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By: Gail Obenreder
“I live for the collaborative spirit of the theater . . . where individuals come together to explore ideas and exercise their imaginations.”
Before Cassandra Lewis started writing plays, she was an actor. But frustrated with the superficial roles she was getting to play in the theater, Lewis began writing pieces for herself – first monologues, then plays. She became increasingly fascinated by the ways in which “great plays bridge our imaginations with empathy and social change, revealing perspectives and stories different from our own.”
As a writer, Lewis was influenced early on by her father, an investigative journalist and “the best storyteller I know.” Growing up in Washington DC with a supportive family afforded her the opportunity to take acting classes and see many professional theater productions. There, she came to see clearly how a play can “inspire discussion and build community revealing stories different from our own [where] everyone, including the audience, is part of that magic.”
Lewis was a theatre major who also earned a BA in Psychology and she has earned both an MA and MFA in Writing. She has lived in Santa Fe, San Francisco, and New York City, and there have been numerous productions of 9 published plays (nationwide and in London and Dublin). But two of her parents were raised in Newark, and so “wherever I was living, Delaware was always home.”
TWO WOMEN ON THE SHORE (2020)
TWO WOMEN ON THE SHORE
(EVIE stands center stage, facing the audience. She wears a white
dress and dark sunglasses. She is blind and takes in the sound and
scent of the sea. MAUD, dressed in black, is crouched close behind
her, watching in silence. Their positioning should resemble the
figures in Munch’s woodcut print of the same title and should
appear as if they were one connected shape. After a moment, EVIE
begins fidgeting with her wedding ring, slipping it off and on her
What are you thinking about?
(MAUD’s voice alarms EVIE and she drops the ring. She stoops
and rakes the sand with her hands, trying to find it.)
I told you, leave me alone.
After Hurricane Sandy, she and her partner left Manhattan to move closer to family, and they fell in love with a house in North Wilmington’s Ardentown. “As a playwright, I couldn’t resist living at the edge of a forest named after one in Shakespeare!” Lewis loves the camaraderie of her community, where waking up to nature has “made a tremendous impact on my work.” She also writes fiction and nonfiction, and because she has a young child, often writes early in the morning, “up by 5am to devote at least three hours to work each day.”
As a playwright, Lewis is also deeply inspired by visual art. She’s revisiting how favorite plays have been inspired by artwork: August Wilson’s The Piano Lesson by Romare Bearden’s work of the same name, or Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot by Friedrich’s Two Men Contemplating the Moon. And Lewis continues to explore her own visual inspiration.
Years ago, she saw Edvard Munch’s woodcut titled Two Women on the Shore and found it “so beautifully disturbing” that she wrote a short play with the same title. Produced several times and well-received, it was the work she submitted for her Fellowship application. “Thanks to the Division and this generous award,” Lewis is now revising and expanding it to a full-length play. The Fellowship will also allow her to acquire script-formatting software, learn about online performance, and hire actors.
The playwright also plans to further explore her visual art inspirations, researching abstract painters Grace Hartigan and Lee Krasner, whose work and sacrifices “inform and imbue this reimagined version” of her play. Heartbroken to witness the pandemic theater closings, Lewis has also been “deeply inspired by how resilient our [artistic] communities have been . . . a reminder of the reason why theater has survived 2,500 years.”
Artist website: www.CassLewis.comFellowship Home
Related Topics: 2021 Artist Fellows, art, artist fellowship, arts fellowship, arts grants, Cassandra Lewis, Delaware, Delaware Department of State, delaware division of the arts, established artist, grants for artists, individual artist fellowship, literary arts, literature, playwright, playwriter, State of Delaware, writer