Archive for October, 2016

“Gentle, Incremental Hedonism”: An Interview with Caroline V. McGraw

Tuesday, October 18th, 2016

Caroline V. McGraw headshot

Playwright Caroline V. McGraw

Producing Artistic Director Michael Walkup and Ultimate Beauty Bible playwright Caroline V. McGraw took a break from rehearsals to grab a coffee and a rainbow donut and talk about the latest Page 73 premiere.

Michael Walkup: The first time we sat and talked about this play must have been, what, three years ago?

Caroline McGraw: Almost four!

MW: Really?

CM: It was late 2012, you were interviewing me for the Fellowship and this was the play I told you I wanted to write.

MW: Did you have pages yet?

CM: I had about fifteen pages and I didn’t know where it was going.

MW: Well, for the record, you got the [2013 P73 Playwriting] Fellowship, and got to writing.

CM: And I brought in pages to Interstate 73 meetings.

MW: Our writers group, that’s right, I always wanted to read [the role of] Tiffany. Since even those first pages the friendship among the three women has been so vivid. I may risk over-generalizing here, but it seems we’re in an age when stories of platonic love are being treated with the same importance as romantic love, which was always the domain of traditional comedy. But today I watch a lot where friends invest in their love, can be disappointed by it, cause problems with it, and it’s not juvenile or less-important-than.

CM: I think there are socioeconomic reasons that “platonic lifemate” relationships are making a comeback – people getting married later or not at all, high cost of living, shifts in family structures. But I think historically platonic love has at times been on the same plane as romantic love -your best pal got just as many sonnets as your lover. I think it’s an area that’s rife for drama. The friendships at the center of Ultimate Beauty Bible have all the highs and lows of a love relationship: chemistry, attraction, jealousy, fear of loss. The women think they should be looking for fulfilling romantic relationships, when their friendships are as complex as any romance.

MW: So you finished a draft during your year as the 2013 P73 Playwriting Fellow, and we did a workshop.

CM: With Stephen Brackett, who’s directing the premiere!

MW: We introduced you two and the relationship stuck.

CM: I learned a lot about the play doing that workshop.

MW: The play centers on women working at a fashion magazine, and so it necessarily is talking about a material, capitalist world. It seems to me, though, that you find something spiritual amidst the material, am I reading that right?

CM: I find the way women relate to each other through beauty and fashion deeply spiritual. It’s a communion. Transformation. My grandmother had shelves and shelves of high-end, amazing makeup, perfumes, and clothing, and from when I was very little, we played with them together. Patting lotion on her face or trying on her clothes helped me to see her and be a part of her. I always wanted to do my friends’ makeup because it was a way to draw on them, to hold their face and study who they are. I love emptying out other women’s makeup bags and just seeing what they choose to decorate themselves with. It feels like, even just in the past few years, that women have embraced – and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie just said this last month – that femininity and feminism aren’t mutually exclusive.

MW: I’ve been reading Hanna Rosin’s The End of Men and thinking about your play. She’s interested in how women are embracing new roles – in work, sex, family – that they had been denied historically, but that men aren’t proving to be as adaptable to new roles. In Ultimate Beauty Bible, your female characters seem more professionally fulfilled than the men.

CM: I haven’t read that book, but I did just read a statistic that more American workforce-aged men are out of work now than at any time since the Great Depression. It’s complicated by a lot of factors, but women are definitely taking the reins. Something I was interested in exploring in Ultimate Beauty Bible is women in women jobs – not that there aren’t men in fashion and beauty, but that my female characters are successful in a women’s sphere. And they’re ruthlessly productive – they take the “light” matters of fashion and beauty heavily. The idea of the housewife who devotes herself wholly to home and hearth is a wealthy construct – women have been working outside the home forever. It feels like the rise of the woman comes from being able to have visibility in the professional sphere, kicking ass at pleasurable, higher-profile endeavors. I wanted my female characters to be as visible, metaphorically and aesthetically, as possible.

MW: The inciting incident of the play prompts the three friends, who are in their early thirties, to face mortality. We all have heard “live every day like it’s your last,” but on the other hand couldn’t that advice could be seen as careless? No one winds up with a 401(k) if every day is the end. In thinking about your characters’ mortality, do you come down on a side of that?

CM: I think we all want to think of ourselves as people who, given a particular reason, could change who we are. We could start to live more fully, boldly, whatever that might entail. I don’t know if people are able to change that quickly, even if an outside circumstance shakes them. Life is an accumulation – no one is who she is by accident. In the play I try to explore all sides of the argument I have with myself about how I might behave if I got life-altering news: the person who tries to change but can’t seem to, the person who thinks her life is just fine the way it is, and the person who really just dives with abandon into a more hedonistic, live-like-there’s-no-tomorrow style. I can see the merit, and the folly, in all of them. I think I might be on the “gentle, incremental hedonism” tip if such a thing exists.

MW: Sitting with your play for these past few weeks – heck, years – makes me think: how much life IS someone supposed to have lived by their mid-thirties? Asking for a friend.

