Interview: Nessie

Today we’re joined by Nessie. Nessie is a phenomenal playwright from Scotland who is also working on the first draft of her first novel. When she’s not writing, Nessie also acts and directs. Nessie also participates in a medieval re-enactment society as well. It’s very clear that she has an incredible amount of passion and dedication, as you’ll soon see. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I am a playwright, a writer more generally, an actor, and a director. I also LARP, and I am part of a mediaeval re-enactment society. I have written eight plays so far, three of which have been performed – one of them twice, the second time under a new title, Shakespeare Syndrome, at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2016 – and one of which had extracts read from it by professional actors at the Traverse Theatre, as part of my MSc Playwriting programme. I will graduate in November this year and recently received my degree award; I will be graduating ‘With Merit’!

My plays so far have most been quite dark, and often historically inspired. My two most recent scripts were inspired by the lives of mediaeval queens (Margaret of Anjou and Mary of Guelders, the wife of James II of Scotland), while my first ever script, This Breathing World, was heavily influences by Shakespeare’s Richard III and was set in space; I actually have a short lived Tumblr blog about my experience directing the show if you’re interested (http://thisbreathingworld-play.tumblr.com). Funnily enough, my play that has been performed twice, and at the Fringe no less, was my first foray into comedy; Antic Disposition, later retitled Shakespeare Syndrome, is a play in which several of Shakespeare’s characters visit a psychiatrist, and things go about as well as one might expect.

What inspires you?

Shakespeare’s History plays, actual history, books I read, people and events in my life and, more recently, situations and characters from the shared universe my friends and I have in LARP. My first book, which I plan to start working on as part of NaNoWriMo, is inspired by one of my characters and his family, but this character was in turn inspired by a number of different historical figures and events, from Pope Alexander VI to the Spanish Inquisition. He’s… he’s a bit of a mess. Although he is asexual, so he has that going for him, haha!

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I have always wanted to be a writer, since I was seven years old and ‘wrote’ my first ‘book’; basically I copied out Rapunzel and drew illustrations for it, and I specifically remember her having a triangular orange dress! I briefly swapped from wanting to be a writer to wanting to be an actor when I was in high school, but I’ve always been a writer, really; whether through writing reviews for an online publication (Broadway Baby), doing one of my degrees in English and the other in Playwriting, or making up stories with my friends when I was younger (and I still do that, to be honest)! I wrote fanfiction for a while in high school – for CATS: The Musical and Dickens books mostly, because I was, and am, a person of very niche interests. For a long time my magnum opus was a fifty-three chapter fanfic called Bill Sykes detailing the backstory of the violent thug from Oliver Twist! I started writing plays during my second year of undergrad and playwriting has been my jam ever since.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Honestly, my characters die a lot, but I wouldn’t say that’s a signature, more a worryingly frequent feature! A lot of them also tend to be quite wordy, and that’s a problem I have as a self proclaimed ‘word nerd’, having done two degrees with creative and analytical slants; my characters and I tend to use several words were only a few would do. One of the exceptions to this rule is Frank Lovell, my version of Shakespeare’s Francis Lovell, who was himself a historical figure; he tends to say very little and, when he does speak, it’s monosyllabic.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

I know it’s a cliché but I would say never give up on your art, you will only get better with practice. I look back on my older scripts now and I realise how far I’ve come, especially since I was lucky enough to be able to pursue a degree in Playwriting to better understand how scripts are written and how they work. I would also say be ruthless when it comes to editing, if you’re a writer; I had a first draft of a play once that was around eighty pages long, and it was only meant to be around an hour long in performance. If it had stayed eighty pages it would have taken around two hours! I would also say, again for writers, rewrite, rewrite, rewrite; your first draft is not perfect – and don’t worry, it’s not meant to be! It doesn’t have to be, it just has to exist. As my playwriting tutor used to say, a first draft is a pile of shit with occasional nuggets of gold. She was a very unusual woman.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as a biromantic asexual. It took me a long time to get to this point, from questioning my sexuality, to thinking I was bisexual; I didn’t even know what asexuality was until very recently! I am now pretty comfortable calling myself asexual, and my friend recently bought me a shirt for my birthday that says ‘Asexual pirate isn’t interested in your booty’ (Look Human is an incredible website and has a huge range of ace themed shirts, accessories and so on. They’re not paying me to say that, I just adore this website!), which I hope to debut in public sometime soon, as it’s my first piece of clothing/accessory or anything that displays pride colours.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

