Interview with Deborah Zoe Laufer
Windy City Playhouse: Let’s start simply. When did you first start writing plays?
Deborah Zoe Laufer: I was an actress the first half of my life, and did a couple of years of stand-up. I started my first play, MINIATURES, when I was pregnant with my older son. I was a member of Polaris North, an acting company in NYC and they told me if I finished it fast, they’d put it up, so I finished it FAST and got to act in it before my son was born. It was such a wild thrill, I was hooked.
WCP: Which playwrights, or writers of other genres, influence you?
DZL: Of course I love the classics — Chekov and Williams and Shakespeare and all the plays that everyone has to say she loves. But mostly I love my friends’ plays. I’m interested in what people have to say who are living now and writing about it. New voices. Fresh approaches. I’m lucky to have a lot of great friends and they write a lot of great plays and I would never be fool enough to pick favorites!
WCP: What inspired you to write End Days?
DZL: I heard a report on NPR that 40% of the country was Evangelical. I thought — that can’t be right. I must have heard wrong. So I started reading more and more and more about it and discovered it was true. I’m fascinated when I suddenly see the country new. I’m fascinated when I don’t understand something — a perspective that seems really far from where I am and how I see the world. I want to climb inside it and see what it’s like. I usually crawl out even more confused and with more questions. But confused and with questions is where I usually like to be.
WCP: In what ways do you think questions of religion, faith, and the afterlight impact our modern society?
DZL: I hope the play can say it better than I could here.
WCP: Talk about the role of 9/11 both in your writing career and in the world of END DAYS.
DZL: I didn’t intend to write a play about 9/11. I tried to find something huge and terrifying and catastrophic that would make a Jewish, atheist, intellectual turn to Jesus for comfort, and that seemed like the answer. And then when I started reading about people’s experiences of 9/11, and I started reading about descriptions of The Rapture, they seemed so alike, I knew I’d found something.
WCP: What impact do think tragedies like 9/11 play have both on a community as a whole and on the artists within that community?
DZL: Anything that shakes us up and makes us question our previous assumptions is something worth making art of.
WCP: Define “faith.”
DZL: Faith is what we need to believe in order to get out of bed every morning. If I didn’t have faith in gravity I’d be back in bed, clinging to the bedposts.
WCP: What do you hope audiences are thinking about after experiencing this play?
DZL: I hope they have a lot of questions. I hope they hold someone they love a little tighter. I hope when they’re about to dismiss someone because they think they know what he’s about, they think again.
WCP: To steal from James Lipton… If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
DZL: Heaven doesn’t sound like it’s for me. I want to be provoked and confused and conflicted and thrilled and surprised and annoyed, and deeply hurt and deeply inspired and changed and changed again. Human is endlessly satisfying to me. So… I guess the best a god could say to me would be — I’m sending you back to earth!