NNPN Festival Spotlight Part 1: Sarah Bierstock

Theater

BY PHILIP LEDERER SRQ DAILY FRIDAY WEEKEND EDITION FRIDAY APR 19, 2019

Florida Studio Theatre teams up with the National New Play Network (NNPN) this year to host the NNPN Women in Playwriting Festival right here in Sarasota, inviting four women playwrights from around the country to bring their latest work for a series of staged readings from April 24 through May 10. The featured artists each receive a week of development sessions with FST, followed by the reading and a talkback session to receive feedback from the audience. In this four-part series, SRQ goes backstage with the playwrights.

Sarah Bierstock world premiered her debut play, Honor Killing, at FST in the spring of 2018—where it ran for eight weeks with full audiences. This year, she returns for the first workshop of her new play, Mothers and Daughters, about three daughters who gather for the first Christmas since the death of their grandmother. The reading will be at FST on April 24.

You premiered Honor Killing at FST last spring, what do you enjoy about collaborating with FST, and why did you want to return? Bierstock: Director Richard Hopkins was such a pleasure to work with. He was inclusive of me in the entire project, and, most importantly, constantly clarifying with me that he understood the intention and vision behind my words. He honored what was on the page and assembled an amazing team to bring that vision to life.

What is at the heart of this new play? I was particularly interested in exploring the female dynamics within the family unit—mothers to daughters and sister to sister. There is so much seemingly conflicting emotion—loving each other so deeply while driving each other completely insane. It’s a dynamic most of us can relate to. I like exploring the absurdity.

Why are festivals like these important today? Women's voices have historically been silenced—or not given platforms to be heard. A more inclusive society leads to greater understanding, empathy and opportunities. That's the society I'm interested in my daughters living in. Theater is the perfect vehicle to break down these walls, as it facilitates the generation of new ideas in a way unlike any other.

How does playwriting give you a voice? Being a playwright is like having a massive megaphone. As an actress, I have never felt as exposed as being a playwright. Everyone experiencing your words knows that they came from your head. That is a tremendous privilege, but it’s also terrifying. You have to own every piece of what you wrote. And if what you want to explore is often the uglier parts of life, you have to be prepared for people's responses. 

Pictured: Sarah Bierstock.

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