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Podcast 073: Active Disruption with Steven Dietz

In this two-part season finale, Tori and Mabelle talk with the extraordinary Steven Dietz about his 40+ years in the theater. He shares how his 11 years of directing workshops and readings of new plays served as his grad school, teaching him how the theater works in space. He shares tactics and tools of the craft, including his idea of plays as alive (The Living Play), the importance of inviting scrutiny, why inspiration is a con, how victories can be complicated, and his strategies for talkbacks.

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Listen on Apple Podcast
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Listen on Spotify

Writing prompt (courtesy of Steven Dietz) 

Two by Ten. Write a 3-page scene, 2 characters only. The event of the scene is either a long overdue confrontation or a long overdue apology. The two characters are sitting at a table. There’s one object on the table. When either of the characters touches or lifts the object, they are the same two characters, but they are either 10 years in the future or 10 years in the past. You can use that move a couple of times if you want. The goal of this would be to first of all decide what that object is–how is it crucial to both of these people. Then there is the notion of situating the play at a kairos (threshold moment) moment – why is this moment crucial? And if you go 10 years in the past or 10 years in the future, it makes you decide another important moment that they’re both involved in. Extra credit: Write an epilogue from each character. It has to be exactly 3 sentences long. The epilogue – each character shares in their journal what happened at the table that day–that is for point of view. Be kind to yourself and see where it goes!

Steven’s bio (via Playwrights’ Center): 

Steven Dietz’s thirty-plus plays and adaptations have been seen at over one hundred regional theaters, as well as Off-Broadway. International productions have been seen in over twenty countries. In 2019, Dietz was once again named one of the 20 Most-Produced Playwrights in America by American Theatre Magazine.

Recent world premieres: How a Boy Falls (Northlight Theatre, Chicago); Dracula: Mina’s Quest (ACT Theatre, Seattle); The Great Beyond and The Ghost of Splinter Cove (Actor’s Theatre of Charlotte, Children’s Theatre of Charlotte). Upcoming premieres: Gaslight (Cincinnati Shakespeare Company/Merrimack Repertory Theatre); Murder on the Links (North Coast Repertory Theatre/Laguna Playhouse).

Dietz was awarded the American Theatre Critics Association’s Steinberg New Play Citation for Bloomsday; the Kennedy Center Fund for New American Plays Award for both Fiction and Still Life with Iris; the PEN USA Award in Drama for Lonely Planet; and the Edgar Award ® from the Mystery Writers of America for Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure.

His work has been premiered/produced at the Roundabout Theatre Company (NYC), Steppenwolf Theatre (Chicago), Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Berkeley Repertory Theatre, Old Globe Theatre (San Diego), Seattle Repertory Theatre, Denver Center Theatre Company, Northlight Theater (Chicago), Alliance Theatre (Atlanta), ACT Theatre (Seattle), and the McCarter Theatre Center (Princeton), among many others.

Other widely produced plays include Becky’s New Car, This Random World, Last of the Boys, Rancho Mirage, Shooting Star, Yankee Tavern, Inventing van Gogh, Private Eyes, Rocket Man, God’s Country, and The Nina Variations.

Dietz taught in the MFA Playwriting and Directing program at UT/Austin for twelve years. He currently serves as a Dramatists Guild “Traveling Master”—teaching workshops in playwriting, story-making, and collaboration across the U.S.

Dietz and his wife, playwright Allison Gregory, divide their time between Austin and Seattle.

Connect with Steven:

Check out his profile at Playwright’s Center: https://pwcenter.org/profile/steven-dietz

Check out an excerpt from Steven’s book “Doom Eager: Notes on Making Plays” in September 2023 in “American Theatre Magazine: https://www.americantheatre.org/2023/09/12/some-hard-and-beautiful-truths-about-making-plays/

Here is Elizabeth Gilbert’s Ted Talk “Your Elusive Creative Genius” from 2009: https://www.ted.com/talks/elizabeth_gilbert_your_elusive_creative_genius?language=en

Check out Steven’s Howlround essay “Theater of the Young, For the Young: https://howlround.com/theater-young-young
Steven’s essay “Why New Plays Now? A Case for Supporting the Unimaginable” was be presented as a keynote for the National New Play Network: https://www.americantheatre.org/2022/12/01/why-new-plays-now-a-case-for-supporting-the-unimaginable/