Stubble: Number one: you didn’t really think you could get away with stealing the name of the best independent blog in Minneapolis and get away with it, didja?!
Martha: Curses, foiled again! But honestly, I had no idea someone else was using the name (and as I’ve been working on this since 2007 soooooooo I think I win.)
Stubble: What is the basic premise and plot of STUBBLE?
Martha: The basic premise of “Stubble” explores the life of a bearded woman if she decided to shave.
Plot-wise, the play follows the life of a woman named Lola who happens to be born with a beard. Her parents sell her to the circus at a young age, a common practice in the late 18th Century. She spends her life as a performer, looking out at what she thinks her life should be, specifically, her life as a “woman”. Once she shaves and leaves she finds that she’s moved from one freakshow to another. She attempts to follow the basic rules of womanhood around her – falling in love, getting married, having children – only to find that she doesn’t fit these rules.
The show is about definitions and scripts. It’s about how much of our lives are laid out for us at birth, our genders/sexualities/relgions, etc. without allowing for much deviation or questioning. There are a lot of things that haven’t changed much even though we may have expanded our definitions.
Stubble: On your kickstarter you describe the creation of this performance as a seven year process. What was that process and why did it take so long?
Martha: Well, I started writing the play in high school, seven years ago. At first it was just an idea – someone said the word “stubble” and it just clicked – and then it became an independent project and I ended up with my first draft (which was terrible).
I worked on it off and on over the next couple of years, but struggled to find the time that the script really needed. But I sure as hell wasn’t going to let the idea go. It wasn’t until college that I was able to really sit down and attack it. I spent an entire summer researching, writing and editing before I had a full-length, 56-page, two act show.
Problem is, the Fringe Festival only allows for hour long shows. Then the play went into a completely different process of editing – condensing, conflating, cleaning, cutting and editing. I worked with my director and all of our actors and crew to shorten the show to 29 pages. And the rest was rehearsals -getting the show on its feet, working with props and costumes and set – preparing for performances.
Stubble: Also on your kickstarter, the purpose of the play is described as exposing/dismantling problems with the gender and sexual binary. What are those problems, exactly, and why do they matter?
Martha: The biggest problem I see is that we, as a society, continue to perpetuate definitions and rules that don’t really make sense for every individual, and often we aren’t allowed many other options. Instead of letting people define themselves, we rely on and repeat dated, rigid images of femininity and masculinity without really realizing that we are or knowing where they came from. We reinforce concepts without realizing it and in turn, ostracize those who don’t fit in. Thus, the freakshow.
Those people outside the norm become something to gawk at, something to reinforce our normalcy. Reality television, tabloids, the media all do this endlessly. We’re judged from the outside in, and are forced to make decisions about our behavior based on how others see us, despite the fact that no one gets to choose what they look like, much less their biological sex or gender.
It matters because it affects every single one of us. We’re all constantly being asked to define ourselves but we’re being asked to check a box rather than be ourselves.
Stubble: Speaking of kickstarter, why did you decide to use the site to fund your play? Do you think it’s a generally good way to fund the arts?
Martha: Well, it’s one of the most popular crowdfunding sites out there, and has a wide audience. The more people we could get to look at our project, the more publicity, and hopefully, the more funding. Plus, I’ve know a couple people who have had success through kickstarter in the past, and as someone who has experience in film, I thought I could pull off a pretty good video.
I think it can be a great way to fund the arts. I think anything can be funded this way, but it comes down to how you do so beyond just making the project. I think it’s critical to have a feasible goal as well as make certain that you’re advertising not only to your friends, but through other avenues.
Stubble: Can you describe the process of writing a play? How is it different from other forms of narrative and what advice would you give to aspiring playwrights?
Martha: Wow, that is a question.
As with most artistic endeavors, everyone’s process is different. I’ve begun writing from a single word – in this case, stubble – and had it expand from there. Or, more often than not, I just start writing conversations. Some stop after a bit, others keep going and I start to learn voices and characters as I go. Then I go back to find structure, plot. I tend to jump around a lot.
I think the biggest difference is that you’re writing with many other steps in mind. You have to think not only of the reader, but of the actors, the director, the technicians, and the audience. You have to think as though you’re on a stage, but not let that limit you.
My advice would be to write everything down. Any word that inspires you. Any conversation you overhear on the bus. Any person you see that makes you wonder where they came from or where they’re going. Write it down. I’d also recommend reading and seeing a TON of plays. The more you know about theatre, the easier it is to write for it.
Stubble: What does stubble, the word, signify to you?
Martha: When I first started writing the play, one of the biggest things I kept coming back to was the idea that my main character, Lola, is trying to escape a natural part of herself, something that would keep growing back. She’s trying to escape her past and who she is, but it will constantly be coming through – on her face.
I guess for me it’s the idea that you shouldn’t ignore those things that make you you, even if the world doesn’t really understand.
We open TONIGHT at 7pm at the Illusion Theatre in downtown Minneapolis!
Martha Heyl is the playwright of STUBBLE, running five days at the 2013 Minnesota Fringe from 8/3 – 8/10