You want to get to know Megan Hart. She has a play opening in Mexico City this Fall. She’s a writer, an actor AND a Social Worker. She has a living situation that’s pretty much a real life Muppet-less Sesame Street. Oh, and she almost passed on joining InViolet because of our members’ insane food restrictions. We’re so glad she stuck with us!
InViolet: How do you identify in the theater world?
Megan: These days, primarily as a writer, though that’s still a fairly new title for me. I’ve spent the majority of my life in the theater as an actor, and while I will probably always consider myself one, it’s not entirely where my focus is now.
InViolet: What has your InViolet journey been like so far? You are one of our founding members!
Megan: I am! Which is so funny because at the time, I don’t think I really understood that we were actually ‘founding’ anything. I had been in a writing class with Michael Henry Harris led by Stephen Adly Guirgis, which then morphed into a writers group when the class ended. One day Michael invited me to come upstate for the weekend with some other actors to workshop some writing we’d done and without somehow grasping that what he was talking about was possibly starting a theater company, I was like, sure, that sounds fun, sign me up. I remember having second thoughts in the van on our way up to the retreat. We stopped in the middle of nowhere shopping center to get groceries and suddenly it was like 15 actors all being like, ‘I’m just going to get my own ingredients because I only eat organic/I only eat whole grain/I can’t be in the same room as dairy/I’m on a grapefruit, kale, and marshmallow diet/I’m a freegan’ and I called my then-boyfriend (now husband) from the parking lot and was like, ‘you might have to come pick me up.’ Luckily I got over myself quickly and stuck with it for what turned out to be a totally magical weekend and start to something so special. One of the best decisions I’ve made. InViolet has changed and grown so much, and still remains the place I feel most at home and most challenged to keep going and keep making work.
InViolet: Do you have a favorite InViolet memory you can share?
Megan: Oh man, how to pick one. There was sharing a room on the first retreat with Sara Van Beckum and Melanie Maras (SARAMEGANMELANIE!), getting to act in Melanie’s play, KISS ME ON THE MOUTH, directed by Stephen Adly Guirgis, getting to act in Michael Henry Harris’ 40 WEEKS opposite my husband, but the biggest and best has to be standing in the Cherry Lane Studio Theater in 2012 watching the set come together for my play, THIS IS FICTION. It suddenly became real and I was struck by how many incredible people were coming together to create this world, to make this THING happen, which had started out as just this seed in my brain. I was so moved by it. It was what theater people (and InViolet especially) do so well–show up and make something out of nothing. And it was my nothing!
InViolet: You are a true theater… hybrid? A… hyphenate? Hmmm. What we mean is, you act and you write and do both tremendously well. Would you say they are equal passions for you? Does it ever flip flop depending on what’s happening in your life?
Megan: That is very generous. I think they are equal passions for me. Though, as I mentioned, at this point in my life, writing feels more aligned with where I’m at. I don’t feel driven to act in the same way I do to write, or in the same way I used to. There was a point in my life where I couldn’t ever have imagined acting taking a back seat to anything–it was such a big part of my identity and nothing felt as satisfying or exciting. That no longer feels entirely true for me. But I do think that my passion for, and affinity for acting, plays a big role (oops. har har.) in the way I approach my writing. I have to say also, that having two small kids at home has made me pretty protective of my evenings, so I’m less inclined than I once was to want to spend every night at the theater. On a practical level, at this stage, (gah! somebody stop me!) writing fits better for me. But sometimes I do get an intense pang for being on stage, and I do try to take any opportunities that fall into my lap. I’ll always love both! Don’t make me choose!
InViolet: You’ve acted in several of our World Premiere productions, namely Melanie Maras’ KISS ME ON THE MOUTH and Co-AD Michael Henry Harris’ 40 WEEKS. Is performing in your own company’s plays a different experience at all to working with outside companies?
