bkONE Reading Series: A Conversation with the Playwright / by Anthony Marino

This Saturday brooklynONE productions will present a reading for North Carolina Playwright Bill Cissna. We wanted to take a moment and find out more about this months featured playwright, and see were he's been and what he's up too! 

Tell us about yourself and what made you being writing plays

Bill Cissna

I was born and adopted in Chicago, and lived in Kalamazoo, MI and Pittsburgh, PA. I earned an English B.A. at Allegheny College, Meadville, PA, and worked there for close to four years after graduation – also meeting my future wife, Kathy, there. We lived and worked in Pittsburgh for seven years after marriage, then moved with our young son to North Carolina in 1986, where we have remained. Kathy was a drama major and has been involved in acting and stage-managing throughout our nearly 38 years together. Our son started young in theater, and today is married with his own daughter and is a full-time theater lighting designer with a master’s degree. During that time, though my career was primarily writing non-fiction, I eventually needed something less…boring…to write during lunch hours and evenings. I turned to short stories (the literary fiction version of the 10-minute plays) and then wrote two novels. But I have become very involved in the theater, and more so since son Andy entered college. During our third year of attending Spoleto Festival in Charleston, SC, in 2006, we saw seven shows in three days. I started writing my first play as an adult while driving home from that Festival.

How long have you been a playwright?

If you don’t count a play or two written in college – and you shouldn’t – I have been writing plays since early June of 2006.

What are some topics or themes you enjoy writing about?

When I first started in ’06, I wanted to write about “serious themes”: the first was about the challenges of finding love; the second, about religious hypocrisy and fakery; the third, about greed; the fourth, about changes in lives of people who know each other, and guilt. Then I decided to lighten up and have even sprinkled in a few comedies, especially after I started writing 10-minute scripts in and around the longer work.

Where are your plays performed most?

At least for their first go-round, my short plays have mostly first appeared at the Evening of Short Plays events affiliated with the Greensboro (NC) Playwrights Forum. That has started to change with time and submissions beyond Greensboro and even outside the state.

How did you get connected with brooklynONE?

Once upon a time (2013), I sent in a short script in response to a call for submissions for the Vince Mazza ONE/Act Festival, called “Communication Gap.” To my great surprise and delight, it got picked for a wonderful production, and my wife and I got to see it being done. It was “Communication Gap’s” second production, and the script has gone on to five other productions since. BrooklynONE also produced a short later on (“Singing a Different Tune”) and used “Some of the People, Some of the Time” in a reading more recently.

Future plans?

Write more plays! Of course, writing now has to fit in with administering the works I’ve already completed, and a new gig as theater writer and critic for the Winston-Salem Journal newspaper – which is a lot of fun, but time-consuming. I have somewhat firm thoughts on a new one-act of an undetermined length, and am trying to formulate a concept for a longer, though possibly no-intermission, script as well.

Check out our reading series performance this Saturday May 14th at Dimensions on Stage 7603 3rd Avenue. The performance is free! Donations are happily accepted! 

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