Good afternoon, YouthMundees! At YouthMundus, we aim to not only be a platform for music, film and global change, but for the artists and global changemakers who create them. Our Artist Spotlight series aims to create a space for discovery of new, budding global talent, while simultaneously offering you an exclusive glimpse into their creative process. In this week’s edition, we’re extremely excited to feature Lindsay Carpenter, an emerging, multi-talented playwright based out of New York City!
Growing up in Davis, California, Lindsay Carpenter first encountered the arts at her local community theatre: “I started doing theatre when I was nine years old and kept doing it until I went off to college. I’d been writing since before that: short stories, poems, and bits of novels. In Davis, I did theatre with three community theatres (DMTC, ACME, and Barnyard Theatre) and fell in love with it.” It was in Boston that Lindsay pursued her longtime passion for the arts and social studies at Tufts University earning her degree in both Drama and Peace and Justice Studies (a major Lindsay describes as “an interdisciplinary of International Relations, Political Science, Philosophy, and Anthropology”). At Tufts, Lindsay was convinced that she’d follow the natural trajectory of becoming a director, until she finished her first full-length play “Day Father”. “It changed everything. I suddenly became more serious in play-writing. I loved having people talk about my work - audience members, but especially designers, actors, and directors. I loved seeing something that had started as my text on a page become fully realized.”
After graduating from Tufts in 2013, Lindsay moved to Seattle to deepen her artistic experience and knowledge: “I spent two years in Seattle doing internships and assistant directing at theatre companies, working as a personal assistant (for a day job), and working gigs as a lighting electrician in theatres.”
Spending time not only strengthening her expertise in her field, but her arsenal of artistic skills, Lindsay began writing more: “I started writing an abominable number of 10-minute plays, I think I wrote about a dozen total in those two years. I realized that it was pretty easy to get a 10-minute play produced, unlike a full length. I submitted to festivals, and bit by bit my 10-minutes were produced in Seattle, back in California, in Maryland, in Florida, and a few other random spots. People I’d never met were doing my plays in productions I never saw. I loved it. It was so cool to be able to send a blueprint of something to a complete stranger who thought it was interesting enough to make, and then to see these production photos or reviews with strangers in my roles.”
After two years in Seattle, Lindsay returned to Boston for another two years where she co-founded Ghost Ship Murder Mysteries (www.ghostshipmurdermysteries.com) with Dylan Zwickel, a fellow playwright and director: “Ghost Ship is a murder mystery party company that draws on immersive theatre elements to tell complex stories and solve all the things that bothered Dylan and I about those silly ‘murder mystery box kits’.”
Lindsay continued to hone her craft while in Boston, writing a full length play, “Walk, Girl” with Rebekah Boroughs and laying the groundwork for her upcoming podcast, “Leylines”. While in Boston,, Lindsay describes the transitional shift her artistic career underwent: “Basically, while in Boston, I stopped being in rehearsal for plays (as an assistant director, dramaturg, or lighting designer) and instead really focused on writing.” It took a mere two years for Lindsay to realize her newfound aspiration: “I wanted to either move to LA and write for TV or go to grad school for playwriting. I wanted to 100% commit to a career as a writer.” And Lindsay did, for after applying to a variety of graduate programs on both coasts, she ended up being offered, and accepting, tutelage at NYU Tisch’s Dramatic Writing program, where she studies today.
What inspires you and your creative process?
I feel like it differs with each project. One of the play’s I’m working on now was inspired by a conversation I heard in a podcast about medieval Alewives. Another play was inspired by Greta Thunberg and David Attenborough’s BBC nature documentaries.
