Emma Goidel is a Philadelphia-based playwright just two years out of undergrad who is already receiving local and national attention for her rigorously entertaining and deeply thoughtful work. We’re so proud to have nabbed Emma for her first commission (and our first commission as well!). Emma chatted with our Company Dramaturg Sarah Mantell about her funny new play for A Play, A Pie & A Pint.
What was the first seed of this play?
There were a few different seeds that sort of grew into one weird mutant plant. First, I read this brilliant ten-minute Steven Dietz play called Left to Right about four people who are all lying to each other. Every scene reveals some new betrayal—in ten minutes!—and I thought holy crap, this is how you write a short play. You don’t have to present a moment in a larger story, you can actually compress a long-form dramatic structure and create something really wild. I desperately wanted to try that out. I’ve also been obsessed with the idea of modern farce since I read Martin McDonagh’s The Lieutenant of Inishmore. And then I read an article about ancient, viable organisms revealing themselves in the permafrost as the Arctic climate changes and ice turns to water. I thought about all the horrible ways this could go wrong for humanity, and there you go, weird mutant plant fast farce about scientists faking research.
This is your first commission! How has that experience been different than writing your other plays?
It’s been exhilarating to learn that I can generate a play I’m really happy with for someone other than myself. Conceiving of a piece in conversation with a company, pitching different ideas, and then writing the one you agree on is very different from sitting down to write every day, seeing what comes out, and following that impulse until it leads you to a play. I feel very empowered by the knowledge that I can create satisfying work both ways.
What work (plays, artists, music, etc.) have you been inspired by while writing on this script?
Definitely the playwrights I mentioned at the beginning of our conversation – McDonagh and Dietz. I listened to a lot of Rodrigo y Gabriela while I was writing – fast, rhythmic, acoustic guitar flamenco covers of rock and heavy metal – because that felt like the energy driving the play: quick, nimble, surprising. I found the book The Arctic Grail: the Quest for the North Pole, 1818-1909 on a bookshelf of a cabin during the Foundry writers’ retreat, and that provided some fascinating information about the arctic explorer Robert E. Peary, who was ambitious and paranoid and a liar and a pioneer. I wish more of that book had made it into the play. I also read a lovely volume of new poetry from five Siberian writers called Permanent Winter, which gave me a bit of beautifully rendered insight into life on the tundra.
You’ve been working with InterAct, The Foundry playwrights lab (where I first got to know you), and now Tiny Dynamite. tl domain You moved here just a couple years ago and have jumped into the theatre scene with gusto. What’s your relationship to Philly?
I left NYC for Philly two years ago so my girlfriend could become a doctor. I’ve felt so welcomed by the theater community here, and I’ve found my way towards a group of extraordinary people I value deeply as artists and friends. Philly is poised to become a national hub of new work. It’s an excellent time to be a young playwright here. The Foundry, InterAct, Tiny Dynamite, PlayPenn, the Philadelphia New Play Initiative and other are making this city a supportive home for writers, and that’s integral to the health of a theater industry. Ed Sobel said this to me: as new work goes, so goes the theater town.Watch movie online The Transporter Refueled (2015)
What’s your crazy dream project?
I want to write a musical. A really wicked, smart, musical-y musical, like Urinetown. This is a crazy dream because I don’t know any local composers, and I don’t have any idea what it’s going to be about, but it’s not a crazy dream because I am going to do it.
What are you up to next?
I’m co-creating a play called SAFE SPACE with playwrights Emily Acker and Douglas Williams and director Maura Krause. We’re putting it up in the Fringe under the name Apocalypse Club, which is a pop-up ad hoc company we’ve created to serve our collaboration (and because we are equitable collaborators and can’t fit all of our names in the Festival guide). The play is about six college kids in present-day Philadelphia creating a live-action role-playing game set during a future climate change apocalypse. It’s been loads of fun to make, and I can’t wait to share it with an audience. You’ll get beer with that one too. Come see Emma’s play We Can All Agree To Pretend This Never Happened at A Play, A Pie & A Pint in partnership with InterAct Theatre Company. October 23, 24, and 26.