An Interview between BOA X Dramaturg Ignacio Zulueta and playwright Megan Cohen (A Three Little Dumplings Adventure, Program 2).
Being a dramaturg is somewhat like being an editor: one gets to focus on the writing and the writer, rather than the audience or on the methods of production. I got a chance to chat with each of the writers at Bay One Acts about their work, how they get it done, and what they’re looking forward to from BOA and beyond. Back in the less wintry portion of February, I had a delightful interview with Megan Cohen, author of A Three Little Dumplings’ ADVENTURE.
Zulueta: Megan, you’re working with artistic director Jessica Holt of Three Wise Monkeys, and host of the Bay One Acts festival. What privileges and duties come with the turf?
Cohen: When you have a collaborator like Jessica, you need to always bring the best edition of your brain to the table.
Zulueta: How does that compare to your normal playwriting and production process?
Cohen: I’ve worked with people who are more in-your-face and demanding (“Yes, but what does this scene really mean?”), with people who are less interested in collaboration (“So, this is what this scene really means”), and with people who are so hands-off they barely acknowledge that the writer exists (“You’re invited to the show, if we remember to tell you when it’s running”). So, my privilege (and duty!) right now is to make sure I support Jessica’s process however I can. She emailed me photos of potential props yesterday to get my input— a director like that makes it your job to live up to the opportunity.
Zulueta: What opportunities will become available to you as a result of having A THREE LITTLE DUMPLINGS ADVENTURE featured at BOA?
Cohen: Well, I’m no mystic, and have no top-secret insight about what will happen in the future, but I do know that BOA last year led me directly to development and production opportunities with local companies involved in the festival, not to mention friendships and collaborations with individual artists who can drink me under the table, or at least try.
Cohen: It helped break open a lot of the SF scene for me, and that’s a real true science fact. My hope for A THREE LITTLE DUMPLINGS ADVENTURE this year is that it doesn’t ruin everything I’ve built since BOA 9. If I let myself dream a little bigger, I would say I hope that this play helps me connect with all the artists and groups who are new to the festival this year. Who knows where anything will lead– the biggest opportunity of any production is the chance to engage as many audience members as happen to have the particular palette to enjoy the kind of work I do, and that opportunity is certainly enough to be satisfying.
Zulueta: How many Bay One Acts have you participated in previously, and who directed and produced?
Cohen: I had a piece in last year’s festival, The Great Double-Check, produced by Three Wise Monkeys and directed by Claire Zawa. I haven’t pursued another production for that script (yet), but it was the first time I did on-the-spot revisions during rehearsals, a really liberating experience which continues to inform my writing practice.
Zulueta: A THREE LITTLE DUMPLINGS ADVENTURE has debuted at other venues prior to BOA X. Is this round showing you new facets of the script?
Cohen: Except for a childhood adaptation of Alice In Wonderland (which featured a rapping hatter based on the very of-the-moment M.C. Hammer), A THREE LITTLE DUMPLINGS ADVENTURE was the first stage play that I wrote, my sophomore year of college. It got a professional production on my first post-graduation script submission, an experience which was definitely my gateway drug. I hadn’t even skimmed through the text in probably 3 or 4 years, until I suddenly bolted awake one morning this past summer and started revising it, streamlining the structure, buttressing the weak points, tweaking the jokes and monologues, and measuring everything I’ve learned about writing since I started. So, seeing this work again in its new version is sort of like looking through a dusty photo album from the attic, except all the baby pictures have been airbrushed to be extra-flattering.
Zulueta: In three words: who or what influenced you during the creation of this play?
Cohen: Just looking around.
Zulueta: In two words: what unforeseen change or collaboration is taking place in your show?
Cohen: Weirdtacular dancing.
Zulueta: That’s true, I’ve seen the youtube clip. Last question: Food matters. So, why tinfoil wrapped sandwiches?
Cohen: Because peanut butter sandwiches wrapped in tinfoil are what American kids eat for lunch. They’re something you almost never make for yourself, someone makes them for you. (Since the Dumplings live in a world of TV-perfect parenting, Wonderbread ™ is the preferable loaf, and Skippy ™ is the preferable peanut butter.)
Zulueta: Pack a nutritious and balanced lunch, head for the Boxcar Theatre, and dig into the wierdtacular THREE LITTLE DUMPLINGS ADVENTURE. The show opens on March 6, runs through the 26th, and features a special post-show talk after the Wednesday March 16th performance.