OOB Festival: When did you start writing plays? If you had a moment where you realized you wanted to write, what was it?
Cassie M. Seinuk (CS): I started writing plays before I ever knew that’s what I was doing. I was that kid who put on shows in her jungle gym with her cousins and made the parents sit around and watch. Between then and actually taking my first course in playwriting in undergrad, I mostly wrote fiction, and dabbled in TV writing. Even though I enjoyed my college playwriting course, it wasn’t until a thesis snafu in the fiction department, and the suggestion from my Stage Management mentor that I sat down to write my first full-length play, RUNNER: The Novel The Play, an adaptation of a novel I was writing. When I saw my characters come to life, I caught the bug and am now playwright through and through.
OOB: Let’s talk about your entry to this year’s Festival. How did you come to write this play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation? How has it developed?
CS: For the past year and a half I have had the privilege to work with the wonderful people at Nylon Fusion Collective Theatre in NYC, and participate in six of their “This Rounds On Us” (TROU) 10 minute play festivals. Since NFC produces new work I have had the challenge of writing a themed 10 minute play at least six times with them, and OCCUPY HALLMARK was a play I wrote and submitted to their 2013 Valentine’s Day TROU. But the real birthplace of this play came about years ago when a friend and I wanted to write some short scenes with one drunk character and one sober character. I maybe had a page of dialogue from that project that just sat on my computer until this past December when I thought, “Hey, what if this guy is protesting Valentine’s Day,” and so the rewriting began. Since then this play has been performed with NFC and also at the Marblehead Little Theatre’s TNT Festival in MA. It has also been work-shopped with my cohort at Lesley University where I just completed my MFA in Writing for Stage and Screen.
OOB: What are 5 words that describe who you are as a playwright?
CS: Two years ago, when my play THE MUSE was in the OOB Final 40, to this same question I answered, “Bold, Meta, Provocative, Unique, and Persistent.” Two years later there are a few words I’d like to switch out. Now I’d say, “Fearless, Provocative, Quirky, Full-of-Heart, and as always Persistent.”
OOB: What/who are some of the major influences on your writing? Do you have any sources of inspiration that might be considered unconventional?
CS: The major influences in my writing are always changing. Of course there are always playwrights that I feel are “speaking my language,” or at least a language I aspire to, like Samuel Beckett, Naomi Iizuka, David Harrower… Right now I’ve been finding a lot of inspiration in the people around me, like my writers group Interim Writers, and my colleagues from my MFA program. Talking with other writers about writing always gets my gears going. Unconventionally, I do love to eavesdrop on strangers’ conversations on buses, trains, and coffee shop.
OOB: What’s one fact someone would never guess about you?
CS: I studied Mime in Ireland as part of a study abroad program in college. I have to say my mime skills have faded since, but I still break out in a mime routine every once and a while…
OOB: Any new projects you’re working on or shameless plugs?
CS: Well… I just left grad school with some pretty cool plays I am pretty proud of. I’m really excited about play I just wrote called FROM THE DEEP, here’s a little blurb about it: “When Andrew, a missing BU Grad Student, arrives in the surreal room of the missing, Ilan, an Israeli POW of five years, must convince Andrew to play the games, keep his mind active, and face the truth of his captivity before they both go missing forever.” …Any takers? Also, my short play EVEN AS I GO will be adapted into a short film this summer!
OOB Festival: Where do you come from (home state, state of mind, or both)?
Cassie: I am a Cuban American Jew, or “Jewbana” as I like to call myself, from North Woodmere, Long Island. It’s a little town that has only recently made it onto the maps. They knocked down our post office and built an old age home, and we don’t have our own zip code, but it’s home. I currently live in Somerville, MA, and since I found my voice as a playwright while living in Boston, I feel as though I’m a Boston Playwright.
OOB Festival: Give us five words that describe who you are as a playwright.
Cassie: Five words that describe me as a playwright… Bold, Meta, Provocative, Unique, and Persistent.
OOB Festival: Talk about your entry to this year’s Festival. How did you come to write this play? Was there a particular inspiration behind its creation?
Cassie: In my free time I tend to do a lot of portrait artistry and I was looking through some of my work and noticing that a handful of pieces in my portfolio were titled “The Muse,” and yet they were all of different people, and I though how interesting the ever changing muse is, but that was just a I thought. It wasn’t until later that week, after a long day of assistant stage managing, I got on the bus to head home, my head resting on the window, I closed my eyes as if to doze off, and I just got this great visual of a teenage boy scrambling out of an apartment, disheveled, and with a wad of cash. I then though about how much it would suck if that same boy had to go back into wherever he just came from because he forgot his socks. From there my imagination took off, and I nearly missed my stop. When I got the courage to enter “The Muse” into this festival, I called the director, Kenny Steven Fuentes, and said something like, “Dude, wouldn’t it be awesome if we took The Muse to New York?” And awesome it is.
Cassie: I’d tell the audience it is okay to laugh, then I’d lean forward and say please laugh! I guess I’d like the audience to get a little nostalgic, but I’d also love some jaw drops, and surprise gasps.
OOB Festival: What/who are some of the major influences on your writing? What’s the most unconventional place/thing that you’ve taken inspiration from?
Cassie: I am a big fan of Samuel Beckett, Neil LaBute, Adam Rapp, Paul Auster, and J.M. Barrie (he wrote Peter Pan); I would say those are some of my biggest literary influences. I’m a big fan of awkward silences and situations, especially if you throw in some overlapping lines and courageous language. But when it all boils down to it, my late grandfather Ysrael A. Seinuk, a paramount in the engineering world, is the man I credit my drive and devotion. He always instilled in me the matra, “from strength to strength,” and I dedicate all of my writing to him. Maybe great engineers and skyscrapers don’t usually inspire playwrights, but every time I return to New York and see the skyline of his buildings I feel like my potential is limitless.
OOB Festival: What is your “dream play”–that is, if the more restrictive elements of production (budget, space, casting, and technical elements) were not a consideration, what type of theatre piece would you create?
Cassie:. When I think of “dream play” I immediately think of this project we had to do in college called “dream project,” you know – write down our dreams and make a weird little theatre piece with absolutely no budget and no real technological help in an obscure space like stairwell or lobby of the Spingold Theatre at Brandeis. So… that was fun. I love to think about the cool sets and the great effects I could have if I bled money, but when it all comes down to it, theatre, or what makes theatre dreamy to me, is the raw emotion that can drive penniless theatre students to make insanely unique pieces of art, that you walk away from and feel like something inside has just changed. Sure I wont turn down a budget, but to make people feel truly affected… that I’d like most.
OOB Festival: If someone saw you on the street, what’s one fact that they would never guess about you?
Cassie: That I am not a pre-teen. People always tell me that one day I’ll be glad I look young, that I’ll come to treasure my baby face. But right now I just hate when moms come over to me at the mall and ask me if the baby pink Juicy velour tracksuit they’re buying for their 14 year old is what the “kids our age” are wearing these days. I am ten years older than that. I know I’m young, but I’m not that young. You can’t imagine how weird it got when I worked at Kids and Baby Gap… very weird.
If I update this blog... that's probably a sign that I'm not writing... I should be writing. Right now.