Brand new InViolet Lia Romeo tells us about why all playwrights should do literary management work, how she likens trying acting to trying cocaine and how her book inspired countless emo teens to post youtube videos of themselves reciting her words while lounging in bathtubs.
InViolet: How do you identify in the theater world?
Lia: Pretty much exclusively as a playwright. I did a bit of acting when I was in college, and I felt very similar to the way I felt about trying cocaine – that was a lot of fun, and I never want to do it again.
InViolet: You are a brand new InViolet. We’re so lucky to have you. Tell us what your InViolet journey has been like so far.
Lia: I’m so excited to be part of the company! I got to meet some of the InViolet folks when I was part of the Brooklyn Generator in 2015, which was a great experience. After that I went to see InViolet’s production of Bixby’s play Sommerfugl, and I was so impressed, both with the play (which I knew I would be) and with the quality of the production. So I was excited to have the chance to get more involved when InViolet started doing Second Monday Social this past year. Through SMS I met some more company members, and the more people I met, the more I realized that they’re all ridiculously talented, so I emailed Angela and asked if there were other ways I might be able to get more involved. She invited me to come on the retreat this past summer, and then to join the company in the fall.
InViolet: Got a favorite InViolet memory yet?
Lia: It’s more of a memory of a feeling than of a particular experience, and it’s a feeling I’ve had multiple times at different InViolet events – the feeling of being welcomed and accepted into an incredible community. I’m a bit of an introvert, and it’s sometimes a challenge to put myself out there and go to networking events, retreats, etc., but whenever I’ve attended any InViolet event I’ve felt instantly comfortable. Everyone in the company is really, ridiculously nice, and Angela and Michael have created this genuinely supportive and encouraging community.
InViolet: You are the Literary Manager and head of the playwrights group at Project Y Theatre. What’s it like playing those roles?
Lia: I started working with Project Y about four years ago, and it’s been amazing. I think all playwrights should do literary management work (I actually wrote a HowlRound piece about this a couple of years ago), because it’s so eye-opening to see things from the other side. I’ve learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work in terms of how to approach companies, and I’ve gotten to read so many (often great, sometimes not-so-great) plays. I’ve also gotten to meet a fantastic group of playwrights through the playwrights group – we’ve had Pulitzer nominees and alums of Sundance, the O’Neill, Juilliard, etc., and I feel so fortunate to have been able to spend the past few years giving feedback on their plays and getting their feedback on mine.
InViolet: Your play Connected was recently published and had a great run in NYC. What was that whole experience like?
Lia: Amazing! (I feel like I’m using that word a lot in this interview) Michole Biancosino, who’s the A.D. of Project Y and one of my absolute favorite collaborators, was directing, and we had a fantastic cast (the NYIT Awards agrees, as they were nominated for best ensemble!) I get produced a lot regionally, and I love getting to travel for shows, but there’s something really special about having shows in New York where all my friends and colleagues can come see them. I remember walking back through Times Square after opening night feeling like “Okay, I’m really doing this ‘New York thing.’”
InViolet: In addition to being a published Playwright, you can add novelist and humor book author to your list of accomplishments! Tell us about “11,002 Things to be Miserable About” and “Dating the Devil.”
Lia: They’re amazing! Just kidding. (Kind of.) 11,002 Things to Be Miserable About is a humor book I co-wrote with my brother – there’s a book called 14,000 Things to Be Happy About, and we thought it’d be funny to do the opposite. We pitched the project to a few agents and publishers on a lark, and ended up getting a contract right away… and then we had to actually make a list of 11,002 things to be miserable about, so that was a depressing few months. But the book ended up doing really well – it’s sold over 35,000 copies worldwide at this point, and there are quite a few YouTube videos of emo teens doing readings of it (sometimes while lying in bathtubs pretending to slit their wrists).
After that book came out, I figured it wasn’t really that hard to get a book published (spoiler alert: not true), so I decided to write a novel. Dating the Devil is a chick lit spoof based on my experiences from my single days – a girl falls in love with the perfect guy, only to realize that he’s been keeping a very dark secret… he’s actually the human manifestation of Satan. She ends up deciding that it’s not necessarily a dealbreaker, and romance ensues. I had a great time writing it and it did end up getting published eventually, as well as being optioned and developed as a TV movie.
InViolet: This past summer you were a guest artist at The Last Frontier Theater Conference in Alaska. How was that experience?
Lia: Very intense and incredibly rewarding (see how I found another way to say amazing?) I attended the conference several times as a playwright back when I was in grad school, and it’s a crazy experience – two hundred playwrights and actors, plus thirty or so guest artists, convene on a tiny town in Alaska for a week of hearing and workshopping new plays and not sleeping (because the sun never goes down!) The conference is actually where I first met Erin back in 2008 (?), so it’s indirectly responsible for my entire association with InViolet! This was my first year as a guest artist/panelist, so I was responding to other writers’ plays, and it was a really lovely recognition of how far I’ve come in my career to be able to be on that side of things.
InViolet: You’re very involved in the NJ theater scene. Why should folks see theater in the Garden State?
Lia: I feel so lucky to be a theater artist in New Jersey (I’m based in Hoboken), because it’s really the best of both worlds. You have access to the New York theater scene, and you also have access to one of the most vibrant regional theater scenes in the country. Apparently New Jersey has the third largest number of Dramatists Guild members in the country (behind only New York and California), and there are so many great-quality professional companies. I often see better theater in NJ than I do in the city.
InViolet: What’s next for you?
Lia: I have a couple of readings coming up through Writers Theatre of New Jersey this month (speaking of the New Jersey theater scene) – one of an older play and one of a brand new play that I haven’t heard in front of an audience yet. I also have a production coming up in a couple of months – my play THE GRAND TOUR, which I originally wrote for the Brooklyn Generator, won the New Jersey Playwrights Contest last year and is getting a developmental production this spring.
Personal Website: http://www.liaromeo.com/
Playscripts Page: https://www.playscripts.com/playwrights/bios/1682
Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/Lia-Romeo/e/B001JS7Z00/ref=dp_byline_cont_book_1
Project Y Page: www.projectytheatre.org