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Meet Playwright Alice Stanley Jr.

Alice is the author of Feminist Horror Stories, the next #newworkshop selection in Now & Then's 3rd season. Artistic Director John Perovich had a chance to speak with Alice about the play and her process for the workshop. Feminist Horror Stories will be presented to audiences this Friday, October 25 at 7:30PM and Saturday, October 26 at 11:00AM.

John Perovich (JP): Alice! It has been wonderful to have you with us this week in Phoenix. I learned much from you while we were in the MFA Dramatic Writing program at ASU—Cody and I are so thankful that you were able to join us this week with your wonderful new play Feminist Horror Stories. What has your writing process been like for Feminist Horror Stories? 

Alice Stanley Jr. (ASJ): The idea for Feminist Horror Stories began when I was on a girls weekend sitting around the fire with a bunch of cool, successful women from all walks of life. We were complaining about the pressure of "having it all," and then later turned to riffing on old urban legends about murders and ghosts. I remember thinking, "I'm much more frightened by our first conversation about sexism than this one about demons." The idea for Feminist Horror Stories was born! I started by writing the short stories in the vein of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I worked one story into a play for a staged reading series at Victory Gardens and then—when that went over well—developed the rest of the play.

JP: I was such a fan of Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. I can definitely see the inspiration, though you have, of course, created something that feels new and surprising. What goals did you have for the workshop week?

ASJ:  As a writer, I find it's hardest to guess how audiences will react to comedy and horror. And this play is both. So, I'm really grateful to get the opportunity to see how comedy and scares play in the rehearsal room and ultimately for a crowd.

JP: That's so true. I feel like there is this unknown sort of pressure that comes when mixing genres. Does it work? Is it too much? It's so difficult to predict until the audience arrives...though we've been laughing a lot this week in the rehearsal room. How does collaborating with a director, dramaturg, and actors help you with your writing process? How does sharing the process with an audience impact you and your play?

ASJ: Working with a director teaches me what other people see on the page that I can't. Angelica Howland is a pro, saying, "So right now in the text, this character clearly thinks X," and then directs the scene that way...even if it's not what I intended. So helpful for revision—either to lean into what she is seeing or to make amends. I absolutely adore having a dramaturg for new works! It's crucial! It's someone to notice patterns above all else. When I've stuck on making the best dumb joke, she'll swoop in with a, "So I've noticed the same theme about autonomy of a woman's body echoing at the start and end of this scene—is that intentional?" It's also just another person who can point out what I'm blind to from living with these pieces for so darn long.

JP: Our dramaturg—A. R. Corwin—has been wonderful. I've been lucky this semester to have her join my Intro to Playwriting students at ASU, providing exercises and insights along the way. Final question: there are so many options for seeing theatre in the valley or staying at home to stream stuff. Why should audiences check out Feminist Horror Stories?

ASJ: First of all, it's Halloween season! It comes but once a year! Streaming a horror movie is fun, but we all know the real spooks are in person. Plus, it's rare that we get to see such a mash of genres. And, not to get sappy, but this is an all-female cast and production team! How neat! I'm not saying you're sexist if you don't come, but...

Hope to see you there! As an audience member, your reactions help the craft new work of the future! That's cool!

Feminist Horror Stories by Alice Stanley Jr. will be presented to audiences this Friday, October 25 at 7:30PM and Saturday, October 26 at 11:00AM. For info and tickets, click here.