FPP Harlem spoke with acclaimed playwright and screenwriter Bathsheba Doran (Kin, Parents’ Evening, and Living Room in Africa), about “we” vs “me,” the writer’s life in Harlem, and what current play we need to see right this minute.
I create characters out of me not we. If my characters don’t reflect a part of myself then I don’t understand them so they end up disappearing from drafts. I don’t always know at first what part of myself the character has accessed, but at some point I’ll realize they’re made up of a certain emotional makeup I experienced at some point in my past. And the dream is that other people will see themselves in my me, then it’s a we, and hopefully we’re all less lonely for a second.
Do you tend to feel like an insider or an outsider? Do you feel good at belonging?
I’ve never had a strong sense of being home anywhere. Except with people I love. It’s a lonely feeling but it’s also liberating.
Kin is your latest play. How can someone see or read this play now?
They could see it if they go to the Griffin Theatre in Chicago next month. They could buy it at Playwrights Horizons Theater in New York – or soon on Amazon or a bookshop. I just sent off the galleys.
Which play should someone see right this minute?
You Better Sit Down: Tales from my Parents’ Divorce at the Flea Theater downtown. It’s amazing. It’s more of an event than a play in a way. Very moving, very funny, very stylish.
How long have you lived in Harlem?
What’s it like for you to be a writer in Harlem in 2012?
Harder since Floridita got closed down. They used to let me work there for long periods of time. Most of the theater people I know live in Brooklyn. Part of me thinks it’s good for me to be separated from whatever the vibe is there, whatever’s going on. Part of me thinks it’s perverse of me and I am missing some zeitgeist moment among my peers over the bridge.
Has anything surprised you about your life in Harlem?
How much I love it. It’s the longest I have ever lived in one area.
At heart, are you town or country?
Town. Definitely town. Except for an afternoon, town. And I would like it if that afternoon was in New Mexico somewhere.
Where do you overhear the best dialogue?
My mother can be relied on for a couple of zingers.