Interview with Luna Gale playwright Rebecca Gilman

Co-producer and actor Danielle Weathers interviewing Luna Gale playwright Rebecca Gilman:


Since writing Luna Gale, do the overt changes in the political landscape make you feel any differently about the circumstances or moral dilemma at the core of your play? 

It only makes me more worried for vulnerable people whom the current administration is either neglecting or attacking.

Do you have experience working in/or partnering with social service? If yes, how did that inform your writing (or could you share an anecdote that may have inspired Luna Gale)? If no, what type of research did you do to bring this level of authenticity to your story?

The play was inspired, in part, by work my sister did when she was earning her Master’s Degree in Family Counseling at the University of Iowa (I also lived in Iowa for six years).  As part of her training, she shadowed a social worker as she visited clients in their homes to do assessments.  I remember her telling me how long the days felt – how much help people needed and how little help the social worker could offer.  She was overwhelmed by the number of cases she handled and resources were scarce to non-existent, all because of cuts to government funding.

I had my sister’s experience in my mind when I saw a Frontline documentary, years ago, about social workers in Maine.  In watching that documentary, I was struck – conversely – by how much power social workers have over individuals and families.  For example, they can decide  – at least in the short term – to whom custody of a child should be given.

Remembering my sister’s experience I was struck by the dichotomy of powerlessness and power inherent in one job.  How can anybody continue to function with that degree of tension in her daily life?  This question is what inspired the character of Caroline in the play.

Who are the playwrights you look up to? Is there someone’s style that inspired you, as a young writer? Is there any insight you would be willing to share into your creative process? What or who is your muse?

Both Beth Henley and Marsha Norman were huge influences on me.  I was just stumbling on the idea of being a playwright when Crimes of the Heart and ‘Night Mother were being produced on Broadway.  Both women were from the South, like me, and both women were women!  I loved their plays and I remember thinking that maybe I could try being a playwright, too.  And Caryl Churchill completes my trifecta of amazing playwrights.  Her body of work is always inspiring to me.  She does whatever the heck she wants and does it like nobody else.

In Luna Gale, you blended content, style and structure into a extremely well crafted play. Where/how do you usually start?

That’s a very flattering question!

I usually start with a character.  In this case, it was Caroline.  I had her in mind for a long time before I knew what she’d be doing in the play.  Then I sprained my ankle while hiking in Oregon.  I went to an emergency room in Eugene to get it x-rayed and was in the waiting room with two young parents who became the inspiration for Carly and Peter.  Once I had the three of them, I knew there would be a child in the balance and that got the play going.

Don’t Stop Here

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