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Want: Playwright and Director in Conversation

by Kimberly Senior & Zayd Dohrn

Kimberly Senior: From what seed did the idea for Want grow? Zayd Dohrn: I saw some close friends move in and out of addictions and rehabs: for alcohol, drugs, anorexia, shopping. The compulsions all seemed to feed each other, and they grew out of a similar impulse, which was both deeply personal and also shared and cultural. It felt like something worth writing about. KS: Where do you write? Do you have a special space? ZD: mostly in coffee shops. Anywhere that’s crowded, noisy, and public. Being around other people makes me feel less distracted. And caffeine makes me feel like I like writing. KS: I have read two of your plays-Want and Sick-both one word titles, both societal “ills”-is this coincidental, or intentional? ZD: I think it’s a coincidence. My other plays have multiple-word titles. But Want and Sick feel like part of the same project to me: they’re both plays about people trying to contend with a sick culture by withdrawing from the culture entirely. And they’re both about whether that cure ends up being worse than the disease. KS: What number draft of Want is this one? (I have a July draft) ZD: The third. Two theaters-Playwrights Horizons and Victory Gardens-did readings of previous drafts, and I worked on the script both times after hearing it out loud. KS: How did the character of Lee end up in the house? In the play? ZD: I always imagined she met the others in rehab. The religiosity of AA turned her off, and she wanted to try something less mainstream. David’s alternative approach and nonconformist attitude appealed to her. She ended up in the play for the same reason: I was interested in having a character who wasn’t credulous. Someone who, like most of us, thinks she’s too smart and skeptical to follow a guru or be seduced into a cult. KS: Do you think “wanting” is curable? ZD: I don’t think it’s curable. Desire and ambition are part of what make us human. But I do think the insane consumerist greed of 21st century capitalism is treatable. At least I hope it is. KS: If you could dine with any writer-living or dead-who would it be and why? ZD: Rachel DeWoskin. And I’m lucky, because I have dinner with her every night. KS: What are some of your greatest influences in art, music, etc.? ZD: David Simon, Chris Ware, Anne Carson, Bob Dylan, Spike Lee, Andrew Jarecki, Rem Koolhaas, Harmony Korine, Werner Herzog, Phil Ochs… KS: Describe a typical day in the life of Zayd Dohrn. ZD: Write in the morning, teach in the afternoon, play with my daughters in the evening, stay up with my wife at night. That’s on a good day. KS: What do you want? ZD: Inspiration. Health and happiness. A just world. A better jump shot.