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Interview: Playwright Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder and GEORGIA MAE JAMES UNPLUGS AMERICA at The Growing Stage 7/9 to 7/24


Interview: Playwright Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder and GEORGIA MAE JAMES UNPLUGS AMERICA at The Growing Stage 7/9 to 7/24

The world premiere of GEORGIA MAE JAMES UNPLUGS AMERICA by Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder's will be performed at The Growing Stage, The Children's Theatre of New Jersey from July 9th to July 24th.

GEORGIA MAE JAMES UNPLUGS AMERICA is a show for the entire family. Sometimes in order to feel connected, you have to unplug. When Georgia Mae is left home alone with her two older siblings while her parents take the train into the city, she comes up with big plans for the night. However, Georgia Mae finds herself disappointed when Imogene and Henry are too invested in the electronic devices to play with her. So, Georgia Mae decides to shut down the power grid so they won't have any distractions. However, when they realize their parents are now stranded in the city and can't get home, the three set off on an adventure to restore power. Along the way they meet a variety of people who help them on their journey, and ultimately, they learn about the simple pleasures of being together - and unplugged.

We had the pleasure of interviewing Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder about her career and the upcoming show.

Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder's plays include Looks Like Pretty, Fresh Kills, Everything That's Beautiful Gee's Bend, The Furniture of Home, The Flag Maker of Market Street, White Lightning, and Provenance. Her work has been produced/commissioned/worshopped by Royal Court, Alabama Shakespeare Festival, Denver Center, Arden, New Conservatory Theatre, Sloan Foundation, Geva Theatre, Baltimore Center Stage, Triad Stage, Pioneer Theatre, Ensemble Studio Theatre, Little Fish, and B Street Theatre, among others. She is currently working on a new play commission from the Alliance Theatre in Atlanta and will workshop her newest play, Zelda in the Backyard, at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in July. She is currently the Tennessee Williams Playwright-in-Residence at Sewanee: The University of the South. Proud NYU/Youngblood alum. Special thanks to Gillian, her favorite human, and the inspiration for Georgia Mae.

What was your earliest interest in writing?

I was raised in the south, so I grew up in a family of storytellers. I started writing in elementary school, most monologues for myself. My first play was written in the 6th grade. It was about a girl with red tennis shoes and a magical telephone.

Is there someone in particular who encouraged your career?

My high school drama teacher was always a source of support and the Alabama Shakespeare Festival has been my creative home since I was 15. I participated in their first Young Southern Writers' Festival, and then when I was old enough, they invited me back for the Southern Writers' Festival. They gave me my first commission and have produced several plays of mine. I feel incredibly fortunate because I feel like it's a place where I can celebrate my successes, but they have also given me the gift of a safe place to risk failure. All artists should be so lucky.

Can you tell us a little about your own process of playwriting?

I have to sit with an idea for a while before I start to write. I always keep a notebook with ideas: lines, characters, bits of dialogue. Once I have a good sense of the story, then I sit down and write. I don't always write the scenes in order. Sometimes I have to write the scenes that are the most pivotal first, then figure out how to get there.

What piece of advice do you have for aspiring writers?

If you want to write, then you need to read. If you want to write plays specifically, then you also need to see plays. My first job in New York was as a Broadway usher. Sitting in the back of the house, night after night, was a masterclass in storytelling.

We'd love to know more about your opportunity as the Tennessee Williams Playwright in Residence at Sewanee.

Tennessee Williams left his estate to Sewanee and a portion of that goes to fund the creative writing program. The generosity of the endowment has given me an opportunity to be both a writer and a teacher. I have loved being able to introduce young writers to the theatre and to watch them grow. It's exciting to help them discover all the possibilities that theatre offers.

Can you tell us about your inspiration for GEORGIA MAE JAMES UNPLUGS AMERICA?

Georgia Mae James had been on my mind for a long time. I was in New York during one of the blackouts and I loved seeing people gathering on the sidewalks, talking, playing games and music, and feeding one another. It wasn't until my daughter, who was 9 at the time asked me to write a play that she could see that I finally started writing it. She held me accountable! I'd write a new scene and then we'd crawl up in bed and read it together. It was really wonderful to be able to share that experience with her. There's a lot of her in Georgia Mae: curious, kind, precocious.

How do you like working with The Growing Stage, The Children's Theatre of NJ?

Everyone at The Growing Stage has been so supportive of the play. I am always grateful when theatres dedicate themselves and their resources to developing new work.

What would you like audiences to know about the upcoming show?

This is a play filled with possibility. Watch it with an open mind and let your imagination run wild.

For more information on Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder, please visit her web site. WWW.WILDERWRITING.NET

The Growing Stage, The Children's Theatre of New Jersey is located at 7 Ledgewood Avenue, Netcong, NJ 07857. For more information on the theatre, its programs, and to purchase tickets to the upcoming show, please visit or call 973.347.4946.

Photo Credit: Courtesy of Elyzabeth Gregory Wilder

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Marina P. Kennedy's writing career led her from freelancing opportunities in New Jersey and New York to writing for where she covers entertainment, the culinary scene,... (read more about this author)

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