On Wednesday January 16, Joey Stocks (DG Director of Publications & Editor-in-Chief of The Dramatist) led a Dramatist LIVE discussion with DG council members Lynn Nottage and Susan Birkenhead at the Drama Book Shop.
This event, held in the basement theatre of the famed theatrical bookstore, was one of the final events to take place at the 40th street location. (The Drama Book Shop temporarily closed on January 20, 2019, and will re-open in a new location later this year, with new owners including DG council member Lin-Manuel Miranda.)
The theme of this Dramatist LIVE was collaboration, specifically in the context of writing new musicals. Bookwriter Nottage and lyricist Birkenhead (along with DG member composer Duncan Sheik) are currently collaborating on a musical adaptation of Sue Monk Kidd's novel, The Secret Life of Bees, which is set to premiere this spring at Atlantic Theater Company. Two-time Pulitzer prize winning playwright Lynn Nottage seemed to be enjoying her first professional musical writing experience; she told the audience that she and her collaborators "spend a lot of time talking to each other, not just about the work, but about life." She went onto add that because she, Birkenhead, and Sheik are all invested in each other's ideas and success, "it’s a very happy room.”
Individual egos do not seem to have played a large part in this particular creative progress. "When you’re in the room in a really great collaboration, an idea can come up, and you don’t even remember whose idea it originally was, but everybody runs with it," explained Birkenhead, whose previous Broadway credits include writing lyrics to Working, Jelly's Last Jam, and Triumph of Love.
Perhaps the biggest takeaways of the evening came in the form of answers to the Dramatist LIVE's "Ten Questions" section. Birkenhead admitted that all she needs to write is a bowl of nuts to nibble on while she works. Nottage revealed that when she gets stuck in her writing, she uses procrastination (and copious amounts of research) to unblock herself. It would appear that one does not require any fancy tools or exercises in order to write, but rather, all one needs is a bowlful of nuts and a bit of well timed procrastination.
Joey Stocks will next be heading to Arkansas, where he will be leading a Dramatist LIVE event at Walton Arts Center in Fayetteville on February 22 at 3pm.