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Interview with Playwright, Anita Simons – A play into a book…

Interview with Playwright, Anita Simons who wrote the gutsy, shocking and enlightening play…Heartland

Anita Yellin Simons

About Anita’s Play:  Heartland reflects on the intersection between these two historic events through the story of a German-born widow and her family who take in two German Prisoners of War to work their family farm. But the German-American family and the POWs bond too well for the townspeople to accept, and the widow is arrested, interned and eventually suffers a breakdown, which tears her family apart. Based on true stories, Heartland illustrates what can happen when fear and prejudice pit neighbor against neighbor in times of war. A dramatic tale that grants insights into American history, Heartland is a winner of the Dayton Playhouse FutureFest and a runner-up for the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award.

  1. How did you and your writing partner come up with the idea for Heartland?

I had already worked on the research for a play about German POWs working on farms in US during WWII after seeing a program on the History Channel. I pitched the idea to Lojo after we met in a playwriting class at UCSD. When we started working on the first draft, I googled “German-Americans during WWII” and up popped an organization and stories about German-Americans who were arrested, interned (like the Japanese) and then sent back to Germany after the end of the war. I couldn’t believe what I had found and actually started contacting the people who were telling these stories. We decided to use a compilation of several of the stories to tell our fictional version of what happened here during WWII due to fear of anyone from Germany or Japan.

  1. How do you think the lessons in Heartland are applicable to the issues going on today?

Oddly enough we started writing this during (what would become) the middle of our current wars in the mid-East. It was the height of suspicion of Muslims or mid-eastern people and reports were coming out on Guantanamo Bay detention camp. All of this seemed to be similar to what happened in the US during WWII. America has always had its groups to use as scapegoats and there were many similarities between 1945 and 2008. It was obvious that the audiences who saw HEARTLAND understood that message.

  1. What is your advice to other playwrights about writing/getting their material produced?

Be prepared for a lot of rejection. Lojo and I were very lucky that our second play together got a production so quickly. I did a lot of networking. You can’t sit alone in a room writing and expect that just by sending your work out to theaters or contests that you will get a production. It helps to know actors and directors not only to hold a reading to hear your work, but also to find a director who shares your vision and wants to get your work produced. I highly recommend joining a playwriting support group and Scripteasers. The latter is a long-standing group in SD comprised of writers and actors who hold readings twice a month and then critique the work. I’ve had every one of my plays read there and then I work more on the piece before I send it out to theaters or contests.  If you want to write plays, then please see plays and read them. Keep on writing. For those old-timers like me, I’ll be teaching an OSHER class in May about my playwriting journey called “From the Page to the Stage.” You can preview a sample of the documentary that was made about that journey at:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Z3yyhajij8

  1. Will the play be performed again?  If so, where?

We hope so, but nothing in the works yet.

  1. Tell us about the process of having your play published as a book.

My writing partner had submitted the play to Sense Publishers Social-Fictions series and it was accepted. It was a perfect fit for them. That meant we had to do a bit more work in organizing all of our research (thank God I save everything), creating an introduction to the book (which outlined our writing process and how we came to write the play, etc.), a foreword written by the founder and President of the German-American Internee Coalition, a bibliography, and acknowledgements. It was thrilling to see the finished product and our first published book.

  1. How can we purchase the book?

You can preview the book at: https://www.sensepublishers.com/catalogs/bookseries/social-fictions-series/heartland/

and it can be purchased via Amazon or Barnes & Noble or through Sense Publishers

  1. What is next for you/your writing team.

Nothing yet, but after our last comedy, we’re thinking of writing another one!

 

About the Authors:

Anita Yellin Simons is a political activist and playwright who combines both her love of history and activism in her many award-winning plays. From her first play Goodbye Memories about Anne Frank before going into hiding to a later play This We’ll Defend about female rape in the military, Simons presents thought-provoking theater with humor and pathos.

Lojo Simon is a playwright, dramaturg and journalist. Her play, Adoration of Dora, about surrealist photographer Dora Maar, won the David Mark Cohen National Playwriting Award given by the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival and the Association for Theatre in Higher Education. She holds an MFA in Theatre from University of Idaho. Anita Yellin Simons is a political activist and playwright who combines both her love of history and activism in her many award-winning plays. From her first play Goodbye Memories about Anne Frank before going into hiding to a later play This We’ll Defend about female rape in the military, Simons presents thought-provoking theater with humor and pathos.

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