Dorothy Fortenberry, in the midst of working on rewrites of her Bloodworks play, SPECIES NATIVE TO CALIFORNIA, gives us a glimpse into her process...as she tackles the recession, Checkhov, and rethinking the American Dream (all in two languages):
YB: You're revising a piece you've been developing for quite a while, what's it about?
DF: I've been working on this play, Species Native to California, for about a year, on and off. I'm really, really excited for the BloodWorks reading because it's a large-scale play (2 acts, 8 characters, 2 languages) and I have a hard time knowing what's working just in my head. It's inspired by Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard (but it's not an adaptation - I learned that) and it's about land, power, immigration, wealth and wealth's disappearance. And what the deal is with California.
YB: Why are you revisiting this particular piece? Why now?
DF: When I finished the 1st draft of the play, it was mid-October. The economy was starting to collapse, but no one really knew what it all meant. And I thought I was writing a play about one family's very particular relationship to wealth and land. Six months later, we're in the middle of a national conversation about re-thinking the American Dream in a way I never could have imagined. I don't know how this changes the play, but it's what I'm thinking about as I work on it.
YB: How is the rewrite coming? Is it developing in similar/different ways than your usual rewrites?
DF:Gah. It's coming. I've had my head full of Caitlin and the Swan recently, and there's a new play I'm starting to work on, so it's tough for me to always remember which play-world I'm in. But having the reading is helping to focus me and light a much-needed fire under me. I don't think I have a pattern for re-writes except that I always have to step away from work for at least a month to forget what I wrote and then find out again.
YB: What are you hoping to gain out of the reading? Any particular questions you are trying to get answered?
DF: I'm interested in how all the characters work together - there are scenes with 6 or 8 people at once, and hearing them out loud will let me know what's working in terms of tracking all the different threads. I'm also fascinated with how language functions in the play -- what do people understand in Spanish? what in English? what is it like not to understand?
YB: Will you be working with a particular director/ particular cast?
DF:I'm still working on casting it, but I know that Becca Wolff will be directing. She's a friend from grad school and has directed several shows of mine before, so I'm psyched that she can do this, too.