Leigh Curran’s stirring one-woman show, WHY WATER FALLS, currently enjoying a successful run in California, returns to New York as part of the United Solo Theatre Festival on September 30 @ 9:00 pm on Theatre Row, 410 West 42nd Street, New York City.
We did get a chance to interview Leigh last time, but happily, we – and you – get another chance to hear from this amazing woman and see her brilliant one-person ride through life, career, and progeny.
We hear a lot about inspiration – or Muse – that drives an artist. What inspires you?
The struggle to become whole – to embrace one’s authenticity. In one way or another all my plays are about the fears, joys, eccentricities and challenges that arise when connecting with truths that can no longer be ignored.
Tell us about your play … and why you wrote it?
I’d always wanted to write a solo show about a writer who doesn’t like to talk about herself. I started Why Water Falls in 1997 in a solo workshop and performed the first 10 minutes to an enthusiastic response. Then it got buried as work and life rolled over on me. Occasionally it would surface and I’d find myself wondering what it was the writer didn’t want to talk about – then I’d shrug my shoulders and go back to the task at hand. Finally, in 2013 I wrote a personal essay about my ambivalence about having children, the abortions that ensued and the journey that lead me to motherhood at 70. Almost immediately I realized that that was what the writer didn’t want to talk about and I began the task of knitting my solo show and my personal essay together. I’d also always wanted to write something that was non-linear. Why Water Falls moves back and forth between real life, memories and the inner voices that push the writer out of her comfort zone and into a deeper experience of the choices she made as a young woman and the acceptance that comes when there’s nowhere to go but up.
What do you want most in your chosen profession? It’s OK to say “fame” or “wealth.”
Respect. Greater recognition. And an agent and/or manager would be nice.
Sally Field and Paul Newman both said of their profession… “it’s all I can do.” Is this all you can do?
I never thought of it as all I can do but, in the sense that everything I’ve ever done has involved writing and performing I guess it is. In addition to being an actor, a published playwright, novelist and poet I was also the Founder/Artistic Director of the Virginia Avenue Project for 22 years. The Project used long term, one-on-one Theatre Arts mentoring to give struggling children life skills. It plays a pivotal role in Why Water Falls. And while I never dreamed of starting a non-profit or being a leader – I’ve been lucky to have had a very varied career while earning a living doing what I love.
Along those lines, if you couldn’t so this, what would you do?
I have really had to think about this question. I’d like to be in one of the giving back professions. I was a hospice volunteer for five years during the AIDS crisis in New York City and am about to start volunteering again at a hospice in Los Angeles. I like working with people who are nearing the end of their lives. They have no time for small talk and neither do I. People used to say: How do you do that – isn’t it depressing? I always found it an uplifting, moving and deeply human experience. I could happily work at the admin level in a hospice while continuing my involvement with the patients.
Thanks for focusing on Women in Theatre. There is much untapped humor, tenderness and wisdom there. My hope is that, through readings, festivals and theatrical productions our work will continue to erode the resistance to the female perspective. I have been lucky in that The Lunch Girls, Alterations and Walking the Blonde have been produced usually to favorable notices but I had to drop out of sight in 1997 in order to earn a living. Why Water Falls has been my re-entry into theatre in New York and Los Angeles. I know it is edgy, bold and can make people uncomfortable. I hope in the days to come, the risks women playwrights take – and the discomfort their exploration of the human condition can generate – will be taken seriously, valued highly and enthusiastically celebrated.