CM: As someone in her, ahem, early 30s, I feel like you’re supposed to have lived enough that you have a lot of good memories and stories of bad breakups and ill-advised piercings (is that just me?), but not so much that you can’t possibly imagine what else could happen. I’ve had a lot of fun and carpe’d the diem, but I also know there’s a lot more I’m going to do. That feels like a good balance.


You can purchase tickets to Ultimate Beauty Bible at and learn more about the creative team here.

Announcing our 2017 Semifinalists!

Tuesday, October 11th, 2016

We are thrilled to announce the 16 semifinalists for the 2017 P73 Playwriting Fellowship!

We look forward to reading more from these writers who stood out from among a field of 400 applicants. Finalists for the Fellowship, as well as members of our 2017 Interstate 73 writers group, will be announced later this fall!

Ngozi Anyanwu
Will Arbery
Jocelyn Bioh
Liza Birkenmeier
Alexander Borinsky
John J. Caswell, Jr.
Sam Chanse
Cat Crowley
Blake Hackler
Jeremy Kamps
Claire Kiechel
Ryan King
Molly Beach Murphy
Jonathan Payne
Ariel Stess
Kate Tarker


Ngozi Anyanwu is an actor, playwright, and producer. Education: University of California San Diego’s (MFA acting) Point Park University (B.A). She will be appearing in the upcoming HBO show The Deuce. Good Grief (Kilroys list 2016, semifinal) will have its world premiere at the CTG/Kirk Douglas Theatre in 2016/17. The Homecoming Queen was presented as part of The Fire This Time’s Inaugural’s Writers group, and most recently had a workshopped reading at Yale with Page 73’s summer residency. Anyanwu is also a recipient of the Djerassi Artist Residency, as well as Space on Ryder Farm and the LCT playwrights residency.




Will Arbery is a playwright from Texas + Wyoming. He’s the current winner of the Edes Foundation Prize for Emerging Artists. He’s an alum of Clubbed Thumb’s Early Career Writers Group, Theater Masters, Alliance Theatre’s Kendeda group, Tofte Lake Center’s Emerging Artist Residency, and Variety’s “110 Students to Watch.” His play The Mongoose was an L.A. Times Critic’s Pick. Upcoming: a micro-residency at the Bushwick Starr. His dance work with BOOMERANG is upcoming at Steppenwolf and MCA Chicago. MFA: Northwestern.


bioh-headshotJOCELYN BIOH

Jocelyn Bioh is a Ghanaian-American writer/performer born and raised in New York City. Plays include School Girls (Kilroys List 2016) Nollywood Dreams (Kilroys List 2015) and The Ladykiller’s Love Story of which she conceived the story and wrote the libretto with music/lyrics by Cee Lo Green. She has received commissions from MTC and Atlantic Theatre Co.  B.A in English/Theatre from The Ohio State University and MFA in Playwriting from Columbia University.


birkenmeier-headshotLIZA BIRKENMEIER

Liza Birkenmeier is a member of EWG at the Public Theater and a Playwrights Realm Fellow. She is currently collaborating with New Georges and 3LD on a project that will premiere in the summer of 2017. Her work has been developed at Ars Nova, Rattlestick, Lincoln Center, University Settlement, Dixon Place, and elsewhere. Her play radio island was a finalist for the inaugural Relentless Award and was included on the 2016 Kilroys List.



Alexander Borinsky was born in Baltimore. He has made work with the warm support of the LMCC Workspace program, the Working Farm at SPACE at Ryder Farm, Target Margin Theater, Page 73, Masrah Ensemble in Beirut, and Youngblood, and is working on commissions from Clubbed Thumb and Playwrights Horizons. This fall he will finish his MFA in playwriting at Brooklyn College and serve as Artist-in-Residence at University Settlement, where he is exploring weird classrooms.


caswell_1JOHN J. CASWELL, JR.

John is the Artistic Director of Progressive Theatre Workshop, a company that makes plays about queer things. He has developed and shown work at HERE, Dixon Place, The Public Theater, Theatres at 45 Bleecker, Primary Stages, and more. He has been a finalist for both the Princess Grace Award and The Woodward Newman Drama Award. His play SHOTS: A Love Story was published by Left Coast Press in Johnny Saldana’s Ethnotheatre: Research From Page to Stage. Company website:


chanse-2016-1SAM CHANSE

Sam Chanse’s plays include The Other InstinctFruiting Bodies Lydia’s Funeral Video, and gilgamesh & the mosquito (composer Bob Kelly). A Rita Goldberg Playwrights’ Workshop Fellow at the Lark and member of New Dramatists, Ars Nova’s Play Group, and Ma-Yi Writers Lab, her work has also been supported by the Playwrights Realm, Sundance/Ucross, EST/Sloan, Leviathan, Yale Institute of Musical Theatre, Civilians R&D Group, The Claque, and MacDowell. MFA playwriting: Columbia; MFA musical theater writing: NYU.


