Meet the Playwrights: Callan Stout
April 6, 2017
Current student Callan Stout’s thesis play, you do not look, tells the story of Greda, a woman trying to sell encyclopedias in order to stay in America. But she keeps getting side-tracked as she tries to save a world of other women around her. As the play loops and unravels in repeating patterns of PTSD, Gerda cannot escape running from her own traumatic past.
you do not look will run at the Signature Center on April 20, 21, and April 22.
Stout discussed the diverse impulses behind the play, her mentor Daniella Topol, and how she approaches each play. Full interview available here.
Can you tell me a little bit about the origin of this play?
This play started from a number of different impulses. For a long time, I’ve wanted to write about a female traveling salesperson who is caught in a deeply unsettling reality where they have to sell a product that has been rendered obsolete by newer technologies, in a community where each house looks exactly the same and it slowly becomes impossible to tell each new street apart from the previous street.
I’ve also been researching re-homing, which is the quasi-legal practice of the private re-adoption of older “problem” children. These are children who have often been adopted from abroad later in their lives and have a traumatic history for which they have not received psychiatric care or a safe, caring environment in which to heal. In the practice of rehoming, adults looking to unload a child will turn to the internet and find another adult who is willing to take the child off their hands. There is no official vetting process of the new home and children often end up in bad, often abusive or negligent situations. These children are re-traumatized and outside the awareness of child services. I saw a lot of parallels between the practices of re-homing and human trafficking, and wanted to draw them explicitly, while also exploring the female experience of PTSD recovering.
Who is your mentor? Why did you want them as your mentor?
Daniella Topol is my mentor. She’s the new Artistic Director of Rattlestick Playwrights Theater and before that has worked extensively as a director of original new plays by women playwrights. I first met her almost 10 years ago when she was directing Topsy Turvy Mouse by Peter Gil-Sheridan as part of the Cherry Lane Theatre’s Mentor Project. I liked the way she thought through the play with the actors and playwright in rehearsal. She has a very dramaturgical brain, but also a director’s brain and I wanted to work with a mentor who could expand my thinking about my own text.
What has been most challenging about this process?
Every play I write is a challenge. For each new play I feel like I’m reinventing the art of playwriting. Each time I feel like I’m teaching myself how to write all over again.
you do not look will run at the Ford Studio at Pershing Square Signature Center on April 20 at 8 pm, April 21 at 2:30 pm, and April 22 at 7:30 pm. Free tickets are available here.
Callan Stout’s plays include LEG (Princess Grace Semifinalist, Hope on Stage Award Finalist, Cherry Lane Theatre 2014 Mentor Project Semifinalist, everything but 3 New Plays, Truffle Theatre Company, 12 Peers Theatre), Girl Becomes Bone (Pipeline Theatre Company), Breathing in the Rain (Columbia University), A Song for A Surfer(Savage Players, The Vagrancy and LA Female Playwrights Initiative, Truffle Theatre Company), American in Camera (Fresh Ground Pepper), The Pastry Queen (Writer’s Guild of Great Britain), More than Breakfast (NYU, eyeBLINK). Her children’s plays Brownies, Bicycles & Bigfoot and her adaption of The Jungle Book, both are published by YouthPLAYS.