consider writing as a vocation and not just a hobby. I wrote my first play, and that got me accepted into the Hunter Playwriting MFA - which at the time was led by the great American playwright Tina Howe, along with mentors Arthur Kopit and Samuel D. Hunter. They gave me the encouragement and the toolkit to be a working writer.

Who were the writers you looked up to and read voraciously?

Oh, what a fun question! In no particular order, these were the folks I read voraciously when I was searching for my voice as a playwright:

Sarah Ruhl

Rajiv Joseph

Amy Herzog

Annie Baker

Lucas Hnath

Lynn Nottage

Johnna Adams

Interview: Playwright Lindsay Joelle Always Making Her Work TRAYF-ier Martyna Majok

Dominique Morisseau

Samuel D. Hunter

Jennifer Haley

Lauren Yee

And gosh, I'm sure I'm missing dozens of brilliant writers who should be on this list!

Out of the numerous awards and grants you've received, does one in particular stand out to you?

I was really proud to be the National New Play Network (NNPN) writer-in-residence at Curious Theatre Company in Denver. In addition to gaining an artistic home to develop new work at a bold, scrappy, big-hearted regional theater, the opportunity came with lifelong membership to the NNPN community of regional theaters and theater-makers throughout the country. I'd wanted to be involved in NNPN for a long time, and through that network, I've met many cherished friends and collaborators.

What is your favorite piece of advice/lesson you pass onto budding playwrights?

Interview: Playwright Lindsay Joelle Always Making Her Work TRAYF-ier Garner a reputation for being good to work with. Be kind to everyone in the room, not just those in positions of power. Theater is a team sport; anyone who operates from a scarcity mindset is not serving the community. When I meet with literary managers at theaters, I take the opportunity to promote my friends' work. When one of us succeeds, we all look good!

What is in the near future for Lindsay Joelle? A new play on your favorite subjects of misfits, rebels, and the unassimilated?

The nearest future after TRAYF opens at the Geffen is spending time with my partner in New York City for three weeks before relocating to Pittsburgh for the co-world premiere of The Garbologists, a two-person comedy about a white, conservative mansplainer and the Black, ivy-educated sanitation woman who just joined his garbage route. We begin rehearsals this April and open at City Theatre in May 2022.

Thank you again, Lindsay! I look forward to experiencing your TRAYF.

For tickets to the live performances of TRAYF through April 10, 2022; log onto www.geffenplayhouse.org



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