We asked Youngblood playwright Mariah MacCarthy about her new Unfiltered show HONORS STUDENTS, and she's given us some insight into her inspiration, her feelings on pets, and how the play has evolved and grown over the years.
What is the inspiration for this play?
Well, I've known for a long time (having once been one) that teenage girls are terrifying. They feel everything at 1000%, and extreme emotions make you willing to do extreme things. My own adolescence was very tame on the outside--I broke very very few rules--but my inner life was violent and dark and insane. I found some old diaries recently and they were both hilarious and devastating: Anyone who was kind to me automatically became the love of my life, and when they betrayed me I wanted them to die. This went for friends, crushes, teachers, everyone. What several women have told me about this play is that, while their own adolescences weren't like this play at all, emotionally this is what it felt like. That goes for me too.
How long have you been working on this script?
I wrote the first scene, as its own play, in April 2013 (and then it was reprised at Rattlestick's Theaterjam). I didn't start expanding it until over a year later - at a Youngblood retreat, on Ryder Farm!
Kruppcake and his tragic end play a large role in the play, did you have animals growing up?
I was only ever allowed to have rodents. Hamsters, mice, rats. I desperately wanted a cat or a dog but I wasn't allowed. I deeeesperately want a cat now, but am waiting (begrudgingly) until I move into a new place. A LOT of people I know have had pets die recently while I've been rehearsing this play, and they're feeling that loss on a visceral level--I mean, they've lost a family member. So that's what the character of Kora is dealing with.
How has working with the cast been?
Oh God, this cast is such a dream. Merissa and Rachel are new collaborators--they just came into auditions and blew my mind, though I've been admiring their work for years. Bob started working on the show in a couple readings last year, and Chet has played this role since it was just a 10-minute play three years ago. I am in awe of all of them; they have some VERY difficult jobs, involving lots of fight choreo and intense emotions. And Leta Tremblay, with whom I run a theater company (Caps Lock Theatre), is directing, which is just stupidly lovely. She's my art-wife and it's just so relaxing to have all those years of trust to lean on.
What changes to changes has the script seen through the rehearsal process?
In true Youngblood fashion, I've been making changes to the script up until the last minute. The very first moment of the play is new, and I think it lets you know what play you're getting into (I won't give it away, but edible blood is required for it). And less than a week before opening, I cut one of Bob's characters and added a new one. He took the change in stride and is rocking the new scene because he is a champ.
When did you know you wanted to be a playwright?
My dad is a writer and has always encouraged his kids to write, so I wrote my first play when I was 10. I think I really realized I was a playwright after college though, after a few stabs at directing and a workshop with Lucy Thurber taught me that I hate directing and love playwriting.
I also will say, utterly without irony, that my first rejection from Youngblood at the age of 22 was full of incredibly encouraging words, and the fact that they had seriously considered me was one of the first things to make me think I could play in the big leagues. I had to apply another five times to get in.
HONORS STUDENTS runs from Wed March 9th through Sat March 12th!