Meet the Playwrights: Stephen Foglia '17
April 4, 2017
Current student Stephen Foglia’s thesis play, Outer Banks, tells the story of Junie, a young woman whose sister disappeared without a trace. Now Junie’s family is ready to move on, but she may not be ready—especially once she begins to receive mysterious messages. By the brackish waters of the Neuse River, the borders between worlds grow porous, and death’s door opens.
Outer Banks will run at the Signature Center on April 19, 21, and 22.
Foglia discussed his real-life inspiration, what he loves in theater, and working with mentor Sharr White. Full interview available here.
Can you tell me a little bit about the origin of this play? Where did the idea come from? Did you work on it in class?
The seed of the play was an event I was sort of a proximate witness to when I was maybe eleven or twelve. A drowning that occurred near my summer camp. If I ever actually knew any concrete information about what happened, I promise you it has been long overwritten. But the tragedy left a pretty heavy impression, and the version that’s come down in my mind was that a young mother had her two little kids at the beach with her and next thing she knew they were gone. The idea – or I guess, you know, the reality – of sudden, accidental death was very disturbing to me then, and it is frankly no less disturbing to me now. Unless you have a pretty strong religious faith, death is a matter totally without redemption. So I can say that lingered for, what, almost twenty years until one day I was walking along the beach in North Carolina, and I realized I wanted to write about it.
Who is your mentor? Why did you want them as your mentor?
Sharr White is a wonderful playwright and television writer. Sharr combines rich, lived-in detail (like the regional and biographical specificity of Annapurna) with precisely wrought structure, and rather than arriving at a play that locks itself in, his shows kick open a door into powerful emotional space. If you look at a play like The Other Place, it’s got the ingenious craftsmanship you expect in a thriller, but it’s this intimate drama about a woman losing her grasp on herself, what it’s like to have the tools she’s relied on her entire life, tools she actually identifies as central to who she is, stop working. By the end you feel like you’ve been run over. You’re crying like a baby. All his plays do that to me. The other thing is David [Henry Hwang] works with Sharr on The Affair and told me that Sharr’s an incredibly kind, generous person, which has turned out to be true.
Is there a question that your play is asking, or that you were seeking to answer when you started writing this play?
I’ll dodge that question a bit and say part of what interests me in the story is probing how this extreme state the main character is in sort of shreds reality at the edges for her. That’s something I came across a lot in my research, and it intersects with who I am as a storyteller and the kinds of theatricality I find exciting.
Outer Banks will run at the Ford Studio at Pershing Square Signature Center on April 19 at 2:30 pm, April 21 at 8 pm, and April 22 at 2:30 pm. Free tickets are available here.
Stephen Foglia uses diverse theatre forms to approach the intimacy of other lives and search out the magic lurking in the cracks of our experiences. In 2015, he wrote and directed a dance-theatre piece inspired by NASA’s Voyager program (Voyager) and an immersive detective story about mental illness (Mistress Of The House). Prior to arriving in New York, he adapted Ulysses and The 1,001 Nights for performance at the Dallas Museum Of Art. His play The Woodking’s Daughter was workshopped at Dixon Place. September Gurls, a time-skipping exploration of first best-friendship, debuted in 2016 at Columbia. Stephen is a member of Lincoln Center Directors Lab.