Anne Phelan [phelan1914]
How and why did you begin to be creative?
Playing make-believe and dress-up games as a child. Those games always seemed more compelling to me.
Your mind is your work tool. How do you take care of it?
I read a lot- about history, current events, other artists' work. I give myself sufficient down-time, too, so that my subconscious has a chance to work. In my free time, I do two things completely unrelated to my creative process: look after my year-old dog, and sing in a choir.
How do you avoid repeating yourself, or falling into formula? How do you stay fresh?
I have a low threshold for boredom. So hopefully if I am repeating myself, I get bored before I get too far with a project.
Do you have a ritual like retiring to a lonely place from time to time to cleanse your mind?
I stop writing. Instead, I read and see other people's plays, look at art and listen to music. I don't start writing again until I can't stand not writing anymore.
What cultural sources do you draw from the most?
Visual art and music.
Who have your teachers been?
I studied with Dr. Larry Myers when I first moved to New York.
But I'm also a great believer in finding plays that I like and then pulling them apart to figure out how the playwright did it. This has actually become more true since I started writing musicals a few years ago. When I'm teaching, I certainly encourage my students to do so as well. And I learn from my students. Also, if I'm am fortunate enough to be working on a production with good designers, I usually learn from them as well.
When you accept a job, how much value do you place on each of the following? Money, creative liberty, visibility, and to work with the best.
I'm afraid that the theatre often dictates that money comes last. I certainly appreciate visibility. But it probably comes down to a contest between creative liberty and working with the best.
Have you ever had a job that was so stimulating that you could not get your mind off of it?
Of course- that's what happens if you're lucky.
"To give birth to ideas." Is this only an expression, or are there really parallels between giving birth and creativity?
Mothers I know may disagree with me, but I think giving birth and creativity are very similar.
It is possible to fall in love with a bad idea simply because it is yours. How do you avoid this?
I don't think there is a way to avoid it. If you're lucky, you wind up spending as little time on it as possible. That's not always the case. The alternative is to make nothing but safe choices, and that's worse.
Must someone be the leader or boss in order for a creative team to function well?
On some level, yes. That doesn't mean it should be a restrictive creative environment, or a dictatorship. But there needs to be one person ultimately in charge.
What criteria do you use when selecting someone to be a part of your creative team?
With designers, the most important things to me are originality of vision, and their ability to communicate that, verbally and visually. With directors, their ability to interpret the text, their ability to listen and their love of the material.
The armchair psychologist: Is creativity an act of rebellion for you?
I have no doubt.
Do you work well under pressure?
I do, actually. "Pressure" to me is being in rehearsal and having to have rewrites for actors and the director by a certain date. I haven't missed one yet.
What city in the world currently attracts you due to its creative environment?
Given the language barriers in other cities (like Berlin or Munich), I'd have to say New York.
How is an idea sold?
I have no idea. If I did, I'd be a lot better known.
What do you feel when, after two or three years, you see an idea of yours again?
It depends. If I'm lucky, it's better than I remember it being.
Ideas can come simultaneously to different people in different places with no connection to one another. How do you explain this phenomenon?
I don't think there are really that many new ideas, and I think that new interpretations of old ideas are cyclical. It is freaky how often it happens, though.
You are as good as your last idea. Wouldn't you like to have a more secure type of work?
Yeah, but the nature of the theatre is ephemeral. You just have to get over your insecurity.
Brooklyn NY USA