3 Questions with Playwright/Performer Amy Schwabauer

Amy Schwabauer
is a Cleveland-based playwright and actor.  Her writing credits include Fluff Pup (Playwrights Local), the character of “Coach” in Positive Reinforcements (Theater Ninjas), and The Accounts of the Warren County Fair as Observed by a Young Astronaut, a tabletop adventure currently on tour with collaborator Mike Geither. Recent performing credits include Snake Oil (Ohio City Theatre Project), Tingle Tangle (Theater Ninjas), and Left in Ink (Cleveland Public Theatre).

Amy’s new one-person show This is Not About my Dead Dog was originally workshopped in Playwrights Local’s 2016 Play Lab. A full production of this hilarious-but-heartwrenching work opens on January 13 with direction by Dale Heinen.

Find more information on This is NOT About My Dead Dog at http://www.playwrightslocal.org/this-is-not/.

What inspired the writing of this play?

So many things inspired this play. I’ve written five variations of this story, and they were plays with multiple cast members, realistic drama, or cabaret acts, and then I realized that I was most interested in creating a one-woman piece that I could perform. And it suddenly all came together–all the plays I had written in this vein prior, the story that I wanted to tell, suddenly had clarity in this form. But I had to write those other plays first to get to this one, so they all played a role in the creation of this piece.

A lot of stuff about “my dead dog” came from something I wrote when I was dealing with her death, a piece of writing that I swore I would never read and kept locked up in the back of a drawer somewhere. And then one day I found it—that mysterious lost writing—and I was like, “This is it.”

Another big inspiration was working on the show Tingle Tangle with Theater Ninjas, conceived by Ray Caspio and directed by Jeremy Paul. That was the first show I had done in a long time that made me feel like an artist. I wrote a monologue about sex and alcohol that was the basis of Dead Dog when I was originally writing it. Jeremy gave me the freedom to be a writer and an actor and Ray helped me discover how to fearlessly tell my truth. That experience gave me a lot of courage to pursue the creation of my own show.

Rehearsal Photo (Credit: Dale Heinen)

What is like being both the writer and performer for this production? 

Well…it is the most challenging artistic endeavor I have ever undertaken in my entire life. Doing a one-person show uses every muscle, brain cell, and tool an actor has to give on stage, and then some. Doing one-person performance is mentally, emotionally, and physically exhausting—and on top of that, I wrote it, so sometimes the emotions can be overwhelming or I can have some painful moments of doubt.

Thank god for my director Dale Heinen! She has been amazing at helping me tell this story and guiding the story to always move forward. She has also helped me get through those moments of doubt and insecurity; she helps me keep my head in the right place. I’m really fortunate to have a director I can trust on every artistic level. I can’t imagine doing this piece without her.

The best advantage to being the writer is that I am performing the work I want to perform. I’m not agreeing to do a piece of theater that’s been done, or that I’m not 100% interested in or committed to. This piece is me, and this piece is raw and it’s a story that I want to tell. So that’s a really long way of saying, despite the struggle it is the most gratifying work I’ve ever done.

Rehearsal Photo (Credit: Dale Heinen)

What kind of experience do you hope audiences will have at this show?

A good one! Hah! I don’t know. The only thing I can really ask from the audience is to be present in the room with me. I’m really proud of this work, I’m proud of my artistic team, so I hope the audience sees the artistry that went into it all. I hope that audiences laugh. I hope they experience something that gives them pause, better yet a moment that they remember and think about a week or a month later—that would be cool.

I guess on a more serious note, I hope that they leave with a sense of compassion for all those awkward moments we have in life. And that when they experience their own awkward or scary moments they know they can survive—and laugh.