This world premiere runs Feb. 3-26 at the Alliance Theatre.
Breaking into the theatre business can be a long, tough slog, particularly for young playwrights. But Meg Miroshnik, who got her MFA from the Yale School of Drama, took one heck of a shortcut by winning the Alliance/Kendeda National Graduate Playwriting Competition. The annual national competition is designed to help student playwrights become professionals, with the Alliance giving the winner a professional production of his/her work. We recently caught up with Miroshnik to talk about her Alliance/Kendeda-winning play, The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls, and how the competition has impacted her career.
What was the inspiration behind The Fairytale Lives of Russian Girls?
It came from the opportunity I got to go to Moscow, study Russian and work as a freelance writer. I was struck by how quickly everything was changing there. The life expectancy for Russian men was 57 years, so there were many more women. I saw these iconic images — teenage girls standing in the snow and old women with headscarves at the market — and I was interested in colliding this world of women with both the present and past. I hit upon the idea of trapping them in the predicaments of old Russian folk tales.
How does that relate to Annie, the show’s central character?
There was a whole generation of people who left the Soviet Union as children who came back to seek opportunities in Russia as the market was taking off. Annie’s a realistic, optimistic American who’s in this crazy situation — living with this woman who may be a girl-eating witch, living across the hall from a girl who claims her boyfriend is turning into a bear. She can be the audience’s skeptical way into this world.
Your play won the Alliance/Kendeda competition. What’s the importance of those types of opportunities for playwrights?
The program is remarkable in a number of ways. The Alliance is producing plays by early-career playwrights in a major regional theatre. It is a crazy, wonderful opportunity to be able to work there so early in my career. Even when one is lucky enough to find a home for a play, there is usually a much longer process of auditioning the play and figuring out if it will be right for this season. As part of the program, they partnered with a playwrights’ workshop at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., this summer and then also with the Lark Play Development Center in New York in November, so I’ve been able to work with actors on the play twice and had time to rewrite and try new things out months before getting into a rehearsal room at the Alliance. It was a remarkable commitment that they made to the play, and it’s a phenomenal program. I feel incredibly lucky to have been a part of it.
How do you hope this show will affect audiences, and what do you want them to take away from it?
The No. 1 thing for me about the play is that, since it is a fairy tale and we are literally beginning with “once upon a time,” I think there is an expectation as an audience member that it is going to be a really great story. So I hope people go away feeling like they have had a satisfying evening of storytelling, firstly. In terms of thematic or emotional reactions, I think the play is asking what role fairy tales have in adult life. I hope that it will be funny, exciting, scary and provocative — a really fun evening in the theatre.
Bret Love is the founder of ecotourism/conservation site GreenGlobalTravel.com; the national managing editor of INsite magazine; and music editor for Georgia Music Magazine. He freelances for more than a dozen other national and international publications, and performs on numerous improv teams with Jackpie at Relapse Theatre.