BWW Interview: Playwright Sean Grennan of THE TIN WOMAN at Centre Stage

BWW Interview: Playwright Sean Grennan of THE TIN WOMAN at Centre Stage

What does it mean to be given new life?

The Tin Woman, opening June 19 at Greenville, SC's Centre Stage, explores that question. Based on a true story, the play introduces us to a woman who receives a heart transplant and eventually decides to track down the family of her donor.

We recently interviewed the playwright, Sean Grennan, to find out more about the genesis of the piece, how he struck a balance between humor and pathos, and what audiences can expect from the show.

First, what was your inspiration for the show?

The inspiration for the show came from my sister, Erin Noel Grennan. (she's an actress who played the original "Joy"). She and I were out for Indian food in my neighborhood and she pulled out a newspaper clipping that she had been carrying around for some years. It told the basic story about a woman who receives a heart transplant and her subsequent meeting with the family of the donor. I started out thinking it might be a sort of love story, a kind of bittersweet "what if they had met?" thing, and there's still a hint of that in it, but I ended up going a different way. Shortly after that, I heard an interview on "Fresh Air" with author Maurice Sendak (Where the Wild Things Are) that offered some additional ideas.

How long did it take to come together into its final form? Did you have a workshop process?

I think it took about four to six months to get that first terrible draft down. That draft was very rough and I changed a lot of it, "writing is rewriting" after all. Following that, I had a few readings in NYC and then one at Chicago Shakespeare Repertory (Chicago is my hometown). Once I got things settled down, I showed it to a few theatres that I had relationships with, places that had told me they were open to and capable of doing premieres. Peninsula Players, A VERY OLD (87 years!) and very respected resident theatre that uses mostly Chicago talent, jumped at it and gave me an excellent production. They'd premiered other shows of mine, including Making God Laugh and a show that I'm there opening next week, Now and Then. By the way - Centre Stage very graciously gave me the first public reading of Now and Then when I was there last year for their festival as playwright in residence. I'm very grateful to them for that.

The director of the Greenville production, Maegan Azar, told me that while the subject matter might make you think that The Tin Woman would be rather heavy, she's actually found it to be very funny. How important was it for you to strike a balance between emotion and comedy?

Oh, I think it's crucial. This play, this subject matter, can be leaden if you don't find the humor in the sadness. I never want to put two hours of homework on stage! People tell me that mixture is kind of a signature of mine but I think that's really just how the world is. It's all mixed up, if you're paying attention. I've been privileged to deliver a few eulogies in my life and even there, I've noticed that humor, handled well, can be appropriate, even very welcome. In terms of the craft of writing, I think that when people are crying or laughing, there is something in them that is open and engaged and invested with the story. That's what I always want.

Have you been surprised by any of the reactions you've heard from casts or audiences?BWW Interview: Playwright Sean Grennan of THE TIN WOMAN at Centre Stage

I have been a little surprised. I've gotten letters and email from heart recipients and the families of donors that are very moving. The show also touches on coping with any sort of grief, what makes a family, what we believe about the afterlife, things like that. I've had some great exchanges with folks. I'm so glad that people are moved by it and go on "the ride" of it. I'm particularly glad that some theatres have organized special performances in coordination with local hospitals and donor organizations. If we can get some donor cards signed, if we can connect more with each other (especially in these times) if we can put a little good out there while we're doing the art we love, that's a big win.

What do you hope audiences will take away with them?

I hope they'll think about family and the short time we have together. I hope they'll appreciate this wonderful gift of life we've been given just a little more or differently. I hope they laugh, a lot and maybe cry a bit. And I hope that this show and others inspires them to subscribe to Centre Stage!!!

Runs June 19-30 at Centre Stage, 501 River St., Greenville, SC.

Centre Stage is partnering with their show sponsor, Donate Life SC, to also promote awareness of organ donation throughout the run of the show. The cast has met with organ donation recipients to gain knowledge about the process and the emotional toll it takes on the organ recipient and the families of the organ donors. The cast of The Tin Woman and representatives from Donate Life SC will host post-show talkbacks after the performances on June 21, 22, 23, 24, 28, 29, and 30. Audience members are
encouraged to stay after and discuss the performance as well as learn about organ donation.
Tickets for The Tin Woman are $30, $25, $15. Student rush tickets are available for $15 with school ID one hour before the show (based on availability), one ticket per ID. Ticketing fees are applied to ALL purchases. Shows run Tuesday through Sunday and all seats are reserved.

For reservations and additional information call the box office at 864-233-6733 or visit

Photo credit: Escobar Photography

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From This Author Neil Shurley

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