Tori and Mabelle talk with award-winning playwright and screenwriter, Anna Ouyang Moench, about grad school, motherhood, and her incredible catalog of plays. Anna shares about juggling life as an MFA Playwriting student at UCSD with teaching assistant work and parenting a newborn. The episode includes in-depth discussions of Anna’s plays “Mothers,” “Man of God,” “Birds of North America,” and her most recent play “Your Local Theater Presents: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, Again.”
Writing prompt (courtesy of Anna Ouyang Moench)
The Hourglass Exercise. Take a sheet of paper and draw the shape of an hourglass (two inverted parenthesis coming together). Then write a scene between two characters. Each line must expand the whole center part of the hourglass from end to end. It can’t go beyond that–no 2-line lines, just one across per character. You go from the top down through the middle of the hourglass and then down to the bottom as it gets bigger at the bottom. As you can imagine, the lines are longer at the beginning of the scene and then they get shorter and shorter and shorter at the middle of the scene and then they get longer and longer and longer toward the end. Really the idea is not to write a super long scene, like tight together. It actually works better if you allow yourself to have big handwriting and go for it and write across, skip a couple of lines and go down to the next one. What I really love about this exercise is it teaches you a lot about technical things you can do as a writer to change rhythm, pacing, and that affects the energy of the scene on an emotional level. The characters will start out talking a little more rationally with each other because they have the space to do that, and then they start interrupting each other or they start holding back and clipping their words. Then in the middle of the scene they’re either really stepping on each other or they are barely communicating. Then the opportunity to lengthen their lines toward the end comes to some kind of resolution. I’ve found that you create an arc, no matter what you end up writing about. The idea is stream of consciousness, write a conversation, Go! Try different shapes and see what it does to the scene!
Anna Ouyang Moench is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter. Her plays have been produced at the Williamstown Theatre Festival, NAATCO/The Public Theater, the Geffen Playhouse, the Playwrights Realm, East West Players, InterAct Theater, Theater Mu, and many other theaters across the country and around the world.
Connect with Anna:
Check out Anna’s play, “Birds of North America” at the Odyssey Theatre in LA: https://odysseytheatre.com/whats-on/birds-of-north-america/
Enjoy live and virtual presentations of “Your Local Theater Presents: A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, Again” this December through Playwrights Center: https://pwcenter.org/news/playwrights%E2%80%99-center-announces-2023%E2%80%9324-public-season-last-full-season-its-long-time-home
Purchase Anna’s plays at: https://trwplays.com/