Interview by BELLA ONLINE
"Ludmilla Bollow: Portrait of a Playwright"
Bella: If you could start by giving us a brief biography:
I am a Wisconsin Writer. I am a Woman Writer. I am a World Writer.
However at this time in my life I am primarily a Playwright, embracing
all that goes with it. I have had hundreds of plays produced in over 50
theatres in the U.S., from New York to California.
FOREIGN PRODUCTIONS include: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China,
England, Greece, South Africa and Taiwan.
PUBLICATIONS include: "ONE ACTS & MONOLOGUES FOR WOMEN"
(3rd Edition), Broadway Plays (NY); "THE CHURCH OF THE HOLY GHOST",
Broadway Plays (also optioned for movie); and "THE BEACH CLUB", The
Literary Half-Yearly of India (U of Mysore). MILLENNIUM MONOLOGUES
(Two Monologues - Meriwether). Scenes reprinted in: PLAYING CONTEMPORARY SCENES" (Meriwether); and THE BEST MEN'S STAGE MONOLOGUES" (3);
"THE BEST WOMEN'S STAGE MONOLOGUES" (2); "THE BEST WOMEN'S
STAGE SCENES"; and "THE BEST STAGE SCENES", all Smith & Kraus Pub.
I have taught Playwriting at The Rhinelander School of the Arts,
Professional Playwrights Lab, RedBird Studios, and various conferences and
FELLOWSHIPS INCLUDE: Tennessee Williams Playwriting Scholar at
Sewanee Writers Conference; Mt. Sequoyah New Play Retreat, and
Midwest Professional Playwrights Lab. Play commissions include: Wisconsin
Women in the Arts (Mobil Oil), and St. Colletta School for Developmentally
Disabled and 100th Annivesary of Sisters of St. Francis (sponsored jointly by
Jefferson Arts Council and St. Coletta).
Various playwriting awards (first prizes and honorable mentions)
among them-- Wisconsin Council for Playwrights Award (twice) and
Southeastern Theatre Conf. New Play Award.
Also-- award winning actress, former editor, "THEATRE USA"
Theatre Magazine), reporter, theatre reviewer, creative writing teacher.
Short stories, poetry, articles published in U.S., England, India, Teen Age
Anthologies, and Dramatist Guild Quarterly.
Phew! I did all this plus raising three spectacular children, working
Milwaukee Journal, North Shore Publishing, Temporary Job Agencies, and
The University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Bella: How did you get into playwriting?
What is your background, education
The world of the imagination and fairytales fascinated me from small
off the pages when I viewed my first magical production of Hansel and Gretel.
Thereafter I was hooked on theatre, writing skits, school plays. Also acting--
being very shy-- my escape to be someone else.
After high school, I continued writing and acting, but no plays,
memorizing them was difficult enough, writing them must be really tough to do.
Then I took my first playwriting class (after 30) with Prof. Robert Gard, who
said, "Any one can write a play!" I tried, and the words flowed one after
another, and haven't stopped since. Well, I did "quit" for an interim-- didn't
work. Attended workshops, classes, conferences, but my truly best training was
reading, seeing, and acting in numerous plays, absorbing it all by osmosis.
Bella: Are you involved in any other aspects of theatre?
I have done almost all aspects of theatre-- onstage, offstage, backstage,
working with many theatre groups. The whole process has always been
intriguing-- with a few frustrations. I have a large costume collection.
(Once planning to have my own theatre, but still love playing dress-up.)
Theatre has led to wonderful correspondence with others throughout
world-- a renowned playwright in Iceland, theatre director in Australia, and
numerous students (who act in my plays). A request for plays last year from
Antarctica in the South Pole opened up the whole South Pole world with an
amazing interchange of letters, photos, etc. All from my computer-- my magic
keys for entering world web of theatre. (I began on a manual typewriter--
with carbons-- gave my characters short names.)
Bella: Can you comment on your writing style?
Are your plays more character or
Writing Style-- Not sure if I've really developed one, having written
various styles. But I do know, at this stage, I write what I want, the way I want,
sometimes finding my own form, which may not always fit what is being sought
in the current theatre. Thus I have plays "yet to be performed", waiting for
the right time, if ever. But, it's happened, old scripts are resurrected.
Yes, my plays are definitely character driven. I love people, all
especially the eccentrics of the world and try to people my plays with unusual
characters, roles that actors/actresses will want to play.
