ONSTAGE Playwrights 2017: Meet Philana Omorotionmwan

Every year we interview our winning playwrights, and this year is no exception!  Join us over the coming weeks as we post more interviews with playwrights, along with information about each play’s director and cast!

This is the first year I’ve gotten to read Philana’s work, but I tell you what – I look forward to reading more of it!  Her play, THE WORST OF ALL EVILS, is a quick and powerful look at the Pandora myth – but the way she’s written it, you really feel for Pandora in a way that highlights just how absent the voice of women (especially women of color) is in popular history and mythology.  The play is also funny, and with awesome actors Mikki Russ and Kevin Goss in the roles, I’m having a blast directing this super awesome piece!


If you could have one super power, what would it be and why?

Healing power might be nice because there’s a lot of pain and suffering in the world I’d like to end. That’s one of my goals for my writing, but I suspect I’m the only person I heal with it. And then I only do so partially.

Describe your writing space…

It changes, but I usually write first drafts by hand in my bed. Second drafts are on my laptop in my couch. Any subsequent drafts get written on the floor of my meditation room. I spread out the handwritten draft, typed drafts, and any notes I’ve gotten in front of my altar and get to work. I really just need to invest in a really big desk.

What is the title of your play?

The Worst of All Evils

How did this year’s ONSTAGE theme inspire you to write/share this play?

I’m currently in grad school at Ohio University, where we write, cast, direct, and stage short plays every week on different themes chosen by our classmates. I wrote this play a few weeks earlier in response to the theme “Privilege,” but I think it definitely fits better with “Hot Mess.” Greek myth blames Pandora for releasing everything evil, thus creating the “hot mess” that is today’s world.

What play (by another playwright) have you read a gazillion times, and what about that play keeps you coming back to it? 

I often return to Funnyhouse of Negro by Adrienne Kennedy because I want to figure out how to do what she’s done in it with language and visuals. However, I’ve probably read A Raisin in the Sun more than any other play because I had my classes read it when I was a high school English teacher.

Do you have any upcoming productions elsewhere that our readers should know about?

I don’t have any productions coming up in the near future. However, my thesis play (currently titled A Sway Too Free) will receive a workshop production at Ohio University in Spring 2018. I haven’t written it yet, but it’s going to be about how society polices black femininity.

Please share a brief synopsis for a full-length of yours that our readers should know about!

This is the blurb for my full-length Strong Face: Maybe it’s her “energy.” Maybe it’s her hair. Or maybe it’s just her skin. Whatever it is, no one in Follywood seems to be able to see that actress Bentley Jones is a woman. Not even her hip-pop star girlfriend Yoni Baker. Or her man-in-a-dress rival Whip Williams. But when Bentley learns that major studio 19th Century Cocks has greenlit a slavery-themed biopic guaranteed to earn its female star an impOSTOR nomination, she has to decide if she’s ​ready for her real close up.​

Philana’s Bio:

Philana Omorotionmwan is originally from Baton Rouge, LA. Her writing frequently explores how the processes by which we are “othered” can often restrict us from experiencing the fullest expression of ourselves. Her play BEFORE EVENING COMES was developed as part of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, the Br!nk New Play Festival, and the La MaMa Experiments Series. FIREFLIES has been developed at the UC Berkeley TDPS New Play Reading Series and STRONG FACE was recognized by KCACTF Region II as a Finalist for the NPAT Award. Production of Philana’s short plays includes THE SETTLEMENT (Ensemble Studio Theatre) and BLACK BOYS DON’T DANCE (Manhattan Theatre Source), and her ten-minute play DIS DA HOOD was a finalist for the 2016 Heideman Award. Philana earned her BA from Stanford University and is currently pursuing an MFA in Playwriting at Ohio University. philanaplays.weebly.com

You can learn more about Philana at philanaplays.weebly.com or follow her on Twitter @playphiphiplay

And don’t forget to grab your tickets to the 2017 Female Playwrights ONSTAGE Festival: Hot Mess running July 6-8 at the First Congregational Church in Prescott, AZ.

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