I’ve honestly been very quiet about my sexuality in public, as I feel it’s on a need to know basis, though a lot of my friends know. My family sort of knows (long story) and my Dad will sometimes make jokes about me needing to find the right person, but I know he’s joking so it’s OK. I have encountered a lot of ignorance online though, but as I haven’t encountered it personally, the ignorance being directly at the orientation and not me specifically, I can’t really say how I have handled it. I am more open about my sexuality online, and feel I’m able to be more proud of it there, as I have encountered a very loving and supportive community; in the real world, I’m not sure, and in fact I know, not everyone I know would be so understanding, sadly including some members of my immediate family.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Oh gosh, in my quest for discovering who I was/what asexuality was I encountered so many misconceptions; humans aren’t plants, that’s not a real orientation, you’re an emotionless robot, how can you not be interested in sex?, what’s wrong with you?, who hurt you? etc. No one hurt me, nothing’s wrong with me, I’m ace and that’s a-OK!

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

I would say that it’s perfectly valid to struggle with your orientation, especially when sex and sexual attraction seem to be regarded as the key to all happiness these days! No matter where you are on the spectrum and no matter your struggle, you are valid and you are loved. You don’t have to have it all figured out, now or in the future, and there is nothing wrong with you! You are not broken, or weird, or going through a phase. You are who you are and you should be proud of yourself. ❤

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

I am in the process of trying to put together a website but it’s very slow going. Occasionally – very occasionally – I will say something about my work on Tumblr, so that’d be the best place to hear about my work for now. For more about some of my plays, if you Google ‘Shakespeare Syndrome Edinburgh Fringe’ you may be able to find some reviews of the last play I had performed, and I think if you search ‘This Breathing World play review’, you may come across some reviews for my first ever play, from 2014!

Thank you, Nessie, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Ben

Today we’re joined by Ben. Ben is a phenomenal theater actor who is also a playwright. He has mostly written tragic plays, but is currently working on an absurdist play. Aside from acting and writing, Ben is also a writer of a homebrew D&D campaign. He’s also currently taking voice lessons in order to get into musical theater. My thanks to him for taking the time to participate in this interview.

Headshot(Fall 2016)

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

Primarily I am a stage actor and a playwright. I am also the writer of a homebrew (made from scratch) D&D campaign and world. As far as acting goes I am more versed in acting in straight plays than in musicals, I am not quite that skilled in singing. But I am in the process of taking voice lessons to solve that issue. With playwriting I have at this point written mainly tragic plays and am currently working on an absurdist play. I also dabble in graphic design for a YouTube channel I am involved in.

What inspires you?

I am primarily inspired by passionate people. Seeing somebody overflowing with joy and enthusiasm about something they are doing or are interested in just gets me hyped up and raring to do something myself. I am also inspired often by the people around me and current events, both of which are commonly reflected in my works. With my writing style I am also greatly inspired by the works of Tennessee Williams and other 20th century playwrights.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

I have always wanted to do something in the arts. I started with orchestra in middle school playing the violin and when my second high school didn’t offer it I started looking for other things to get involved with. In freshman year I saw my (first) high school’s performance of The Crucible by Arthur Miller. It was my first time seeing a live show of anything and I was utterly enamored by how much more real it felt than seeing films. It wasn’t until junior year of high school when I took my first drama class, and then a second year drama class my senior year. In my senior year I took the full dive into acting and got involved in every theatre related thing that went on at the school. I’ve been hooked ever since and am currently studying for a Theatre degree in college.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

I have a tendency to include a lot of subtle duality in my works between character personalities and motivations. Other than that I can’t really think of much else.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

My advice for aspiring artists is to first find others as passionate as you about the kind of art you are interested in, and second to not let anyone dissuade you with how much more difficult life is going to be. Yes work might be harder to find and you’ll absolutely receive less pay, but the ability to be doing what you love is more than worth it.

