Mallory Jane Weiss
The lexicographer is coming! Tuesday and Door have one job: lower the drawbridge. But what if the lexicographer comes bearing language for their FEELINGS this time?! That sounds… [like a word for when a bear is coming and you’re holding a ham sandwich]. DRAWBRIDGE is a play about the potential power of words and the people that help us find them.
Mallory Jane Weiss grew up in New Jersey, where she went down the shore and ate taylor ham. She continues to do those things & writes plays, in Brooklyn. Select plays include BIG BLACK SUNHATS (Great Plains Theatre Commons New Play Conference 2023; The O’Neill National Playwrights Conference 2022; Clubbed Thumb Biennial Commission finalist 2020), LIGHTS OUT AND AWAY WE GO (The O’Neill NPC finalist 2023; Clubbed Thumb reading 2022), THE PAGE TURNERS (Clauder Competition Gold Prize 2023; Princess Grace Award semi-finalist 2022; The O’Neill NPC finalist 2021), PONY UP (Princess Grace Award Finalist, 2019), and DAVE AND JULIA ARE STUCK IN A TREE (Playing on Air’s James Stevenson Prize 2020). Mallory is an alumna of Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writers’ Group (2021-2022), The COOP’s Clusterf**k (2021), Gingold Theatrical Group’s Speakers Corner (2018-2019), and Fresh Ground Pepper’s BRB Retreat (2019). B.A.: Harvard University, M.F.A.: The New School. www.malloryjaneweiss.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’d always written — I put out a copy of The Weiss Weekly, as soon as I learned to type. The big news back then was that the television stations had changed and Disney went from channel 33 to channel 31. After that first issue, there really wasn’t much else to report, so I went from hard-hitting news to playwriting. I wrote my first play while at The Hotchkiss School. Not only did the playwriting contest I was entering offer a cash prize, but I realized it was a way to combat what the French call, “l’esprit de l’escalier.” (Pardon my French!) That moment when you’re walking up the stairs and think, “That’s what I should’ve said!” Playwriting meant that I could say those (clever, charming) things. A group of us put on a play of mine in the spring of my senior year in high school — a play about my experience working at a pizza place over the summer, entitled, “A Slice of Life” — and I was hooked.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
I’d been reading Brene Brown’s “Atlas of the Heart” when I conceived this play. (Brene is a genius.) The book explores eighty-seven of the emotions that define the human experience, with the hopes of helping us better connect with ourselves and each other. I was struck by how challenging it is to define certain emotions, like awe. So that became a part of the play… trying to define the emotion without the word for it.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
Look! Silly, hopeful friends trying.
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
I started writing plays in earnest after my best friend and I went on a road trip in high school to see Sarah Ruhl’s “In the Next Room (AKA the Vibrator Play)” in Philadelphia. I returned home bashful but inspired. Today, my plays continue to be inspired by Sarah Ruhl’s expressionism (hints of poetry! colors! inanimate objects can talk!), in combination with Jaclyn Backhaus’s wild humor (forget the well-made play! anachronistic gestures! women are funny!), and Caryl Churchill’s structural slyness (never the same play twice! knot the form to the content tightly! oh, and the world is ending!). I also read a lot of literary fiction and cannot resist a book on craft. (I return again and again to Anne Lamott’s “Bird by Bird.”
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
Mallory Weiss is the name of a disease. It’s not a pretty Google search, so I always use my middle name.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
“Far Away” by Caryl Churchill; “Eurydice” by Sarah Ruhl; “Animal Wisdom” Heather Christian; “Mr. Burns, a Post-Electric Play” Anne Washburn.
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I’ve got a Formula 1 play, in case anyone has Charles Leclerc’s number.