Cate Wiley’s new play “Two Truths and a Lie” will be read on Monday, 6/24 at BETC East as our Summer Reading Series continues.
Dr. Wiley’s recent plays include “Sheltered,” based on stories by women experiencing homelessness in Denver, and “The Liberation,” which asks how we can tell when we’re sleeping with the enemy. She teaches courses on British and American drama and women writers in the English department at the University of Denver.
Tell us a little about yourself. What’s your backstory as a playwright?
I tried to be an actor until the age of 21, when I took a long academic detour and wrote a dissertation about feminism and late nineteenth century British drama. I’ve been writing plays for about ten years and each year gets better. It has been a challenge to ignore my training as a critic in order to get at the stories I want to tell.
In working on Two Truths and a Lie, what was your inspiration for the story?
I’ve worked in college classrooms for a long time, so the setting for Two Truths was a natural. Humans need to tell stories and women in particular need to realize we have stories worth telling, hence the predominance of women in the class. It is very difficult for a lot of women to identify our own stories–I know it was for me. I try to emulate the late French film-maker Agnès Varda, who said “Art should ring a bell in your own life. . . I don’t want people to say it’s great, I want people to say: It’s for me.” I write in order to connect to other people–I think this is the underlying impulse for art in general. We all have so much in common despite our differences! I love theater because it connects us to each other in such an immediate way.
What has your process been like so far in creating this script?
My process for this play was more straight-forward than anything else I’ve written. I forced myself to plow through a first draft without going back to the first scene, and the revision process has been shared with the BETC group as well as an online playwrights’ group. Feedback is crucial after I have a sense of where I’m going. I’ve also finally to trust my own instincts as a story-teller, a process that has taken years. I had a table read of a strong second draft at my home several months ago. I trust actors to have insights about the character they read and they show me sides of the characters I had never seen. Now we’re in a third draft and everything–everybody–gets sharper with each draft.
What do you think makes for good post-reading conversation?
A post-reading discussion lets me know where audience members feel connected to the story. Do they see themselves, in some way, on stage? Do they gain some clarity about their own stories based on what they’ve seen? I love it when audience members start talking to each other, as opposed to simply answering questions.
When you think of a few of your favorite plays, is there anything they have in common?
I love the work of Caryl Churchill and Maria Irene Fornes because their glance at the world is always askew. Nothing in their characters or relationships or plots is straight-forward,and they spell out the absolute minimum for their audiences. But they still manage an emotional wallop.