21 Questions with Darci PicoultBy TNB A&C
September 20, 2013
Please explain what just happened.
I heard children playing outside and a classical piano playing next door. Now there is a horn beeping. A man laughing. Life.
What is your earliest memory?
Seeing a lion on the wall of my bedroom and screaming for my brother to kill it. He made it vanish (with his fist? mind? a combo of both? don’t remember) and I thought he was a hero. Still do. A few years later I yelled to my sister that a cow was outside my window. She didn’t believe me until she looked and alas, saw it too. It wandered up the road from a nearby farm. We both had a hard time getting it to leave. Called the police who thought we were drunk and at a bar. “A cow outside your window?” I was maybe 12 years old. Finally the owner came and wooed the cow back to pasture.
If you weren’t a screenwriter and playwright, what other profession would you choose?
Today? A lawyer. Yesterday? A doctor. Tomorrow? A cook. One reason I write is that I can be all of these things for a period of time.
Describe a typical work day.
I am up early with my girls who are 11 and 15. After they leave for school, I head to the gym and work out my body but mostly my mind. I can’t tell you how many moments become unblocked while jogging or climbing stairs. Then I run home and write till mid afternoon, taking a small break for a bite to eat and coffee. Sometimes I coach actors mid day or teach a class. It gets me out of my little world and into another writer’s world. Great medicine and inspiration for my head.
Is there a time you wish you’d lied?
Oh boy, you hit a nerve. I don’t like lying. So much so it has become a theme in my work. But sometimes my honesty has been too direct. I have learned how to curtail my thoughts to those who I am talking to. What are people ready to hear? And how can I tell them the truth without undoing them?
What would you say to yourself if you could go back in time and have a conversation with yourself at age thirteen?
Why did you tweeze your eyebrows? Don’t worry what others think or if you fit in. And don’t be afraid. Then I’d take myself out for a good run, a good movie, and good eggplant parmesan.
If you could have only one album to get you through a breakup, what would it be?
A compilation of songs. Stephen Grappelli, Ella, Chopin, Mandy Patinkin singing “Move On” from Sunday in the Park with George.
What are three websites—other than your email—that you check on a daily basis?
Hmmm. I don’t have any websites I check daily. Sometimes Theater Development Fund for tix to shows, literary sites for a creative injection, or Facebook to unplug my mind, a necessity by the end of the day.
From what or whom do you derive your greatest inspiration?
My family. My children are an endless source of inspiration.
Name three books that have impacted your life.
Hamlet. It never ceases to impact me. Middlesex, stunning. Helen Keller’s The Story of My Life. I read that at ten years old and was forever taken by her.
If you could relive one moment over and over again, what would it be?
Meeting my daughters for the first time in China.
How are you six degrees from Kevin Bacon?
We attended Circle In The Square Summer Theater classes together when we were in our teens. I doubt he remembers … but there we were learning how to breathe, express, and move. I’m still learning.
What makes you feel most guilty?
Committing to something and not following through. Rare but it happens.
How do you incorporate the work of other artists into your own?
I love reading. How Alice Munro uses words inspires my own words. Watching film from artists around the world. I met Andrea Arnold while we were first at Sundance. Her Fish Tank is harrowing. And Wasp? I watch when I need a creative jolt. Going to the theater. Seeing new work that dares or old work that reveals something new.
And then there are journalists and poets, musicians, dancers … the list is endless. Which is why I am sleep deprived.
Please explain the motivation/inspiration behind Mother of George.
I heard the story at a conference where I was presenting my one-woman play, My Virginia. As I listened I thought, that woman could be me. I connected deeply given that I wanted a child and was struggling with infertility.
What is the best advice you’ve ever given to someone else?
Never give up. It took almost 12 years for Mother Of George to get made.
List your favorite in the following categories: Comedian, Musician, Author, Actor.
Oh this is hard. Too many brilliant talents. Sorry can’t do just one ….
Comedian — Larry David, Ellen Degeneres, Seinfield.
Musician — Grappelli. Audra McDonald, her voice is unbelievable.
Author — Alice Munro, as you may have guessed. But there is Shakespeare and Chekhov and Raymond Carver. And ….
Actor — Meryl Streep. Mark Rylance. Steppenwolf’s brilliant company of actors … everyone in Mother of George. Seriously. I can’t do this.
If you had complete creative license and an unlimited budget, what would your next project be?
A trilogy. The one I just finished: a very personal, unusual story. The one I am currently working on: a psychological thriller inspired by a story Andrew, my director for Mother of George, told me. And, the one in my head: a TV series depicting a combustible wild time in corporate America.
Maybe this is more than a trilogy?
What do you want to know?
Everything I don’t know. And more.
What would you like your last words to be?
I love you.
Please explain what will happen.
The echo of those words back. And then….
DARCI PICOULT‘s one woman show, My Virginia, was presented in theaters and solo festivals both nationally and internationally. Performances include New York Theater Workshop, Ensemble Studio Theater, LA Theater Work’s “The Play’s The Thing” series, which was broadcast throughout the country on National Public Radio, “Women Center Stage” in St. Louis, San Francisco’s Solo Mio Festival, Philadelphia’s Women’s Theater Festival, Slovenia’s “City of Women” Theater Festival and in Croatia at the Cultural Center for Women Refugees. My Virginia has also been performed for legal and medical conferences across the country in programs cosponsored by the National Cancer Institute and the National Institutes of Health. Theatrical work includes LILS 90th, Jayson With A Y, Ancient Lights, and Making The World Round. Picoult taught writing for the Legacy Project at the Public Theater, NY Shakespeare Festival and currently teaches acting at the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. She is the recipient of the 2008 National Theater Conference/Paul Green Award for her theatrical work. Mother of George, a film written by Picoult and directed by Andrew Dosunmu, can be seen in select theaters on September 20.
In Mother of George, after the joyous wedding between Adenike (Danai Gurira, The Visitor, and Michonne from AMC’s The Walking Dead) and Ayodele (Isaach De Bankolé, White Material, Night on Earth), a Nigerian couple living in Brooklyn, marital complications arise out of their inability to conceive a child. The problem devastates their family and defies cultural expectations, leading Adenike to make a shocking decision that could either save her family or destroy it. Dosunmu captures the nuances of this unique and fascinating culture by creating a beautiful, vibrant, and moving portrait of a couple whose joys and struggles are at once intimate and universal. The film also stars Yaya Decosta Alafia (The Kids Are All Right) and Tony Okungbowa (The Ellen DeGeneres Show).
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