Samantha Cooper Discusses Her Thesis Play

June 13, 2016

Current student Samantha Cooper’s thesis play, Invincible Ones, follows a Lower East Side apartment of women who are reeling from the death of their best friend, as they face what the world looks like in the wake of their loss. In this new world, each woman attempts to answer many seemingly unanswerable questions: Who will give the eulogy? Will they ever be able to live alone? Why did that girl’s brother show up? How far will you let someone go to keep your tips? Will this leak ever stop? Drawing on roller derby culture, Invincible Ones explores the way we deal with grief, guilt and a constant drip from the heavens (apartment) above.

Invincible Ones ran at the Ford Studio at Pershing Square Signature Center in May.

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?

I think I’d be remiss if I didn’t first tell this story before delving more into the philosophical and personal origins of Invincible Ones. During our first year, my classmates and myself were at a birthday party for another classmate, Sam GoodmanDominic Finocchiaro, self-proclaimed shit-stirrer, said that he thought we should go around and tell each other what plays we’d like to see them write. I should also mention that at this point, in the midst of first living in New York, I was suddenly exploring my West Coast roots in my writing. Most everything I was bringing in took place in rural settings. Anyway, Dominic got to me and suggested that I should write a city play. I scoffed and said, “I can write city plays. I’ve written city plays.” And within the next months, I started to bring the early pages from Invincible Ones into class.

Now that that’s out of the way … the exact moment I started to hear this play in my head was on a corner in the East Village on the way to my first-year production assignment at the Connelly Theatre. A scruffy, long-bearded man in a leather jacket said a few mean, choice words to me as he passed by, and lines started to come to me. I wasn’t sure what form the play would take at first, but I could feel the pace and the energy right away.

I’ve also always been very interested in roller derby. There’s something so fast and loud and violent and absolutely beautiful about it. Since the modern resurgence of the sport, its world has been mostly female-centric. It’s a space where women are angry and aggressive in a way that society doesn’t allow them to be out in the world. And it’s a sport where all are welcome. Plus, the camaraderie in the roller derby world is deep and protective. So, as the characters started to develop in my head, it felt like some connection to roller derby was right for the world of the play. And that’s how some of the origins came together in one play.

Who is your mentor? Why did you want them as your mentor?
My mentor is Melissa James Gibson, who is amazing. It actually took me a long time to pick a mentor. I kept a running list of people in my head. I’d add people to the list and take people off, but Melissa was on the list from the start and remained there through all the iterations. Eventually, I started actually telling people I was thinking about asking her and the response was always, “She would be an awesome mentor” or “She’s the nicest person,” which was reassuring.

I became acquainted with Melissa’s work when I acted in a scene from [sic] when I was in undergrad at Western Washington University. I was immediately drawn to her style and the way she engages with her characters. In many ways, I feel like we have a similar sensibility. After I first became familiar with her work, I also watched her career, which is long and varied. All of the those reasons are why I ended up choosing her as my mentor.

Overall, she is incredibly insightful, available and all-around encouraging. I’m very happy.

Read more about Cooper and Invincible Ones here.