The Interview Project: Erin Courtney

Interview by Will Arbery
April 13, 2020

"Another thing that is helping me get through this are the paper flowers that my friend David E. Johnston makes and then sends me in the mail. #agiftoftongues" —Erin Courtney

What fills your days? 

Luckily, I am teaching. The Brooklyn College MFA Playwriting students are wildly brilliant. Even though we meet online, their creative and intellectual work buoys me. They really show up for each other which is inspiring.

So my days include reading, teaching online classes, a little bit of homeschool teaching of my teenage kids, watching the brilliant Schitt’s Creek, brainstorming with my husband Scott on how to keep The Brooklyn Writer’s Space afloat, and reconnecting with friends and family over the phone and through Zoom.

This week, I am going to be rehearsing a play via Zoom through The Playwrights Center. Hayley Finn will be directing it. There will be a ZOOM reading on April 17th 3:00 EST. I am really curious to see how “distance” rehearsing will work. Here is the link if you are curious too

What is your relationship to work during crisis?

Grief makes my body and my mind slow down. Everything, even making a sandwich, takes a lot longer and sometimes very ordinary actions feel impossible. Mac Wellman says “Write the play that you can write right now.” And that is the advice I give my students and friends. Things are broken right now. We might be writing broken plays, or plays filled with silence, with loneliness, with anxiety, with rage. This is a time of transformation and even if I write nothing during this crisis, I will be changed by it and hence the work will change.

What or who is inspiring you right now? What or who is beautiful?

Every essential worker that is risking their lives for the sake of others is beautiful and inspiring. I am also inspired by people who are finding ways to connect right now. My neighbor, Gretchen Grace, is a genius photographer. She has set up a social distance portrait studio on her stoop. At lunch time, she sets up her camera on a tripod on the sidewalk and then from the top of her stoop, she asks neighbors on their rare outings to the store or walking the dog, if they would like to be photographed. She can’t see through the lens and she clicks the photo using a remote from about ten feet away. Despite the distance, the portraits are so intimate and open. Check them out, and her other work too, on Instagram.  @_gretchengrace_

What are you dreaming of making, once we can gather in rooms again?

Broken plays that invite new beginnings. Also, I dream of being in an audience listening and laughing together.


Erin Courtney is the recipient of a Harold and Mimi Steinberg Charitable Trust Commission.