Megan: It definitely is. I mean, when you’re working with an ensemble of people you know well and have worked with in some capacity before, there’s a built-in bond, a shared language, and some level of safety that takes time to build with a cast that is just coming together for a project. There’s also the fact that for the most part, we’ve all been part of watching and hearing these plays develop throughout meetings and retreats and workshops, so there’s an investment that comes with that, as well as opinions and expectations and agendas that you’re (for better or worse) bringing in to the process. Our ADs really make an effort to give our actors room to focus solely on their job during the process while the rest of the company is busy working in other ways to make the production happen, but even still, one can’t help but be party to things going on behind the scenes that you might not be aware of in a setting where you’re not part of the company producing the piece. And as a company member, you have a double layer of caring about all that other stuff, and investment in the show being a success, which is amazing! And also hard!
InViolet: Your play THIS IS FICTION was our 4th World Premiere. How was that whole experience for you?
Megan: Exciting. Hard. Fun. Challenging. Terrifying. Exhilarating. Moving. Joyful. Humbling. Educational. Amazing. I’m so full of pride and gratitude for that experience. It was my first full-length play, ever. And this group of incredibly talented people took me seriously enough as a writer and believed in it enough to produce it. Totally crazy and totally awesome. The cast was a dream and made brilliant things happen even as I kept rewriting and rewriting and rewriting–InViolets Aubyn Philabaum, Michelle David, and Bernardo Cubria are outstanding humans and everyone should hire them all the time. Richard Masur’s talent and generosity was such a gift to me and the production, and I so cherish my friendship with him. And Shelley Butler is such a smart and shrewd director and did so much to shape the script into the play it is. I’m forever grateful.
InViolet: Speaking of THIS IS FICTION… it is getting a production this Fall in Mexico City? Whaaaaaat? How did this happen? Is it being performed in Spanish? What a wonderful thing!
Megan: Right?! This is all thanks to the wonderful Mariana Fernandez, who had seen the show a few times and really connected with it. She approached me about wanting to do a production in Mexico City, where she was living at the time. She thought it would really resonate with an audience there and wanted to see it done. It’s been translated into Spanish and is set to open in the Fall, which is so exciting. And InViolet is now lucky to have Mariana as a company member as of this year!
InViolet: Your play GATED was a Finalist for the 2015 O’Neill National Playwrights Conference and an Honorable Mention on the 2016 Kilroys List. You are fancy! We were lucky to present it a few years ago as one of our InViolet InProgress Workshop showings. It’s one hell of play. For folks that don’t know it, tell us a bit about it. What do you hope to see happen with the play?
Megan: Well, sheesh. GATED takes place over the course of one evening in a home in an affluent suburban community. Upstairs, the couple of the house has invited another couple over for a dinner party, while downstairs the couple’s teenage daughter is having two of her friends over for a sleepover. It’s about what happens when private tragedies are made public, about the small ways we exert power and privilege, about mean girls and mean grown-ups, and etouffe and middle school. I think it’s funny and a little bit scary. I’d love to continue working on aspects of it and am hoping to find a place or process to develop it further. But mostly I’d love to see it done!
InViolet: Let’s chat about HEYHOWAREYA. This feels like a bit of a departure play for you. Would you agree? And you wrote the first draft pretty darn fast last year in preparation for our Play Festival. What did you learn writing so quickly like that? We’re excited we’ll get to experience the play again this summer as part of Project Y’s Women in Theatre Festival!
Megan: Yes, I think the world and the population of the play is different than some of my other writing, and the process of writing was different for me than anything else I’ve done. I wrote the first draft (minus the first 10 pages) in less than a month leading up to the reading it received as part of our play festival. Another instance of the incredible support and faith of the company that anyone let this happen! For me, deadlines and accountability are crucial to getting me to move past my inner critic and just get the damn words on the page, so having this hard and fast goal was really helpful. It provided momentum that allowed me to just ride the wave of the voices I was hearing for these characters and kept me from getting hung up on getting it “right” instead of just getting it done and seeing what emerged. This was particularly helpful with this play since it was the first time I let some of my experiences in my other life as a Social Worker seep in a bit, which brought up a lot of anxiety about who gets to tell what stories and whether this was mine to tell and how I should tell it. I’m someone who could spend the next ten years debating this internally and never actually writing a word, so having a reading scheduled and publicized helped stop that from happening
InViolet: Your partner is a theater artist as well. He actually acted in an InViolet play with you once! Do you find that having a partner in the same field is helpful?