Horrible People Productions

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual. As for romantic orientation it took seemingly forever to narrow it down but sapioromantic seems the most accurate for me.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Luckily I haven’t encountered any prejudice or ignorance. Theatre is a generally progressive field in the first place, so you don’t really find much prejudice aside from the occasional diva.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

The most common misconception I’ve come across is people assuming I just haven’t met the “one” yet. Or that I had one bad experience and need to try things with other people. It gets rather tedious hearing diagnoses from people about what happened/what I should do when there is really nothing in need of diagnosing.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

My advice for those struggling is to take your time figuring out the specifics of your orientation. There’s no need to rush because at the end of the day the main person who needs to know is you. No matter what the specifics may be, your identity is valid and you as a person are appreciated. And I know it’s easier said than done but don’t let the people who will give you crap about being you get into your head, if they need to stoop low enough to attack your identity, you already have the moral high ground in telling them to bug off.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

If you are in the Midwest area you can see the shows at the college I go to, Missouri Western State University. I don’t always act but I usually am involved in some way.

And if you go to Horrible People Productions at YouTube.com, you can learn about my D&D world. It is a group channel that I have with some friends at my college. There is currently only one episode of the current campaign posted but the rest will be coming out closer to fall.

Individual 4

Thank you, Ben, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Nora Rose

Today we’re joined by Nora Rose. Nora is a phenomenal artist who does a bit of everything. She’s a passionate writer who does everything from novels to fanfiction. When she’s not writing, Nora is also an avid cook, an actor, and an audiobook narrator (I think that’s a first for Asexual Artists). Whatever art she’s working on, Nora throws herself fully into it. She’s an incredibly enthusiastic and dedicated artist, as you’ll soon read. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

1-nrsully-headshot

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I have my fingers in a lot of pies. I’m a fanfiction writer, an unpublished novelist, playwright, and screenwriter, an amateur actor, an audiobook narrator, and aspiring cook.

Writing has been a passion since I was in second grade, and I’ve been pursuing it as a habit and career since I was eleven. My senior project for my undergrad degree was a play in one act that I wrote. I’ve been writing fanfiction for almost as long.

I studied theater at college. I fell in love with acting in high school, and I was probably the first person in my grade who knew what they were going to major in. My grandest moment was as Mrs. Bennett in a stage rendition of “Pride & Prejudice” that our director was writing.

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Mrs. Bennet

Unfortunately, since graduating I haven’t had much chance to do any acting, but I would love to end up in television–writing, acting, directing, and producing.

The audiobook narrating was unexpected. I did some live voicework for some friends’ senior shows in college, and afterwards had people come up to me and tell me I should pursue it. I never really thought I would until it turned out the son of my parents’ neighbor had just self-published a book and wanted to do an audiobook. I was just about to move to the same city he lives so we connected, and I’ve recorded the first two books of his series.

Growing up, I hated cooking. I think it was part rebelling against the expectations of being a housewife someday and part the fact that I’m a picky eater. One summer during college, however, I was doing a summer semester and was bored out of my mind. So I started making a whole bunch of different foods–mostly desserts–for my landlady. Someday soon I want to actually go to culinary school and maybe eventually open a little bistro.

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Fruit Pie

What inspires you?

I’ve found that inspiration for me can come from anywhere. It can come from that one image in a dream that sticks long after waking up. It can come from a personal story someone told me that sounded like something out of a fairytale. It can come from real life experiences where the emotions were loud and visceral. It can come from a visual of certain actors in certain costumes or situations. I can be inspired by an actor that makes me cry. And, of course, the Food Network and Pinterest can be extremely inspiring when it comes to cooking.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

As for writing, I’ve loved it so long I honestly have no idea what got me interested. I finally decided to start writing my own books after falling in love with Tamora Pierce’s “The Song of the Lioness” series.

Acting, it was the first director I had in high school. The first play I was in, I was just a somebody. The second one, he cast me as the lead female part. He took a chance on me, and he believed in me, and I fell in love.

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As You Like It

Narrating was explained a little in the first question, but I really decided I liked it once I started and realized it was a form of acting. While I wasn’t on stage or in front of a camera, I got to act and put heart into it, and it was a relief to be doing that again.

Cooking was boredom. I’ve really fallen in love with cooking because I love feeding people. It’s just like storytelling–I get to give people this beautiful thing I’ve created and I love watching their reactions.

