In Theatre Trip’s “Spotlight On” series, we’re chatting with some of the most interesting and influential people in the theatre industry. And today we’re doing a special feature on Inda Craig-Galván, a playwright based out of Los Angeles, California.
Inda is a multi-award winning playwright and TV staff writer who has an MFA in dramatic writing. Her plays have been put on at a wide variety of venues, including the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, San Francisco Playhouse, and the Eugene O’Neill National Playwright Conference.
How and when did you discover your talent for writing?
“I was creating characters and making up stories since I was little, but I didn’t realize it was a thing that people did for a career until much later. Much, much later. I wrote a short story as a final exam in college about my pet goldfish dying, and my professor wrote on the blue book exam cover: “You should think about writing.” It was the only A she gave me in that course.
But I still didn’t consciously process that writing could be my thing, so I did a bunch of other adjacent stuff – sketch comedy, acting, stand up. Working with Kevin Douglas as kevINda, a two-person sketch duo, finally helped me see myself as a writer. People laughed when I wanted them to laugh. And that was a good feeling. That’s how I realized that it was the writing I was circling.”
Is there a specific play that particularly resonates with you?
“A Raisin in the Sun was the first play I saw as a kid. I assumed that all plays were written by Black woman, about Black families, and set on the South Side of Chicago. And that’s literally every play that I write now.”
What are some common myths about your profession?
“Playwrights are these mysterious hippies, content with being poor and artsy. I know some marketing-savvy playwrights who have created elaborate submission spreadsheets and databases to get their work out there. Most of my playwright friends actually have steady jobs, or at least partners with steady jobs.”
“Let’s be clever and subversive and smart while being entertaining.”
Should theatre do more to challenge audiences? Or should it rather remain entertainment?
“I think everything should be a challenge. I hate it when someone says, “Well, everything doesn’t have to be Shakespeare.” What does that mean? If Shakespeare = complex and not all that easy for you to understand, then yes. Hell yes. Everything should be Shakespeare. We should have to think. Plays shouldn’t be like participation trophies: whatever gets written just goes up on a stage. People get charged to sit and to laugh and to not think? No. Of course we want to entertain, but let’s be clever and subversive and smart while being entertaining.”
What are the major differences you’ve noticed between writing for the stage and TV?
“I’m not all alone in my pajamas eating potato chips all day when I’m writing for TV! There’s way more structure… and money… in TV writing. By the time a single word of dialogue is written, a group of folks has spent days or even weeks coming up with a detailed outline, to be approved by another group of folks, and then a different group of folks. When I’m writing a play, I can start with whatever scenes or monologues hit me, and just write down whatever I hear the characters whispering in my head, knowing that I’ll figure it all out later. And I don’t have to shower.”
What type of education would you say is necessary for becoming a playwright?
“Life. If you don’t have real-world experiences, what are you going to write about? Researching is not enough. You have to live things. You have to be around people to understand how they’ve lived things. How they talk. How they relate. Aside from living life, I do recommend an educational program that works for how you learn. For me, that was an MFA program. It provided a firm foundation in story and it demanded productivity and progress. Others can achieve this through individual classes or writers’ groups. So whatever works for you and your situation.
But I think the most important thing is to be in an environment where you’re getting feedback from people who don’t love you. Family and friends can make you feel great. They’ll be your biggest fans. But get feedback from other folks. People who don’t have a stake in your happiness. Seriously. You don’t need someone to just tell you that your writing is wonderful. How is that going to help you grow? Not people who are going to just sh*t on you, either. That would suck. Also, see lots of plays. Read even more plays.”
“Theatre connects us and touches our hearts by showing us that we’re all one family.”
Why is theatre important to you?
“Some of the best theatre I’ve experienced (aside from Raisin) has shown me characters who don’t look like me, people from vastly different backgrounds and cultures, who are somehow emotionally identical to me. Theatre connects us and touches our hearts by showing us that we’re all one family. It’s an amazing yet fleeting feeling, and then you go back to the reality of Drumpf and Permit Patty and cops shooting unarmed Black people and Puerto Rico and Kanye acting an ass and ICE and the water in Flint and and and… and then you go write a play about it.”
What’s next for you?
“My play Welcome to Matteson! will be part of the Playwrights’ Revolution reading series at Capital Stage (Sacramento) toward the end of July. Also, my play I Go Somewhere Else opens August 25th at Playwrights’ Arena (Los Angeles), directed by Jon Lawrence Rivera. And in March 2019, Black Super Hero Magic Mama opens at the Geffen Playhouse (Los Angeles), directed by Robert O’Hara.”
What did you think of this interview with Inda Craig-Galván?
Are any of you working as or aspiring to be a playwright? We would love to hear all about it in the comments below! And in the meantime, you can read even more of our theatre interviews with inspiring people in the industry!
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Author: Stacy Karyn
Stacy Karyn is the founder of Theatre Trip, author of The Thespian’s Bucket List, and creator of The Cast Album List. She has a TESOL drama certificate, a BA in theatre, and has worked and interned with Broadway and Off-Broadway theaters.