Dallas — With its second Big Shout Out playwriting contest, Echo Theatre had a number of scripts it has used throughout the season, including the winner, The Adventures of Flo and Greg, seen last September. Other finalists have appeared as readings, and another one that was high on the list is the group's entry into the Festival of Independent Theatres. Blisters, by Brittany Alyse Willis, a former Denton resident and player with Sundown Collaborative Theatre, is an "offbeat tale of one lonely, broken man and the two friends who bring him back from the edge." Willis is now based in Washington, D.C. We talked to her about her work and this show. Blisters kicks off the second weekend of four new productions to be seen in FIT.
TheaterJones: What is your background with theater? Did you go to UNT? I know you acted with, and had a play produced by, Sundown. What are you up to now?
Brittany Alyse Willis: My interest in theater came from my father, a poet and storyteller in his own right. I began as an actor and was drawn to the importance of community and collaboration in theater, so I chose it as my major at the University of North Texas. Dissatisfied with the options available to me at UNT, I jumped at the opportunity when a director with Sundown Collaborative Theatre asked me to audition for his show.
Sundown was a welcoming home for me. We're often taught as artists that you can only have one main focus, but my experience with devised theatre and Sundown inspired me to begin designing and writing as well. I had been writing and publishing poetry for a while, and it didn't seem that hard to make the jump to a new medium—especially as many of Sundown's productions were poetic in nature. I collected a series of poems and dialogue I wrote over a summer and formed them into my playwriting debut, paper backs, which my dear friend and mentor Tashina Richardson directed for Sundown.
Shortly after paper backs, I moved to D.C., where I'm currently working with Pinky Swear Productions as a company member, actor, playwright and graphic designer. Currently, I am developing a play set on the Washington D.C. metro with Pinky Swear.
As a playwright it's important to always be submitting, but why did you specifically want to enter a play into Echo's Big Shout Out?
Echo Theatre stood out to me because it specifically produces plays by women. I will always have a close connection with Texas and this play is set in Texas, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity both for me and the piece.
The FIT description of the play is "an offbeat tale of one lonely, broken man and the two friends who bring him back from the edge." Tell me a little more about it without giving it away.
Blisters, like The Fifth Element, is about love all along. It's also about family, friendship, mistakes and moving on.
Who are your playwriting, or writing, influences?
I've been rereading the works of Charles Mee and Naomi Iizuka, but I also spend a lot of time with other mediums, such as film (recently I've been drawn to Iranian cinema and Hong Sang-soo, and my favorite two films from last year were Carol and World of Tomorrow) and comic books (such as Saga, Bitch Planet and ODY-C). Those works influence me as much as anything else I intake.
What inspires you to write?
It's hard to connect with people, and yet it's so very important to do so. Human beings are communal; we need each other. I guess at the end of the day, everything I write is me trying to reach out and find somebody else.
How would you describe your style at this point in your career?
Evolving (still, and always, hopefully).
Anything else you want to add?
If you're interested in more of my work, it can be found at brittanyawillis.com. Thanks for taking the time to talk to me, and I hope you enjoy the show!
» See more info about the 2016 Festival of Independent Theatres in our special section here, where you can also learn how to download our FIT app. In that app, you'll see a section for the playbills for each company, which includes cast, creative and director's notes.
See more info about the 2016 Festival of Independent Theatres here.
Blisters is performed in the following blocks:
- 8pm Friday, July 15
- 5pm Saturday, July 16
- 8pm Thursday, July 21
- 5pm Sunday, July 24
- 8pm Friday, July 29
- 2pm Saturday, July 30