INTERVIEW: Ensemble Studio Theatre presents one-act centered on ‘home’

Lynnette R. Freeman and Joe Holt star in On the Outs by Christina Gorman, presented as part of Series B for the marathon of one-act plays at Ensemble Studio Theatre. Photo courtesy of Gerry Goodstein.

The Ensemble Studio Theatre and The Radio Drama Network are currently running their 36th-annual marathon of one-act plays. The theater companies received a whopping 728 submissions this year and filtered the choices down to a select few.

Series A of the marathon wrapped up June 5, while Series B continues until June 26. Series C runs until June 30. All performances run at EST’s main theater on West 52nd Street in Midtown Manhattan.

Series B features a one-act by Christina Gorman, whose plays have been produced or developed by The Public Theater, Alley Theatre, American Blues Theater, EST, Geva Theatre Center and Hangar Theatre, among others. She is an inaugural writer in The Public Theater’s Emerging Writers Group and a former New York Foundation for the Arts fellow.

Gorman’s entry for the marathon is titled On the Outs, and it centers on two long-ago lovers who reconnect and have conflicting definitions of “home.”

Recently, Hollywood Soapbox exchanged emails with Gorman about the play. Questions and answers have been slightly edited for style.

What came to you first, the story or the characters of Jonas and Leticia? How does one begin a play?

The story came first, with Jonas and Leticia appearing just a beat later. I begin a play with an idea, a premise, that I cannot shake. After rolling it around in my mind for weeks or months, it’ll take on characters, snippets of dialogue, plot, etc., until it finally feels like it has the possibility of being a full play and no longer just a premise.

Is having a relatively short running time for On the Outs a blessing or curse? Do you feel free or restricted with a short play?

The short play format was perfect for the particular story I wanted to tell. Short plays for me are freeing because my commitment to it is shorter. There are no subplots or bells and whistles. It does what it does, then ends. There’s something refreshing about that after working for a year or more on a full-length play.

What do you hope the audience takes away from the play?

A deeper empathy for those caught in our prison system when they were young and the disorientation and anxiety of choice they experience when they are finally released into a world that is wholly different than when they left it.

Have you thought a lot about this idea of ‘home’? Does writing a play like On the Outs change your perception of the concept?

I’ve thought about how important it is for people to have a ‘home,’ and by that, I mean a base, somewhere to land, somewhere to feel safe. On the Outs hasn’t changed my perception about it, but it did allow me to explore the concept.

How has it been working with Ensemble Studio Theatre?

A dream. EST is so welcoming. And no matter what the challenge, they work their tails off to solve it, and they do it with huge hearts.

By John Soltes / Publisher / John@HollywoodSoapbox.com

Ensemble Studio Theatre and The Radio Drama Network present a marathon of one-act plays now through June 30. Christina Gorman’s play, On the Outs, will play through June 26 as part of Series B. Click here for more information and tickets.

John Soltes

John Soltes is an award-winning journalist. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, Earth Island Journal, The Hollywood Reporter, New Jersey Monthly and at Time.com, among other publications. E-mail him at john@hollywoodsoapbox.com

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