In a corporate push to reduce stress and boost productivity, start-up marketing firm Squad Souls holds a mandatory meditation workshop for its employees, who are reluctant to relax.
Veronika Gribanova is a writer, actor, and director based in New York and Toronto. Recent playwriting credits include “All We See Is Red” (in development with a grant from Canada Council), “zounds!” (Atlantic Stage 2 and Edinburgh Fringe), and “Lover Lover” (The Duplex and Toronto Fringe). Her shorts and web series have been Official Selections of festivals around the world, and her television pilot “Lateslip” was selected for Stowe Story Labs. She studied writing at the University of Toronto, Kings College London, and McGill University, and studied acting at Atlantic Theater Company’s conservatory. She has also studied with playwright Winter Miller and with Emmy-nominated Alyson Feltes. She herself has taught writing, acting, and improv workshops in the US, Canada, and the UK. She writes dramatic and dark comedies.
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 can’t remember a time where I didn’t want to write, but it took a while for me to find theatre.
And it wasn’t until I started writing plays that people started calling me a writer. I wrote my
first play “Lover Lover” in 2016. I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. It was terribly fun.
I’ve been over-caffeinated ever since.
2. How did you come to write your OOB play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
I took a meditation course that was like a group-therapy thing and I remember sitting in the
first session and looking around the room thinking, “Am I in a play?” The people were such
characters I couldn’t believe we weren’t being watched. So that’s where the meditation play
idea came from, though the piece ended up being more about hustle culture, which is
something that’s been on my mind for years. I like the clash of meditation and marketing the
same way I like any clash between the heightened and the quotidian, the sacred and the
Revisiting the play now, mid-pandemic… it’s not that I’m seeing it in a different light. It’s that
the emotions within it have intensified. We’re experiencing how uncomfortable it is to slow
down. We’re realizing we’ve conflated our work with our self-worth. We’re seeing inequality
in stark light. Yet, for the most part, the hustle continues. Nevermind the ill, the dead, the
suffering. The “slay all day” mentality has taken on a darker meaning. So the play makes
more sense to me now than it did when I was writing it. I probably shouldn’t admit that.
3. What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
I’m running out of words.
4. What/who are some of the major influences on your writing?
I prefer to write with actors in mind. I like learning their speech patterns. They’re often the
biggest influence. As for others, it’s an odd collection. Mamet, Sarah Ruhl, Michael Ondaatje,
Nikolai Gogol, Jesse Eisenberg, Christine Evans, Josh Radnor, the “It’s Always Sunny” boys,
John Hughes. 80s films. Improv and stand up. Prayer. My old friend Fear of Death. Josh
Ramsay’s musical talents. Wonderful teachers, including Alyson Feltes, Francine Zerfas, Ron
Sylvester, Winter Miller, Heather Oakley, and many more. And my sister, whose ideas and
humor I steal all the time while she wastes her talents on medical school.
5. What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
I performed in a hack Russian circus during my tween years. I wore a pink spandex one piece and hung off a hoop. I was not good.
6. What are some of your favorite plays?
This is very exciting, I never get asked this. “A Life” by Adam Bock, “Detroit” by Lisa D’Amour,
“Do You Feel Anger?” by Mara Nelson-Greenberg, “Venus in Fur” by David Ives, “Beardo”
by Dave Malloy & Jason Craig, “Plano” by Will Arbery, “Angels in America”, “Romeo and
Juliet”, all of Chekhov but especially “Uncle Vanya”, and anything by Jesse Eisenberg, but
7. Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
I have two pilots in development! “Lateslip” is a dramedy about unconventional teachers at a hyper-PC private school, and “Myth” (an adaptation of my play “zounds!”) is a political dramedy about the Greek gods, set in the present. I’m also working on an indie feature about two depressed clowns on a cross-country tour, battling their own egos on an eternal search for validation. He was her teacher and is now struggling with the fact that she’s funnier than him. She’s in love with him.