The inspiration behind my works tends to be pretty random, and depend on what I’m watching, reading, or thinking about at the time. There’s often a question or technical challenge that drives my work. For instance, in my play “Break”, I tried to see how many things (relationships, rules, plates, windows, etc.) I could break in a single script. Giving myself a challenge like that sets up a constraint that can be freeing, I’ve found it’s often easier to write when I’ve given myself a box to play in. What is the connection between your art and social justice? I think in this day and age it’s pretty impossible to write something that’s unconnected to politics, everything is political. If your main character’s a woman, that’s political. If your main character’s a person of color, that’s political. The reality is we’re not writing in a vacuum. The NYU grad program has definitely made me reconsider my assumptions about what and, especially, who I am writing. Often, I think, the simplest thing you can do as a writer is think about who your cast is and whether it’s diverse and if you're handling that diversity responsibly. But what that means and how exactly to do that are all things I’m still trying to figure out. The easier answer that comes to mind is about my play “Walk, Girl”, which specifically took on rape culture and toxic masculinity. That was a play that as I wrote it, I felt like I was writing it for a bigger, social justice purpose: to change minds and give light to an issue. The difficulty I found in writing that play with Rebekah Boroughs is that there’s this toxic idea in theatre of “the issue play”, which is a play that is one- note and tediously hits you over the head with its message. The challenge, I’ve found, is writing something that is engaging and entertaining on its own terms, while still having a point of view.
What inspired you to pursue acting and drama? What were the challenges you overcame in this? There were three things in Davis, CA (where I grew up) that hugely influenced my pursuing theatre and becoming a playwright. First, DMTC (Davis Musical Theatre Company) was a very hands-on company that I worked with from age 9-17. They taught me how scrappy theatre can be and emphasized that if it needs to get done, step up and do it. They were all about theatre as a community act. Second, my high school drama class was filled with students who knew they wanted to do theatre as a career. That had never occurred to me as a real possibility, so being surrounded by these smart, driven peers, made me realize I could have a career in this too. Third, and probably most influential, was Barnyard Theatre. Barnyard was a company in Davis that produced new plays each summer. The company was made up of extremely talented people, for instance, the artistic director (Steven Schmidt) got a technical theatre degree from Yale and the literary manager (Briandaniel Oglesby) has now had plays workshopped at the Lark. Barnyard theatre, which I joined at age 16 as one of their youngest members, became an ideal for me of what theatre could be. They only did new work, which meant I was learning and working with living, breathing playwrights. They literally did theatre in a barn, which was just quirky and meant you always had to think outside the box— what if a goat walks onstage mid-show? But more than anything, they brought a technical element to theatre that I had never seen before. In one show, astronauts fell from the sky, in another, they made it rain. They pushed what I thought theatre could be and made me aspire to a higher, more professional aesthetic. I no longer wanted to just do theatre, I wanted to do incredible theatre.
What’s been the most rewarding part of being an artist for you? Do you have any advice for future artists? It’s most rewarding to me to hear actors do my work and see it on its feet, to feel an audience react to it. I love that feeling. My advice is pretty simple, find ways to hear your work and just do it. It’s easier than people think to hear your work read: invite some friends over to your house and have them read it aloud. There are so many companies looking for readings and a ton of 10-minute play festivals across the country that you can submit to. I think it’s absolutely essential for playwrights, TV writers, and screenwriters to hear their work aloud. It’s how you learn what your strengths and weaknesses are, and if the way you’re writing dialogue on the page translates well and easily for actors. With that notion, the beauty of theatre is that all you need to do it is a space and maybe a friend. Make opportunities for yourself to do it. Do a play for free in a park or in a dance studio or in a friend’s backyard. In part, sure, this puts something on your resume and maybe someone important will see it. But, more important and more likely, it means you’ll get a chance to develop your craft and practice. Plus, you’re not really a theatre artist if you’re not doing theatre, I know so many people who claim to be artists or want to be artists but aren’t doing the work. The glorious part about theatre is that it’s cheap, and if you’re willing to be a little scrappy and pull more than your weight, you can really make some incredible things. Do you have any advice on how we can do our part in supporting theatre artists like you? Pay us. Just kidding, sort of. I guess, more seriously, please don’t ask us (writers) to pay you to do our work. So many festivals do this now, where they make a writer pay to submit or pay to produce, and it’s completely demoralizing.
But for those individuals without the money for that conversation, go see theatre and concerts and go to galleries. Art is only important if we, the audience, choose it to be. And it only matters if we spend time on it. It’s easy to spend all our viewing time on TV (which is 100% art and can be brilliant), but theatre needs a little extra love and attention to thrive."