An Interview with NYPR Playwright Dayna Smith

What draws you to writing for the theater?

I am drawn to the fact that when you’re watching a play, you are watching those real people up there working in that moment that exists only for this specific group of people that will never exist again. Being able to write those magical moments for people that can only be experienced and remembered by those that were there is a special sort of secret, I think. I love figuring out how all kinds of moments and circumstances can exist within this one little box and make a one-time, personal experience for an audience.

What inspired you to write the play for NYPR?

After the election, I was feeling particularly abandoned by the institutions I trusted to make the right choices for my wellbeing, and I began thinking deeper and questioning who really was responsible for my wellbeing and what duty anyone else had to me as an individual. Additionally, I’ve always just been sort of intrigued by the Donner Party and the fact that its a story that epitomizes American determination but, ultimately, could totally have been avoided by a few decisions being made differently. I thought these two different subjects went hand in hand, and thought it would be an awesome opportunity to explore responsibility and who we trust to make our choices and what it really looks like to seek a better life as an American.

Did you listen to specific music while writing the play? If so, what was it?

I create a specific playlist for each play that write and it plays nonstop while I’m working so I condition myself to drop right into the world of the play when I hear those specific songs. For “A Land of Plenty”, I had Lord Huron’s album “Strange Trails” as well as Joel P West’s soundtrack for the movie “The Glass Castle” on loop.

What is one particularly inspiring thing you’ve learned/experienced in theater/writing?

Either in a show/class/workshop/rehearsal/from another person? I have learned to use theatre and playwriting as a source of meditation, not just myself, but for those that find themselves in the audiences of my plays. The same things in life that inspire questions in me or concern me or make me feel strongly are probably things that incite similar reactions in other people, and so I think writing my plays and seeing plays is a really therapeutic form of communal healing.

Who are some current playwrights we should know about?

Charly Evon Simpson, Noah Diaz, Iris Dauterman, Isabella D’Esposito– all brilliant young playwrights!