19 Jul OOB Final 30 Countdown – Sharon Farrell
For day 11 of our OOB Final 30 Countdown we’re happy to introduce Sharon Farrell!
A New Jersey native, Sharon holds an undergraduate degree in political science from the University of Notre Dame and an MFA in playwriting from Rutgers University. After a stint as a college lecturer left her sick of sound of her own voice, she became a professional scuba divemaster. She now lives in Denver, Colorado where she divides her time between writing and diving. Recent productions include Home Fire with the Six Women Playwriting Festival in Colorado Springs and Then and Again with the Source Festival in Washington DC.
1. When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
I started writing plays (longhand, by candlelight) while serving in the Peace Corps in Morocco. For my last semester at Notre Dame I wanted to take a class in something completely random– something I was interested in but knew nothing about. I narrowed it down to two courses that met at the same time— Modern Theatre and Ancient Chinese History. The choice was a whim, but that course was my first encounter with Pinter, Stoppard, Mamet, Brecht, Churchill, everyone. After graduation, before leaving for the Peace Corps, I saw as many plays as I could. It was seeing the productions that made me want to write. The idea of writing for the actors, the designers… seeing what those talented people could make of my stories. So I packed a few large anthologies of plays to take to Morocco and wrote my first plays in a mud house way off the grid in the High Atlas Mountains. Those plays got me into the MFA program at Rutgers and so it went from there.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
In my other, non-writing life I work as a scuba divemaster so there had to be a play about night diving. In deep, dark water everything plays tricks on you. Sound travels in ways that rob it of location. You’re weightless with no visual reference, there’s a hyperawareness of your own breathing—it’s visceral. It can be incredibly peaceful and it can be terrifying. Depths came from wanting to use the gifts of live theatre to tell a visceral story. A group of strangers packed together in a dark, confined space… sharing that same space with something you can’t quite see, can’t quite grasp, it’s unsettling. It’s proximity to evil. To danger. To everything beyond the light.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
There’s a difference between what influences the final product of writing and what influences the daily work of writing. Most of the first kind of influence is unconscious and I don’t want to start unraveling those threads, but what influences me to sit down and write is much simpler. It’s those moments in a jazz solo or a ballet or a novel that are so intense, they’re perfect in that moment. I don’t have any objective criteria except to say they strike you. They humble and they ignite. And you turn to whatever artistic gifts you might have to try to replicate that moment. Whatever influences I have in the theatre are ones most unlike my own writing since I enjoy being dazzled by things beyond my grasp. I want to be dazzled and then I want to write.
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I play the bagpipes.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
This list could be different on any given day, but for today: King Charles III by Mike Bartlett, The Lieutenant of Inishmore by Martin McDonagh, The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis, The Chairs by Eugene Ionesco, Betrayal by Harold Pinter
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I am working on a new play I hope will turn out to say some clever things about that finespun line between friendship and romance. I’m also working on my first novel—largely to make use of all the years I spent as a paramedic.
Her play Depths will be performed on August 10th at 8:30pm. It takes place just after midnight, when two scuba divers enter the water in search of “vast caves” last seen over two hundred years ago. Only one returns. As the search team rakes over Jill’s memories, the cold, dark waters return as a claustrophobic nightmare of sound, misdirection, and terror.