Part of the mission of 20% Theatre Company is to provide opportunities to new and emerging artists. Q-STAGE is the perfect vehicle to create such opportunity. So, as we get closer and closer to our second installment of the Q-STAGE New Works Series, we’d like to introduce you to a few artists you may not have met. Harrison David Rivers has written and will be performing in And She Would Stand Like This.
Who are you?
My name is Harrison David Rivers and I’m still trying to figure out what that means.
You wrote And She Would Stand Like This, along with many other plays. Why do you do what you do?
I write plays because it is the thing—the activity—that makes me the happiest. When I wake up in the morning, it is the thing that I most want to do. I would even say, need to do. It is a compulsion. I need my daily writing fix or I feel less than whole. When I write, I feel most myself.
Tell us about your artistic background.
I started in musicals—singing and dancing. I went to school for acting, developed crippling stage fright, and started writing plays instead. I am currently in the Twin Cities on a fellowship with the Playwrights’ Center.
I’m not a performer, which is probably why I admire actors so much. I never ceased to be amazed by their willingness to put themselves out there—to allow themselves to be seen; their willingness to walk that fine line between the person they are in real life and the person that they have created for narrative purposes. I don’t know that I have that kind of discipline, that kind of control.
Can you describe your process for us?
I know playwrights who begin the writing process with a sound or a line of dialogue or a particular social or political agenda, an image. I usually start with an actor. In fact, most of my plays have been motivated by a particular actors’ special something—by their strength or stamina or facility with language or emotional availability. Sometimes these actors ASK for a play. Other times the play is a GIFT.
What’s your favorite part of writing?
I love that writing is hard. That it is not enough to have a natural storytelling ability. You must also dedicate time and headspace and heart space. I like that it takes grit and determination, that you must be stubborn and steadfast. I like that it requires a commitment. That it is work. Not just anyone can be a playwright. I like that.