An Interview with Playwright Anna Ziegler
Capturing The Great Moment
The Great Moment playwright Anna Ziegler talks family, the creative process, and her work with Seattle Rep
Seattle Rep: What was your initial inspiration behind The Great Moment?
Anna Ziegler: It was just the moment in time where I found myself. My children were little, my parents healthy, my grandfather 98 years old. I felt so keenly that the moment wouldn’t last. That this was, perhaps (and not to be too dark about it), the end of a really great moment for our family – so I wanted to preserve it. Or to preserve the desire to preserve it, at least. Not to ward off loss so much as crystallize what we’d be losing. My way of raging against the dying of the light, I guess. And to send a love letter to a moment in time out into the universe.
SR: Can you talk about your collaborative process with director Braden Abraham working on The Great Moment?
AZ: I was so lucky to get to work on this very delicate, reasonably odd, super personal play with someone as sensitive, supportive, and warm as Braden. He was one of the first people to read a piece of the initial draft and if he hadn’t encouraged me to keep going (commissioned me to keep going, no less), I’m not sure I would have. He just gets this play, for which I am so grateful. I think we share the experience of sometimes feeling nostalgic for things as they occur, and he also has a strong connection to family. We’ve talked about those things we wish we could have said to relatives before it was too late and, in some small way, that’s what this play is. A way of saying a few of those things while there’s still time. So the collaborative process has been really easy and organic. Braden read a number of drafts of the play and gave me feedback; we did an intense workshop last summer in Seattle and this past summer got to workshop it again on Cape Cod. Braden always asks the right questions and projects an aura of calm, both of which benefit a (neurotic) playwright hugely.
SR: Can you speak to your experience creating new work at Seattle Rep?
AZ: Both of my experiences at Seattle Rep have been great. The first time I was here, with Photograph 51, it was my first opportunity to work at a major regional theater and I was blown away by Seattle Rep and its incredible resources. I realized quickly that this is where one should always try to make theater!
SR: How did you get into playwriting?
AZ: I wrote a lot of fiction and poetry growing up and started dabbling with playwriting in high school and then college. My senior year in college I took a course taught by the playwright Arthur Kopit. He also taught in the graduate program at NYU and encouraged me to apply. I thought that was an insane idea – I wasn’t a playwright; I hadn’t even written a whole play – but I did end up applying, and going. And here I am today. Which means I am both wildly grateful to and completely furious at Arthur for sending me down this crazy path!
SR: What’s the first hook that gets a new play started for you?
AZ: It really depends. Sometimes I hear lines of dialogue in my head and then start writing a character and that gets something going. Sometimes something external – something in the news, something I’ve read – strikes me and I want to explore further. In the case of this play, my grandfather’s repeated “getting old sucks” got stuck in my head and I started imagining a character affectionately narrating her grandfather’s daily indignities.
SR: What playwrights have inspired your work?
AZ: Jez Butterworth, Sarah Ruhl, Brian Friel (including one of my and my grandfather’s favorite plays, Molly Sweeney), María Irene Fornés, Michael Frayn, Lynn Nottage, and so many more…
SR: Who are some current playwrights you follow and think should get more attention?
AZ: Jessica Dickey, Matt Schatz, Mat Smart, Kimber Lee, Deborah Stein, Deborah Zoe Laufer, Charly Evon Simpson, and so many more…
SR: What do you hope audiences will take away from The Great Moment?
AZ: To appreciate the moment, of course.