“Well it’s like, super haunted down here so, you know. Watch out.”
Serena Berman is a playwright, actress, and producer. She is a proud member of the 2019-2020 Ars Nova Play Group. Her work has been produced at The Davenport Theater (Wisdom, and Other Short Plays), and developed with Artilliers Theatre Company (sea/sick – devised), Renegade Theater Festival and Less Than Rent (Études). Serena’s short plays have been performed at The Samuel French OOB Festival (Sex Friends – finalist), Williamstown, Absolu Théâtre (French translation), and more. You can catch her in the podcast-o-verse in Flying V’s anthology series Paperless Pulp (“Apocalypse Airbnb”), and in the writers room for season two of “Roommate From Hell.” She’s a Director of Performance at LES gallery Chinatown Soup, where she produces theatre and organizes political activism events. Favorite acting credits include ‘Set it Up’ (Netflix) ‘Diaspora’ (NY Premiere), ‘Murder at the Gates’ (Steven Sater), and ‘Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales’ (voice of Lucy). BFA in Drama, NYU Tisch (CAP21). www.serenaberman.com
A BIT ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT
1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I was a bad poet and mediocre short story writer until I found dramatic writing as a teenager. My high school had a student one act festival, and I was so excited by script writing I never wanted to stop. I went to college for acting, which I’m still also pursuing, but I had a secret file of plays on my computer desktop throughout school. When I graduated, I started getting together with other actor friends to stretch our muscles between auditions, and slowly I delved into that secret file and started putting my writing on its feet. And man I loved watching people breathe life into my words.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
“Sinister Sisters” Felicia Lobo and Lauren Harris have a horror theater company that produces an insane yearly party / haunted house-style theatrical event around Halloween called ‘Nightmare Before Insomnium.’ I had been going every year and desperately wanted to write for it, so I wrote ‘The Dark’ hoping to faux-casually run it by them, like, “Oh, are you doing Nightmare this year? ThatssocrazyIactuallyhaveahorrorplayforyou!” Which WORKED, phew, and it was directed by the lovely Aaron Simon Gross in a very spooky basement. ‘The Dark’ mostly came out of me trying to scare myself, brainstorming a list of the things that scared me and why. From that came a couple characters I found really fun and wanted to follow. I’m working on a full-length horror play now based on another item on that list…stay tuned…
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Playful. Intimate. Agile. Rhythmic. Female.
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
Improv. I love and have always loved improv. Why is it suddenly cool to hate on improv now? Get outta here with that. Anyway. My dialogue doesn’t necessarily have an improvised feel, but I do try to achieve that hyper-present, listening, inevitable-but-surprising sweet spot of improv when I’m writing. My femaleness is also a huge impact on how (and what) I write. I’d also say female actor/writers like Halley Feiffer, Zoe Kazan, Jocelyn Bioh, and Heidi Schreck are massively influential – and a huge help in battling my imposter syndrome.
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I have embarrassingly high scores in the stupidest iPhone flash games like “2048” and “Ballz.” I spend way too much zone-out time on these games. This is something I sincerely hope no one guesses about me.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
Favorite audience experiences this year: ‘Marys Seacole’ by Jackie Sibblies Drury. ‘The Pain of My Belligerence’ by Halley Feiffer. ‘Usual Girls’ by Ming Peiffer. ‘Dance Nation’ by Clare Barron. ‘Slave Play’ by Jeremy O. Harris. And the past few years: ‘The Rape of the Sabine Women by Grace B. Matthias’ by Michael Yates Crowley. ‘Indecent’ by Paula Vogel. ‘Ironbound’ by Martyna Majok. Favorite classics: ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.’ ‘Summer and Smoke.’ And even earlier: everything by Tim Crouch but especially ‘England’ and ‘An Oak Tree’ – Tim Crouch is a brilliant writer/performer whose work honestly blew up my conception of what’s possible onstage. Musicals: don’t even get me started, that’s it’s own whole thing. We can chat it out over drinks.
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
Coincidentally genre-relevant: I’m writing for the second season of a scripted comedy podcast I also act in called ‘Roommate From Hell,’ check out the first season in the meantime. I also have an episode in Flying V Theater’s new podcast anthology series Paperless Pulp called ‘Apocalypse Airbnb.’ Lot of audio drama apparently! On the producing front, Chinatown Soup has a monthly micro-residency series called STAG Mondays where theater companies get a full day of free space to create something wild and wonderful – we run through June, check us out.