Have I always wanted to be an artist? Yes. I don’t know that I could be anything else.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Not really.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

This is cliché, but just do it. As someone with mental illness, trust me, I know it can be hard sometimes to motivate yourself even to do the things you love. But you have to. Don’t let it stress you out, of course, because then you’ll start to hate it. But do little things. If you write, but you’re having trouble getting any words down, outline. If you act, but you’re having trouble getting out the auditions, act out some of your favorite movie scenes in the shower. Do what little you can.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

Asexual, poly, panromantic. I’m not sex repulsed, but I’m not really interested too much in sex. It doesn’t faze me usually. I like having sex, but I forget that it’s an option a lot of the time, and I’m in a committed relationship with someone with a high sex drive. I’ll watch porn and I read porn, but if I’m not in exactly the right mood for it, I get bored really quickly.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

The only example I can think of that happened in any of my fields was once I was discussing with the producer of the audiobooks I’ve worked on other types of books I’d be interested in narrating. He made some comment assuming that I’d like to steer clear of romance novels. I said, actually, I wouldn’t mind. In fact, someday in the future, I plan on narrating my fiancé’s novels, most of which fall in the category of “romance”. He then made some comment assuming I’d like to stay away from more hardcore stuff, and again, I said actually, I don’t mind. I’m asexual, I said, so it really doesn’t faze me. The rest of the elevator ride was quiet and uncomfortable.

I talked to my fiancé about it afterwards. That’s how I deal with most things. It felt a little funny. It was kind of tiring. I didn’t know how to react, really, because in this particular situation–wouldn’t that be an advantage? Why should it matter if it’s actually going to make both your job and my job easier? It never came up again. I guess we’ll see if it does if I ever narrate a romance produced by him.

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Orchard

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

Mostly I’ve just met people who had no idea what it meant and said as much. Who’d either never heard the term or only had in high school biology talking about asexual reproduction. Luckily, most of the time they just ask, and I’m able to explain in a way that I’m comfortable with, saying this is a general definition, and this is what it means in my case.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

It’s a spectrum. It’s a moving spectrum. Do you know how old I was when I realized I was asexual? Twenty-three. For a while I even thought I hadn’t always been asexual. But the more time goes on, the more I look back, I just realize that I’ve simply become more comfortable with my asexuality and let that color how my life is. Don’t stress. If you used to think you were straight, or if you used to think you were demi, or if you’re certain you’re into women but the idea of sex freaks you out? It’s a scale. Things change. And you’re allowed to feel more ways than one.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

Check out my Tumblr at nrsully.tumblr.com and my Facebook page at Nora Rose Sullivan. You can find the audiobook for “Orchard” on Audible here. You can also find my more recent fanfiction on AO3 at Briar_Elwood.

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Curious Savage

Thank you, Nora, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.

Interview: Daria

Today we’re joined by Daria. Daria is a phenomenal up and coming playwright. Her first one-act, Marriage Suite, has just premiered and it sounds like it went quite well (Congratulations, Daria!). It’s very apparent from her interview that Daria is incredibly passionate about the theater. It’s clear that this artist has a very bright future ahead of her. My thanks to her for taking the time to participate in this interview.

WORK

Please, tell us about your art.

I’m the proud playwright of a recently finished one act play, Marriage Suite, and a short, ten-minute play. Although I write rather absurdist situations and futuristic settings, my characters and dialogue are written in a style of realism. Sexuality has so far been a large theme of my work, particularly asexuality.

Marriage Suite is set in a dystopian future where, in the wake of a dwindling population, the government controls a very sterile system of coupling. Forced into a situation neither of them ever wanted, a young couple decides to break the rules and faces the subsequent consequences.

What inspires you?

I admit to having a great fondness of the dystopian genre, especially Margaret Atwood’s Handmaid’s Tale, which served as a great jumping-off point for my writing. There’s such a lack of representation in the media regarding the asexual community and I wanted to change that when I set out to write this one act. I’m also very invested in exploring aspects of platonic love and the quaint sort of domesticity that harbors affection. The characters in Marriage Suite, who both have their own reasons for deliberately disobeying the rules of their world, have a unique relationship that grows out of that close proximity and accidental intimacy.

Additionally, I’m fortunate enough to be surrounded by a group of very supportive teachers and talented friends who do a lot to enforce my love for storytelling. I have a great circle of friends who will happily read through my drafts and help me through edits. Or they’ll just put up with me talking about my play and that’s just as generous.

