Next up, we are presenting Emily Brauer Rogers. Her play “The Paper Hangers” is a modern surreal take on Charlotte Perkins Giman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper”, a mother struggling with postpartum depression takes refuge in The Countryside tended by her husband and her mother. Instead of conforming to her family’s and society’s ideals of motherhood, she is enticed further into her own self by the characters that she encounters.
Let’s meet Emily:
What was the inspiration or motivation to write the play selected for Page to Stage: That’s What She Said?
I had several friends saying to me that I should look at Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s “The Yellow Wallpaper” and think about doing it, but I brushed them aside for a while not sure what I wanted to do with—as I thought about it at the time—“a woman who goes crazy.” (It’s so much more than that). And then I heard a story of the radio about Charles Dickens trying to lock up his wife because he wanted a divorce and the anger I felt made me finally say, “You have to look at that short story.” When I did, I easily found ideas about how I wanted to look at women’s mental health, who believes us and who doesn’t, who gets to control how we’re treated, and how do we reconcile these ideas of motherhood and work. I decided to call it The Paper Hangersbecause to me it’s really about the societal structures that hang the wallpaper that seems to entrap women.
How long have you been writing and who encourages you to write? Who are your influences?
Playwriting has been something I’ve been in love with forever. I’ve been writing since I was 7 or 8 and I would make my cousins perform in plays of mine. I recently found an old folder full of handwritten copies and they’re hilariously horrible. Since then, in high school, I wrote a mash-up of Shakespeare and fairy tales for young kids encouraged by my high school director, Mary Lenning. I continued in college writing a ton of experimental one acts and ten-minute plays and then went to get my MFA at University of Southern California in Dramatic Writing. I’ve been working at my craft for many years, but I still feel like I’m learning new things every day. And in terms of encouragement, I have a wonderful group of friends, collaborators, and supporters that give me great feedback and advice. And my husband, my number one always pushes me to keep writing.
My influences are Caryl Churchill, Tom Stoppard, Sarah Ruhl, Madeleine L’Engle, Haruki Murakami, Amy Sherman-Palladino, and Jenji Kohan. It’s an eclectic mix, but that probably also describes my writing as well.
What do you find gratifying or freeing by writing for theater that you don’t find in writing for other mediums?
I’m a collaborator by nature so I love giving the piece over to actors and directors to see what they do with it. They often bring new life and interpretations that strengthen the piece and help me see it in ways I never thought about. I love that theatre isn’t realism; it can interpret the text in so many magical ways. And I love that theatre creates a mini-world onstage that the audience participates in as well and goes on a journey for the hour or two you spend with it.
What are five things you can’t live without?
Chocolate, particularly malted milk balls.
Of course, my family.
What was the last book you read?
Colorless Tsukuru Tazaki and His Years ofPilgrimage by Haruki Murakami. He’s one of my favorite writers because of his magical realism and his ability to make us feel the loneliness of his characters—and in that way makes us feel like we’re not so alone.
What do you have coming up next?
The Paper Hangersis going to have a reading in Nashville, TN and my play Gemini Complexis going to be part of GreenReads at Theatricum Botanicum.
In terms of writing, I’m working on a female baseball play call Bloomer Girls that follows a barnstorming women’s team of the late 1800’s as they travel through the West. And you can always follow what I’m up to on my website, www.emilybrauerogers.com.
“The Paper Hangers” is directed by Katie Chidester and will be performed Saturday, August 31 at 3pm along with “Deanna and Paul” by Dagney Kerr. For more information on Emily, please visit her website at www.emilybrauer.com. To purchase tickets for this show, please visit https://www.ci.brea.ca.us/1236/Page-to-Stage-Playwrights-Festival-2019