Megan: He is! We did! In 40 WEEKS we played a married couple whose marriage was falling apart as they neared the birth of their first child–all while we were engaged in real life. It was pretty trippy, but ultimately very healthy, I think? We’ve survived marriage and two kids so far, so thankfully life doesn’t always imitate art. I loved getting to act with him–he’s one of the most generous and present actors I’ve ever known, so I felt very lucky. And then we got to do it again in a reading of Bernardo Cubria’s fantastic play, THE REDHEAD IS COMING, in which we played a recently engaged couple who decide to have a threesome to solve their issues. So, you know, that one hit closer to home.
It’s actually great having a partner who is in the same field, though I also just can’t imagine it any other way. But it is really great to have a shared understanding of this crazy life and path, and a shared passion. But we also have a lot of things we do separately and a lot of different interests, which I think is also really important. If we spent all our time talking about theater we’d probably bore ourselves out of a marriage and that’d be a bummer, cause I really like him.
InViolet: You have a whole other career outside of the theater as a Social Worker. What is the day-to-day life of a Social Worker look like? Do you think being steeped in this world informs your work as an artist at all?
Megan: I do! The day to day depends so much on what area of Social Work you’re in, and one of the amazing things about the field is just how varied it is. I work as a psychotherapist, so I see clients on an individual basis for treatment. I think yes, being in social work has in very deep ways informed how I understand the world–human behavior, resilience, psychology, the structures and institutions we function in, justice, race, class, gender, sexuality, all of it. And that understanding has affected not only who I am but what interests me, what I want to say, what stories I am compelled by, what questions I have. I have to say, I am really really proud to be in this field. Now more than ever, the mandate of social workers to address the needs of underserved and marginalized people, to advocate for social justice, is so essential. And so is art that speaks to our humanity!! Now I’m getting excited. So yeah, I hope those values seep into my work as an artist.
InViolet: You have a unique NYC living situation, where several of your family members live in the same building as you. They make sitcoms about this sort of thing! Would you say there is a lot of family togetherness happening? Ever have to slam a broom handle on the ceiling to say “Hey! Mom! Keep it DOWN!?”
Megan: We really do need to make a sitcom about it. It’s like the most New York thing that’s ever happened. We’re basically re-creating tenement life in 2017. No, but seriously, it sounds crazy (and is), but is really kind of amazing. Especially now that we have two small kids, I really appreciate the whole ‘village’ we’ve got going on. It’s great for like, ‘I’m in the middle of making meringue and just realized I’m out of cream of tartar can I come upstairs and get some,’ or when I’m really lazy but my kids are stir-crazy and I’m like, ‘let’s go deliver packages to your aunt on the 3rd floor!’ but gets less charming when you’re stumbling home drunk with your date and run into your cousin. Luckily we’ve all sort of outgrown that particular phase (MOM. sheesh.). To top it off, my cousins own a cafe downstairs where they sell baked goods by my aunt, and have just opened an amazing new restaurant designed by another set of talented cousins. So basically, throw in a few Muppets and you’ve got Sesame Street.
InViolet: What’s next for you?
Megan: In May I have a short piece going up at Mile Square Theater as part of their annual 7th Inning Stretch, directed by InViolet Mark Cirnigliaro (yay). Fellow InViolet Erin Mallon’s also got a piece in it and I’m always psyched to be working alongside her cause she’s amazing. There’s the Project Y Women in Theater festival where my play HEYHOWAREYA is going to be presented with InViolet in June, which I’m excited about. Plus some other writing projects I’ve got bouncing around in my brain.