5 questions for Marine Sialelli, author of Broken Wings

An Interview with Broken Wings creator, Marine Sialelli.  Broken Wings opens November 5th and runs through November 7th.

Broken Wings grapples heavily with Greek mythology.  In your mind, how did the use of myth inform this piece?

I lived most of my life in a town that was founded by the Greeks. I grew up listening to stories where gods and humans would interact all the time, in the most natural way. Writing “Broken Wings”, I just let inspiration come from my childhood and my adolescence. In a way, this is also a play about growing up.

Broken Wings is a work of dance-theatre.  You choreographed as well as wrote the text.  Can you talk a little about how those processes intermingled in rehearsal?

My director and I decided that we would work separately for a little while: she would be rehearsing with the actors and I would be working with the dancers. We kept the conversation open, debriefed each other on the what had happened in the room after rehearsal and also prayed a lot that it would function once we put it all together. The four performers showed an incredible sense of trust in us, for which I am very grateful. It’s true that the dancers had no idea what the actors were doing and vice-versa. It kept them hyper-aware of each other. It was also very interesting in terms of space: Mo (the director) had her blocking and I had my choreography but we knew we would have to share the same space. It was like working with a certain amount of material but keeping enough openness in it for another type of material to be inserted. It was a challenging process but it contributes to make the play alive.

You are a native French-speaking playwright writing in beautiful English.  Do you write in French as well?  Playwright to playwright, I’m curious: how is writing in one language different than the other?

I have not written in French for a while to be honest. Mainly because I find it difficult to be thinking in a language when the world around you is functioning in another. But when I’m in France, the texts I write in my native language. I guess the choice of the language depends also on what I want to write. If I want to work the depths of the language, I tend to choose French, because I find it more flexible. You can take words, change a letter of two or cut it in half and do some sort of collage with the syllables, and it still makes sense for the majority of people. I find it a very interesting thing to do. English is much more resistant to that kind of transformation but because it is also much more concise in its articulation, it allows humor to be manipulated in a way that’s not possible in French. Much of that of course, is based on my personal experience with both languages and the fact that I can’t do something in one or the other is no indication that it can never be done.

Your plays tend to be very philosophical and visually symbolic.  Who (or what) has influenced you to create this kind of work? / Who are your artistic heroes?

Symbols have to do with the fact that I have been living abroad for a considerable part of my life. Words have so much “personal” baggage that sometimes, it is incredibly difficult for a non-native speaker to carry his/her intention. Symbols have the advantage of not being explicit and engaging the reader to find sense in them, rather than just offering meaning as words do.

My artistic heroes are poets, painters, writers and choreographers from all horizons. From Apollinaire to Mario Vargas Llosa, Murakami and Martha Graham, Wong-Kar-Wai and Tolstoi, Baudelaire and Joan Miro, Jiri Kylian and Hokusai, I find that they all have a great sense of image and movement that can be stripped down to the essential when needed. And I find that humanity tends to respond to the essential.

I know you come from a dance background.  Your play is, in a very crude description, about a dancer struggling with his past.  Given that you tend to be such a symbolic writer – what do you think dance and dancers signify in the world of your playwriting?

For me, dancers are the symbol of freedom. They are human beings who have mastered their own bodies and are not imprisoned in them. In my own experience, something very soul-shaking happens when you work years and years on your body and one day wake-up to realize that you control it. It does not control you. The control that comes with it is a flickering power, but the sensation of freedom is something I don’t think I’ll ever be able to forget. Freedom is a notion deeply routed in human consciousness: the idea that we all aspire to, and generally fail to achieve, in many different ways.


About nellietinder

Julia May Jonas founded her multi-disciplinary company, Nellie Tinder, in 2005. Through Nellie Tinder she has created and presented dance-theater, solo shows and original plays at venues throughout New York including PS122, the Ontological-Hysteric Theater, La Mama, HERE, Galapagos, BRIC and University Settlement among others. Her play, For Artists Only was a Backstage “Critics Pick”, and dubbed “Highbrow/Brilliant” by New York Magazine. Her play, EMPIRE TODAY is published in The Brooklyn Review, 2009. She is an 2012 MFA candidate in playwriting at Columbia University where she has received the Liberace and Thea Fellowships. Nellie Tinder is Art. Appropriate and Instructive. www.nellietinder.org.
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