You put these imaginary, but real, characters in special settings
and the action derives from that, forming a plotline that seems built-in, after
writing plays for such a long time. All crafts, take practice, genius arrives on
its own. My latest play-- THE GIRL WITH THREE ARMS, began with an
unusual character-- finding the right setting, and the story followed quite easily.
If you have no pre-set notions, (I never outline) you can let the characters
choose their own path, and you follow as quickly as you can.
Bella: What playwights have influenced you?
Tennessee Williams! I've always admired his ability to weave poetry
character together so skillfully. I loved acting in his plays (he writes great
women's roles), because the rhythm made it so easy to memorize (unlike
being in a Lillian Hellman play). Williams' plays have stood the test of time
(after a period of nonfavor) and yes, even he has had nonsuccessful plays
(I keep reminding myself). I've met his mother, brother-- but that's another
story. I'd love to emulate his style, but alas, I am not a poet-- so I utilize my
best talents, in my own way.
Bella: Where do your ideas for plays come from?
Everywhere! But mostly from newspaper stories. I have stockpiles
waiting. Lately I've been involved in Combat Theatre, where 8 playwrights
are given ideas, plus setting, plus characters, and must have a 10-15 minute
play written in 8 hours, with plays directed and produced in another 8 hours,
two nights in a row! Challenging! But I found I can write two pretty good plays
this way-- under pressure with someone else inputting the ideas,
metamorphosing into my own. You must learn to rely on your inner resources,
they're there, waiting to be tapped.
Bella: What is your favorite play and why?
"SUMMER AND SMOKE" by Tennessee Williams, not the greatest
structure, but I could play the role so naturally, because someone had written
it with such excellent insight, depicting the eternal struggle between physical
and spiritual within the same character. My own favorite play is my one woman
monologue "THE WOMAN WITH 27 CHILDREN", which seems to translate
so well into other languages and cultures. (An actress from Brazil even flew up
to meet me, she was so enamored with the play.) It is a simple love story of two
very simple people, based on a newspaper story, and wrote itself.
Bella: What would you say is the most rewarding part of playwriting?
Wow! Just about everything about it has been rewarding, well, except
rejections and tedious mailing out of scripts. But playwriting has enlarged my
world in multiple ways. Had I not been a playwright, I would not have-- --Had
the unique opportunity of staying alone in a beautiful Southern mansion for
two weeks as honoree of Southeastern Theatre New Play Conference. --Had
lunch with my Hollywood Director and talked of "my" movie. --Resided in
the William Inge Room of New Dramatists in NY, while developing a play of
mine for projected Broadway production-- all producer financed. --Attended and
met wonderful theatre personnel at Mt. Sequoyah Play Retreat and Sewanee
Writers Conference. --Been a member of ICWP (International Center for
Women Playwrights) with all its wonderful benefits, and meeting several
members in person. Each day with them is a new gift. ---Seeing my work
performed better than envisioned, as happened with "THE GOLDEN GATE
BRIDGE" at Changing Scene in Denver, CO. --Meeting and corresponding
with all the wonderful people, who work so hard on my plays (some are even
in awe of playwrights).
Nothing-- nothing can buy these unique experiences and magical interchanges.
Bella: Do you have anything else to add?
Lots, but this seems too long already. Within the past month Webster
Theatre Conservatory (training professional actors) asked to use one of my
scenes for scene study (plus studying the complete play-- "A GARDEN OF
WOMEN".) Call from Hollywood theatre director asking for "all my plays"
for possible production. Fruition does not always take place, but hopes and
dreams are always floating. I've also written a novel, "DR. ZASTRO'S
SANITARIUM FOR THE AILMENTS OF WOMEN", I'm seeking to have published
(first researched and written as a play.)
My belief is that plays should ask questions, not give answers or
or they become propaganda or preaching plays. I am Catholic, attending
Charismatic Prayer Meetings weekly, and have a strong basic philosophy.
But, by being a playwright, one must work constantly to comprehend and
accept other viewpoints and try to understand those with a different philosophy,
and why they believe as they do. The wonderful thing about ICWP (and most
play groups) is the diversity of the members and how well they express their
own divergent beliefs. In order to be a playwright of the world you must be
able to portray "all" honestly, delve into their thinking. Being a playwright
should enlarge our acceptance of others, because when you write a play you
are not writing only your view point-- but all those within the play. Without
conflict there is no play. . . .
If you'd like to know more about Ludmilla
Bollow's plays, please visit her
website at: http://home.earthlink.net/~bollow