Friday, October 16, 2015

Elizabeth Heffron Returns!

Elizabeth Heffron, one of our dearest faculty members, returns to the Engaged Theatre Project after several years of writing and producing her own work at some of the most prestigious theaters in the Pacific Northwest. We are simply thrilled that Elizabeth is back this year, and were lucky enough to sit down and chat with her about what's next for the Engaged Theatre project! 

Freehold: Tell us a little bit about your background as a playwright. How did you first become involved with theatre?

My interest in theatre corresponds with my arrival in Seattle after college.  I'd just had the epiphany that I didn't want to be a lab scientist -- after getting my Bachelor of Science in PsychoBiology -- and was sort of floating as to what to do with my life.  Everyone I met here seemed involved in some way with theater.  There were small houses everywhere, and I'd been looking for the right outlet for the things I felt I needed to say.  I think the first thing I did was run a friend's sound for a project at New City Theater's Directors Festival, and that was like a gateway drug... I was hooked.

What brought you to Freehold initially? What brings you back now?

Back in the day -- before Freehold was 'Freehold' -- I took classes with Robin Lynn Smith and Tony Pasqualini up on Capitol Hill.  Then, later, I came back to teach playwriting classes in the old Oddfellows Hall and here in Belltown.  Somewhere around 2005, I started working with Robin and the Engaged Theatre Project at WCCW, the maximum security women's prison near Gig Harbor.  I was part of this annual project for about five years, until I was diagnosed with a stage 3 cancer, and had to sloooow things way down for awhile.

Tell us what you've been up to for the past few years!

Well, I'm still around -- 6 years cancer-free! -- and loving every minute on this whirling-dervish of a planet (that's a lie -- probably not every minute, but most of them).  I've  been on a fairly high-octane trajectory these last few years, earning my MFA in Playwriting from Hollins University, teaching at Cornish College of the Arts, and through the Young Playwrights Program at ACT Theatre.  I've been a member of the Seattle Rep's Writers Group and have managed to complete a number of long-term writing projects; including the play BO-NITA, which had a production at the Rep a few seasons' back.

How does the Engaged Theatre Project help you as a playwright? What are some things you've learned from the Engaged Theatre Project? 

Every time I go into WCCW, and meet the women, I am aware that 'there but by the grace of God go I...'  The fact that raw circumstances beyond our control, of birth, and class, and race stack the deck much higher against certain members of our society.  The cards many of these women have been dealt are  ludicrously unfair, and seeing how they come to terms with this essential inequity and then rise above these obstacles, to seek out beauty and hope and a changed way of being in the world, is really inspiring.

What are you most looking forward to teaching, learning, or experiencing with the project this year?

What is hitting me most this time -- from our first meeting with the women a few weeks ago -- is how deeply inter-connected we all are.  How each woman's individual life relates to the larger weave of the ultimate story we are creating as a nation and a people.  Like a series of fractals, every one of us is intimate and global, all at the same time.  I'm really looking forward to learning more about this year's participants and the voices they will bring to this work and the world.

The public performance for the Engaged Theatre Project at WCCW is scheduled for early April, 2016. To read a review of last year's performance, click here.

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