OOB Final 30 Countdown – Renee Calarco

And, for day six of our Final 30 countdown, meet Renee Calarco!

Renee Calarco is a D.C.-based playwright and teacher. Her plays include The Religion Thing (2013 nominee for the Charles MacArthur Award for Outstanding New Play), Short Order Stories (2007 recipient of the Charles MacArthur Award), G-d’s Honest Truth, Our National Museum of the Unforeseen Tragedy, The Mating of Angela Weiss, Bleed, First Stop: Niagara Falls, The 12 Days of Christmas, and others. Her plays have been produced, developed, and commissioned by Theater J, The Welders, Charter Theater, Geva Theatre, Project Y, Pinky Swear Productions, Adventure Theatre, Doorway Arts Ensemble, The Jewish Plays Project, and the Source Theatre Festival. Renee teaches both playwriting and comedy improv at The Theatre Lab. She’s a founding member of The Welders and a proud member of The Dramatists Guild.

1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?

I’ve always been a writer, but it took me awhile to figure out that I was a playwright in particular. It probably should have occurred to me in high school when I spent an inordinate amount of time writing plays–not the usual inscriptions–in my friends’ yearbooks. After college, I moved to D.C., began taking improv classes, co-founded a sketch and improv company, and eventually realized that improv was essentially playwriting without the laptop. It kind of snowballed from there.

2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?

It was born in 2008 during the Kennedy Center’s Summer Playwriting Intensive. Michael Weller gave us a fantastic assignment: write a short play inspired by a song. I’d been listening to Springsteen’s “Tunnel of Love” and damn if “Brilliant Disguise” wasn’t seared into me. It’s gut-wrenching. So I picked that song and wrote about who I thought it was about. Dez and Marla emerged–two broken people who are closing up their bar at the end of the night. I kept working on the piece and submitted it D.C’s Doorway Arts Ensemble. We did some great work together on it….I kept developing it….and I submitted it to Pinky Swear Productions. It played in rep with Ally Currin’s BENCHED. Which is also a play set on a playground. And by the way, everyone should produce that play. Seriously.

3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?

Persistent, dauntless, wisecrackin’, hypoallergenic, MFA-free.

4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?

Politics, love, blue-collar America, and religion. Family–mine and just family in general.

5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?

I finished the Marine Corps Marathon twice.

6. What are some of your favorite plays?

The Flick, The Piano Lesson, The Glass MenagerieTopdog/Underdog, Cabaret, Wit, Mr. Burns: A Post-Electric PlayGypsy.

7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?

I’m co-writing a musical with the brilliant composer Buzz Mauro. Working title: THE KIDS’ TABLE. Later this fall, there will be a public reading of G-D’S HONEST TRUTH at the JCC of Manhattan. Dates to be announced.


Her play Bleed will be performed on August 11th at 8:30pm. The story follows Marla—an escapee from her sister’s wedding reception— who just wants some peace and quiet. Dez—her husband—just wants Marla. When Dez finds Marla on an abandoned playground, they play the delicate games they’ve been playing for nineteen years…and ultimately face the hard truths of their lives. Bleed is a story about love, loss, and resilience.