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Meet Playwright Maybe Stewart

Maybe is the author of All the Wrong Places, the next #newworkshop selection in Now & Then's 3rd season. Artistic Director John Perovich had a chance to speak with Maybe about their play, its process, and Maybe's hopes for the workshop. This feature is the first of two installments featuring Maybe and their play. All the Wrong Places by Maybe Stewart will undergo a week of development and be presented to audiences this Friday, September 13 at 7:30PM and Saturday, September 14 at 11:00AM.

John Perovich (JP): Maybe, we're thrilled to have you join us this week with your powerful piece. What inspired you to write the play?

Maybe Stewart (MS): I was inspired to write ALL THE WRONG PLACES by my own frustration with the lack of representation on stage for asexual, aromantic, and non-binary people. Until recently, my background in theatre has been very much been based in the classics. Shakespeare has saved my life in more ways and times than I can count. But as a director, I found myself looking for ways to reclaim characters as queer within the classics, and after years of that work coinciding with my own journey of self-discovery and self-acceptance, I was increasingly frustrated by the hoops of logic I constantly had to jump through just to see characters I identified with on stage. I think at some point, my lifetime of frustration with our society and media that is so constantly focused on sex, gender roles, and romance came to a boiling point, and I felt like I had no choice but to write the story my life had been missing. 

JP: I believe that representation is important, too. I'm often reminded of how important it is as I listen to my students in my film and theatre courses question "where they are" when it comes to representation in media. Thank you for writing this play.

Can you share with us a bit about your writing process for this piece? How did the current draft arrive to where it is today?

MS: The process for this play has been one of the strangest and most validating rollercoasters of my career as a writer. I only began working on it about a year and a half ago. Originally, it wasn’t even meant to be a play — I planned to write a series of short stories entitled “Robbie & Lane” that explores the adventures of these two roommates that are so similar, and yet so different. As I began plotting the short stories, I realized I was seeing them play out on stage in my head, and decided to make the switch. Once that piece clicked into place, I had the first draft on paper within a week. 

After two rounds of revisions, I knew I was far too in my own head, and asked some friends to help me by coming over for a private cold reading in my living room. From that reading I was able to improve the dialogue to a workable script. At that point, summer was over, and my theatre season was in full swing. 

I then had the pleasure of stage managing S#!TFACED SHAKESPEARE for BLK BOX PHX, where I became friend with Angelica Howland. About a month into our rehearsal process, she reached out to me to ask if I had any scripts I would like to be considered for The Phoenix Theatre’s Festival of New American Theatre, as they were light on submissions from female and TGNC identifying playwrights. I sent her the script I had, letting her know that I knew it needed work, but that I could complete another revision prior to the festival should they select it. She and Robbie Harper understood how important and groundbreaking the script was, and provided incredibly helpful dramaturgy over the next month or so to help me improve upon the skeleton of the script. By the time my reading in the festival happened, the script had expanded from an 80 minute one act into a full two act play. 

The audience feedback from the Phoenix Theatre Company's festival helped me dig deeper into the characters and understand how much a typical audience wouldn't understand, as asexuality and aromanticism are rarely discussed, even in queer circles. This lead to a much richer revision of the play, which had two readings during Pride month this year -- one here in Phoenix, hosted by Space 55, and one in upstate NY at Purchase College in an art exhibit curated as a celebration of non-binary artists. 

The actors in each of these readings brought incredible insight to their roles -- particularly Ed, who only has the depth and voice he has now because of the delightful work that Michael Thompson brought to the most recent readings. 

I am consistently shocked at the outpouring of support and validation this play has received, and so grateful to the community that has rallied around it to help me get it where it is today. When I started this journey, it was something just for me. Working on this play was a way of accepting my identity as an asexual and grayromantic person for the first time, after years of seeing my identity as a joke. As I dug deeper into the characters, I also came to terms with my gender identity as a trans-masc non-binary human, which has made me a much happier, healthier person over the last year. The fact that this play has gone on to mean something to so many people beyond myself is honestly hard to wrap my mind around, and my biggest hope is that this piece can serve as an honest representation of my queer community -- especially to the many, many folx that don't even realize we exist. 

Be on the lookout for Part 2 of this Artist Feature to learn more about Maybe's goals for the workshop and their values in collaborating with directors, dramaturgs, and actors.