A Woman Defined

Art & Culture by Mahvash Mossaed

A Conversation with Zoe Kazan: Playwright & Stage and Screen Actor

January 19, 2014

Zoe Kazan was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently resides in New York.Trudy and Max in Love was an SCR commission, developed at the 2013 Pacific Playwrights Festival. Kazan’s first play, Absalom, was produced in 2009 at the Humana Festival at the Actors Theater of Louisville. Her second play, We Live Here, was commissioned and produced off-Broadway by Manhattan Theatre Club in 2011.  Kazan also wrote, executive produced, and starred in the movie Ruby Sparks, for which she was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for Best Screenplay. In addition, Kazan is an award-winning stage and film actress whose credits include Revolutionary Road, It’s Complicated, The Exploding Girl and the upcoming The Pretty One, In Your Eyes, The F Word and HBO miniseries “Olive Kitteridge.”

I had the opportunity for a quick Q&A with Zoe Kazan. Here are some highlights.

Q. Is writing a play an emotional process for you and do you try to project your state of mind in the characters of your plays?
A. I think any artistic endeavor is, by its nature, both emotional and analytic.  Without emotional connection to the material, why create?  And without analytic distance, how can one craft? The challenge is finding the balance, to be able to reach the audience empathically and intellectually.   

Q. What brought on the idea of ‘Trudy and Max in Love’ to your mind and how long it took you to write it?
A. Most of my writing begins with an image:  in this case, I pictured a man and woman alone on a bare stage.  The play sprung from investigating that image and my personal connection to it.  I wrote the first draft of this play in a couple weeks, and have spent the last year re-writing and work-shopping it.

Q. When you were young, did you dream of being an actress and a playwright?
A. Yes!  I feel incredibly lucky to be able to make my living doing the things I love.

Q. Do you enjoy more acting or writing?
A. I consider myself an actor first, writer second, but I enjoy doing both.

Q. What would you be doing if you were not an actress and a playwright?
A. I would probably want to teach young children.

Q. What is your idea of happiness?
A. Being able to do what I love and be with the people I love. To contribute to the world in a way that feels meaningful to me. Knowing that my family and friends are healthy and happy.   Solitude with a good book, sharing a good movie or meal.

After all, her parents are the screen writers Nicholas Kazan and Robin Swicord, and her grandfather was the legendary great director Elia Kazan.

It always fascinates me to watch how the artists who have already had the advantage – or maybe, at times, the burden of having to fly from an already high summit to even a higher summit – break the mold that they were born in and have been shaped into and find their own voice to create their own mold. Such is Zoe Kazan, the 30-year-old, Yale University graduate “drama” playwright and stage and screen actor. Her latest is” Trudy and Max in Love,” showing at the South Coast Repertory.

In “Trudy and Max in Love,”  her third play,  Zoe Kazan examines love and romance with all its ups and downs and complications. Her writing is strong, dramatic, and at times, funny. The story and the superb acting of the play manages to keep the audience engaged and captivated.  Zoe is obviously striving and reaching for more at all times. When you think of it, there is no joy greater than strengthening your wings so you can fly higher and higher, for there is a certain pleasure when you are reaching to that certain height that you never thought you could reach. She is definitely walking on a path to a great destination. She is young, focused, determined, and ready to experiment, take chances, grow and learn. Frankly, with the kind of talent and the roadmap she carries with her at all times, the sky is the limit for her, and we will all be here to watch and to witness her success.

by Zoe Kazan | directed by Lila Neugebauer
January 5 – 26, 2014 | Julianne Argyros Stage

On rare occasions, you meet someone and everything clicks. But is love a choice? Or does it just happen? Trudy writes young adult fiction; Max is a novelist of celebrity status. And their attraction is anything but convenient. This very funny take on an unconventional romance is the latest from the multi-talented Zoe Kazan. A playwright/screenwriter/stage and screen actor on a roll, she’s the author and star of Ruby Sparks, the hit indie film The New York Times called “beautifully written and acted.”

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