The cover of The Atlanta Issue of The Dramatist
Ten Questions with Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu
Antoinette Nwandu
Photo by Beowulf Sheehan

1What was your most memorable theatrical experience as a child?

I don’t have a ton of theatrical memories because theatre wasn’t a part of my culture growing up. That said, I do remember being in third grade and a group of artist-teachers came and presented a truncated version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream IN COSTUME. Each person was playing several roles, so their costumes were these weird, homemade amalgams of several characters. I think there might have been masks as well. Anyway, at one point I raised my hand and started predicting what was going to happen next. Mind you, this wasn’t an interactive show. But I was excited and captivated. And I remember my teacher Ms. Dorn whispering to the teacher’s aide “she’s getting it.” And the whole thing made me really proud. It was my first Shakespeare ever.


2What production do you wish you’d seen? 

The original A Raisin in the Sun on Broadway. It’s such a cultural and narrative touchstone. I wish I’d been there for the very first iteration. To feel that vibe shift.


3Who is the person who’s made the biggest impact on your career? 

Gosh, there are so many people that I rely on and am grateful for as colleagues and mentors. But I think if I had to narrow it down to one person, I’d say Lynn Nottage, because she’s not only had words of wisdom and encouragement for me at really crucial moments in my career, but she’s also someone who I can see doing the work, day in and day out, in a way that communicates her values. I just admire her so much.


4What are you reading right now? 

As always, I’ve got a lot going on. No drama right now, though, which feels right on. Filling my cup with a few memoirs/tons of poetry: Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford, Dreaming Me by Jan Willis, Walking on Water by Madeleine L’Engle, Harvest Poems by Carl Sandburg, Obit by Victoria Chang, and Tarot for Change by Jessica Dore.


5When you sit down to work, what must you have with you in the room? 

I’m a pacer. I like to feel the work in my body, especially when I’m writing dialogue. I’m also a grazer, especially during the day. So, I like to have snacks (usually blue chips or toasted pecans) somewhere in the room, but not on my desk. I grab a handful and talk things out while snacking.


6When you’re in despair with a piece of work, how do you maneuver out of that? 

I used to be the kind of writer who sat with things and beat them into submission because of deadlines or internalized “should,” but now I’m a lot more likely to step away and rest. Rest, rest, rest is so necessary for this process, and I don’t think people say that enough. Also, I read, refill my cup with texts that bring me joy.


7If you hadn’t become a dramatist, what profession would you have chosen? 

I think I’d either be a death doula or a sex worker (but in a country where sex workers have rights under the law). Basically, any job that puts you right where the feels are.


8As a writer, what have you not done that you’ve always wanted to do? 

Write the book of a musical.


9Whose work do you drop everything to see? 

Aleshea Harris. Katori Hall. Lynn Nottage. Branden Jacobs Jenkins.


10What’s next? 

A rewrite of my play Tuvalu. The world has changed so much since it was supposed to go up. Which means I’ve changed as well. Also, a new play that I don’t even know how to talk about yet. And film stuff and TV stuff besides.

Photo of Antoinette Nwandu
Antoinette Chinonye Nwandu

is a New York-based writer for stage, TV, and film. Her plays include Pass Over (Bway; LCT3; Steppenwolf), Breach (Victory Gardens), and Vanna White Has Got to Die! (Fire This Time Anthology). Honors include MacDowell; an Ars Nova Play Group; a Lilly Award; a Lucille Lortel Award; the Whiting Award; the Samuel French Next Step Award; and the Paula Vogel Playwriting Award.