Meet The Playwrights: Elisabeth Frankel '19
BY Paola Alexandra Soto, May 9, 2019
The Visitors by Elisabeth Frankel ’19 (Playwriting) and directed by Kathleen Capdesuñer will be the fourth play presented as part of the New Plays Festival 2019 featuring seven new plays by the graduating MFA playwriting class.
The play is about neighbors, one a Democrat the other a Republican, in a small Florida town, on the border between Disney World and the heart of conservative America. When they both see a UFO they can’t help but bond.
The Visitors has three performances scheduled; the first on May 9 at 8 pm, the second on May 10 at 2:30 pm, and the final on May 11 at 7:30 pm, at the Ford Foundation Studio Theatre at the Pershing Square Signature Center. For more information and to make reservations click here.
Frankel spoke to us about her upcoming production.
How did you get the idea for this play?
In our second-year American Musical Theatre course at Columbia, our professor Michael Korie gave us a really great exercise to come up with ideas for a musical. I love really theatrical and booming premises in the first place, so brainstorming what would make sense as a musical felt kind of natural. The Visitors was my project all semester in that class. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. Much of the text I wrote in that class is not in this version, but the kernel of the idea and enthusiasm is the same.
Who was your mentor for this piece and how has it been getting to work with her/him?
It’s surreal to write this play under the mentorship of Rajiv Joseph, whose plays have inspired so much of my taste and creative goals over the years. His energy has been so helpful; he’s pushed me to be totally unafraid and to take bold risks. It’s so fun working with your heroes.
How did you become a playwright? What was your first play about?
I grew up in a family that loved theatre, and am really grateful to have been given the tools to be creative at a young age. When I was twelve, I thought there was something really bizarre and fascinating about how girls in middle school would talk to each other—saying exactly what you think about someone, right to their face, is so horrifying and super compelling. I’d write down conversations I overheard and turned it into my first play called Whatever. You can imagine how angsty it must have been!
Will your presentation be a full production, workshop production, or staged reading?
The Visitors will be a staged reading. Having the space to only focus on the play itself has been such an important part of this process for me. It also gives me such excitement that this isn’t the last of this play; I have so much more to discover and understand in future versions. It gives me something to look forward to.
What do you hope the audience gets out of The Visitors?
A deep sense of hope, while not sugarcoating the darkness we’re in. While keeping in mind how cruel this country can be.
Who are some playwrights that you admire and why?
I love plays that intertwine the supernatural with the grounded; the theatrical with the emotional. Prelude to a Kiss by Craig Lucas was a huge influence. That play will always make me cry. And of course, Angels in America.
How has your training as a director informed your playwriting? Do you have a preference?
I think of them as two sides of the same coin. The identity of a filmmaker, who’s present from the first page of the script, through editing in post-production, is so common and understood. I think about how we don’t have a similar model in theatre, of a theatremaker. So whether it’s directing another writer’s work, working with a director on my play, or directing my own work, my favorite thing in the world is just making theatre however I can. I love it all.
Tell us about your podcast.
I co-host a podcast Feminist Popcorn with my best friend, Samantha Rehr. We celebrate the best films we can find about women, and discuss why they’re special. It’s been a really fun side creative project this year while working on my thesis, and it has also been a huge education.