crowley-headshotCAT CROWLEY

Cat Crowley is an NYC based queer writer and performer. Her work has been performed at Ars Nova, Dixon Place, #Serials at The Flea, The Tank, Salty Brine’s Spectacular Living Record Collection… at The Red Room, 24 Hour Plays: Nationals, Irondale Arts Center, Judson Church, Bowery Arts and Science, and The Breadbox Theatre (San Francisco, CA). She is a current member of the Fresh Ground Pepper Playground PlayGroup. BFA Tisch, NYU.


hackler-headshotBLAKE HACKLER

Blake Hackler is a lifetime member of the BMI/Lehman Engel Workshop and was a recipient of the Harrington Award for Excellence in Musical Theatre Writing. His play, This Sweet Affliction, received a workshop produced by Primary Stages in 2015, and was named runner up for the 2016 ATHE Playwriting Award. An inaugural member of Dallas Theatre Center’s playwriting unit, Blake holds faculty positions at SMU and Yale University, and is a Fulbright Senior Scholar. MFA, Yale School of Drama.


kamps-headshotJEREMY KAMPS

Jeremy Kamps’ work has been produced/developed with Esperance Theater Company, Company Cypher at the National Black Theatre of Harlem, Ugly Rhino, Dixon Place, Hudson Valley Shakespeare, The Amoralists and New York Theatre Workshop; member of the Public Theater Emerging Writers Group. He has also been recognized for awards for his play GUTTING (The Ruby Lloyd Apsey Award, Goldberg Prize) and WATER HYACINTH (Hudson Valley Writers Center and NYU Festival of New Works). MFA: NYU.


kiechel_headshot-2CLAIRE KIECHEL

Claire Kiechel is a playwright and theater maker living in New York. Her plays include: PILGRIMS (upcoming at the Gift Theatre; Lark Playwright’s Week 2016; the Kilroys’ 2016 THE LIST); LULU IS HUNGRY with composer Avi Amon (ANTFEST 2016); SOME DARK PLACES OF THE EARTH (New School for Drama). She is a current member of Youngblood, an alumna of The Civilians 2015-16 R&D Group, and a 2016 recipient of South Coast Rep’s Elizabeth George Emerging Writers Commission.


king-headshotRYAN KING

Ryan King is from Austin, TX, and now lives in Brooklyn. His plays: Burying Augustus, Gigantic F***ing Worms, Later Hour, Loveshack in ’87, Always On, and others.  He’s a current member of the Primary Stages New American Writers Group and the 2016 Working Farm at SPACE on Ryder Farm.  He’s a former member of the 2014-2015 Clubbed Thumb Early Career Writers Group. His plays have been developed by Cape Cod Theatre Project, Naked Angels, Clubbed Thumb, Colt Coeur, Primary Stages, Theater of NOTE and others.


murphy-headshotMOLLY BEACH MURPHY

Molly Beach Murphy is a playwright and director from Galveston, Texas. Plays include: Cowboy Bob (Upcoming Ars Nova Project Residency), Big Bend in the Red Dirt Desert, Molly Murphy  & Neil de Grasse Tyson On Our Last Day On Earth.  Her work has been developed at Williamstown Theatre Festival, New York Theatre Workshop, Ars Nova, Fresh Ground Pepper Playground Playgroup, NYMF, Incubator Arts Project, The Habitat, Signature Theatre, New Light Theater Project, New Georges Affiliated Artist BFA: Southern Methodist University.


payne-headshotJONATHAN PAYNE

Jonathan Payne’s work has been developed at the Tristan Bates Theatre (UK), Ars Nova, Fringe Festival NYC, The Bushwick Star, and the Fire This Time Festival. He’s been a fellow at New Dramatists, Playwrights Realm and The Dramatist Guild, as well as an Ars Nova Play Group. He received a BA from the GSA Conservatoire (UK) and an MFA in Playwriting from Tisch School of the Arts. He is a current fellow at the Juilliard Playwrights Program.


stessheadshot-100kb-1ARIEL STESS

Ariel Stess is a Brooklyn-based playwright and director originally from Santa Fe, New Mexico. Her work has been developed or produced by The Bushwick Starr, Clubbed Thumb, Playwrights Horizons, New Georges, The Lark, Dixon Place, and Mabou Mines. Recent productions: I’M PRETTY FUCKED UP (Clubbed Thumb) and HEARTBREAK (The Bushwick Starr & New Georges). She is currently working on a commission for Playwrights Horizons and a memoir.


tarker-headshotKATE TARKER

Kate Tarker’s plays include THUNDERBODIES (nominee, 2017 L. Arnold Weissberger Award), An Almanac for Farmers and Lovers in Mexico (2015 Kilroys List), and Laura and the Sea (2016 Kilroys List; finalist for 2016 L. Arnold Weissberger Award and Princess Grace Award). Developed by The Lark, Ars Nova, NYTW, The O’Neill, among others. Jerome Fellowship, MacDowell Colony, Ars Nova Play Group. Commissions: The Wilma, Theater Masters Visionary Playwright Award. Collaborations: Pig Iron and SITI Company. M.F.A. Yale.