Meet the Sokoloff Creative Arts Fellows—with Director & Poet Emma Rosa Went

Emma Rosa Went is a freelance theatre director. New York work includes: The Tank, The Brick, Playwrights Realm, Dixon Place, Theater Row, Access Theatre, Center at West Park, LPAC Lab, Trans Lab @ WP, and many other venues. Regional includes: Scranton Shakespeare Festival, Campfire Festival @ Boise Contemporary Theatre, Barn Arts Collective. Off-broadway and regional assisting includes: TFANA, Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Atlantic, Rattlestick, Colorado Shakespeare Festival. Emma is an alum of the OSF FAIR Program and the SDCF Observership Program, and the recipient of a 2019 Drama League First Stage Residency. BA Sarah Lawrence College. Associate Member SDC.



Morning, Emma. Thanks for being here.

Morning, Connor. Thanks for having me.

Can you introduce yourself to your adoring fans?

Bless you, my dude, there are no such fans, but let’s dream!

Touché. Can you introduce yourself to you soon-to-be-adoring fans?

Sure. Hey there! I’m Emma Rosa Went and I’m a director. Also, I’m a poet, a Scorpio, a big reader, a lover of visual art, an ex-vegetarian, a transplanted Californian, a barista-in-recovery, a cat-person. A people-person? That’s enough.

I have a feeling that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Okay, getting started. Who is the number one most played artist on whatever music platform you listen to music?

Right now, I think it’s Leonard Cohen.

Can I get a Hallelujah?

Um.

How do you spend your free time?

My life of crime keeps me pretty busy. No, I joke! Aside from working and worrying, I do the yoga, I do the reading and writing, I love to go to museums. I hang out with my spouse and my friends, and we do silly activities like play board games or go bowling or watch each others’ favorite movies from childhood. Also, I love hosting dinner parties more than anything in life.

I love attending dinner parties. Can you tell the fans about the project you’re working on at Town Stages as a Sokoloff Arts Creative Fellow?

I’m working on a couple of projects at Town, but the main one is a piece called ‘Beckett Without Beckett,’ which I’m devising with actors and true lunatics Julia Larsen and Olivia Rose Barresi. The full title is ‘The Same Shirt Show Part 2, Beckett Without Beckett: An Exploration of Masculinity and Existentialism Inspired by the Themes and Works of Beckett, but Containing No Actual Beckett, We Swear,’ and it is actually the sequel to an equally insane parody show/sketch show/act of trolling that we made and performed at Dixon Place last year. We are also working on B w/o B through a Drama League Residency later in 2019.

That’s super cool. You’re super cool. What’s the most exciting thing about the projects you’re working on?

Honestly? The sheer stupidness of it. Mostly, I work with texts in the theatre in a very text-centered way, with Shakespeare or with new plays. By its nature, this process is about de-centering text as far as we possibly can and sort of thumbing our noses at the preciousness of a lot of what we consider male genius in the theatre and in culture to be– while of course at the same time, exploring what we love about it and, hopefully, making the case that this body of work should be accessible to people like us—because. oh yeah, this is basically a rage-protest about the fact that women are not permitted by the Beckett estate to perform Waiting for Godot, and it makes us mad, so we’re making a show.

1.) I had no idea. 2.) That is both sad and maddening.

Agreed.

Fun question: is there a moment you can point to where you called yourself an artist and fully believed it for the first time?

I think I was across the dinner table from my parents when I was about 13, actually. I have a somewhat unconventional background in that my parents are both professional artists; my mom is a musician/singer-songwriter, and my dad is a musician and a screenwriter, so I think I sort of announced my intention to work in the theatre at some point to them and I think I actually remember my dad raising a glass and saying as a toast, “Ah, well you were doomed!” In all seriousness, I have never considered myself to be anything else. How to be a good artist is a totally different thing, however, so we’ll see about that.

The readers don’t know that I’m slow clapping right now, but that’s fine. What motivates you to keep doing your work?

Poverty. No no, I mean: I love what I do more than anything in the world. My life makes sense to me when I’m in the room making stuff; in a community, on a journey with a specific common goal. Directing is a lot of things, but to me, it’s a very mutual act of sharing of the self, and I am deeply addicted to that sharing, with my friends in the collaborative process, and with the audience. I think it was Anais Nin who said that the great thing about art is that it’s the process of “creating a world in which one can live,” and I do it for that, to create worlds that I can live in.

Any other projects in the works?

Whew. Yes. I’m directing a super fun new play called ‘Courage! To the Field!’ at The Tank this Spring, I’m directing a reading of a play called ‘Initiative’ at The Playwrights Realm also this Spring, and this summer I’m heading back to the Scranton Shakespeare Festival in PA to direct Richard III.

Yes, please. Your spirit animal is _________?

I’ve been told bunny, and I’ve been told owl. I’m a hundred-acre-wood character, regardless.

Well, a shaman once told me I was an owl. So we’re either twins or neighbors. Okay. The meat: are humans owed happiness or do they have to earn it? Kidding, but not…

I think in most non-extreme circumstances, you can choose to be happy.

I’ll take it. How can your fans follow your career, should they want to/should you want them to?

You can find me at my website, www.emmawent.com, or on most social-media platforms @emmarosawent. But not Twitter. I don’t know what that is.

Nor do I. Thanks again for sitting down with me.

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Town Stages is an event space in Tribeca with a mission to support under-valued and under-represented voices in the arts. Click here to learn more about the space or to book a tour.

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