What got you interested in your field?  Have you always wanted to be an artist?

Since as long as I can remember (or as long as I’ve had access to Microsoft Word), I’ve been writing narrative stories. I was a ravenous reader at an early age and really wanted to try to create the magic of reading a story for other people. Still, despite my best efforts, I was never able to finish a piece of my work, despite getting up to 98 pages on a modern sci-fi fantasy piece laden with too much passive voice. At the same time, I had always been interested in theatre. I began my performance career as Dorothy in my elementary school production of the Wizard of Oz and continued from there, interning in professional shows and serving as my high school assistant director. Playwriting was a great way to combine these two passions. Unlike with narrative, I don’t get lost in the flowery descriptions. The media lends itself to reinterpretation which is very exciting to me. I love the idea of creating a set of plans for builders to interpret and refurbish–while also knowing that my writing is the whole reason the play exists once it’s onstage.

Do you have any kind of special or unique signature, symbol, or feature you include in your work that you’d be willing to reveal?

Nothing comes to mind beyond writing asexual characters and perhaps the figurative language I so love to use in my stage directions.

What advice would you give young aspiring artists?

Create the art that you wish existed in the world. Create the art you want to see. Being an artist gives you so much autonomy. No longer do you have to simply receive the art that others manifest, you aren’t a passive consumer anymore.

Get out of your comfort zone. Throw yourself into competitions, public readings, open mic nights, etc. Research and familiarize yourself with the event first, naturally, but these things can really push you as an artist. It’s exhilarating, terrifying, and is overwhelmingly reinforcing as an artist. Working in a bubble can get lonely, so it’s a good way to escape that too.

ASEXUALITY

Where on the spectrum do you identify?

I identify as asexual. My romantic desire fluctuates indirectly with my sex-repulsion. Some days it’s very high, others I’m unbothered.

Have you encountered any kind of ace prejudice or ignorance in your field?  If so, how do you handle it?

Not yet, thankfully. I talk about my asexuality openly but rarely bring it up on my own. Further down the road, I worry that any romantic relationships or sexual relationships I write might be called into question because I “don’t know what those are like.” I’m ready for it, though. Love is multifaceted and is hardly just of a romantic or sexual nature. Everyone tends to forget familial love and love between friends, for example. We all have enough experience to write about, asexual or not.

To face day-to-day asexual prejudice, I just made myself a nifty asexual rubber band bracelet and ring. Is it a little cheesy? Do I feel like a middle school girl? Yes. But it’s very empowering. I highly suggest making-buying Ace Pride memorabilia.

What’s the most common misconception about asexuality that you’ve encountered?

I hate being asked if I’m a plant or if I can perform mitosis. Those aren’t misconceptions necessarily, but I get those questions way too much. People also tend to pity me when they hear of my “condition” which is tied to the misconception that asexuality is like having a missing piece inside you, that we’re broken.

What advice would you give to any asexual individuals out there who might be struggling with their orientation?

Reach out to other aces. AVEN is a great community full of people who share so many of your experiences. Hanging out in the chat room or forums helps me realize that I’m far from the only one. We’re widely dispersed throughout the world, but there’s a great online community that’s more than happy to accept you with open arms. Things always seem worse when you suffer through them alone, and in terms of struggling with your asexuality, you just don’t have to be alone.

Finally, where can people find out more about your work?

If you’re interested in performing Marriage Suite (runtime of 70 minutes, cast of one female, one male, both between 18-22), please get in touch with me. I will happily send you an in-depth synopsis as well as samples of the script. We can talk about licensing too. As an unpublished startup, I assure you I have excellent rates. There ends my shameless self-plug.

If you’re interested in reading some of my musings, I occasionally use a nifty little WordPress. I’ve written a little bit about playwriting there in addition to fun topics like online dating while ace. I also have a Tumblr account where I wrote one very popular post about the (disturbing) Asexual Discourse™ and then never reached that peak success again.

To contact me, send a PM to sardonicsymphonic on Tumblr. (You can also probably contact the fine mastermind behind Asexual Artists but only use this as a last resort.)

Thank you, Daria, for participating in this interview and this project. It’s very much appreciated.