Meet the Fellows: Riti Sachdeva
This is the latest in our Meet the Fellows series, where the Dramatists Guild Foundation will introduce you to the current class of DGF Fellows. Each of these writers and writing teams have proven themselves to be leaders of the craft whose work we expect to be enjoying for years to come.
Since its inception in 2000, the DGF Fellows program has provided a home for more than 160 writers. Over the course of this year-long intensive, composers, lyricists, playwrights and bookwriters work with professional mentors, honing their individual processes while developing a full-length piece. Beneficiaries of this rigorous and highly selective fellowship receive stipends, development opportunities, and a foothold in the industry. Alumni include Anna Ziegler (Actually), Rajiv Joseph (Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo), and Kristen Anderson-Lopez (Academy Award winner, Frozen) among dozens of other vital contemporary theater makers.
Helmed by Michael Korie (Grey Gardens), Laurence O’Keefe (Heathers, Legally Blonde), Sheri Wilner (Kingdom City) and Diana Son (Stop Kiss), the DGF Fellows program is singular in that it pairs playwrights and musical theater writers, creating a space for diverse and interdisciplinary creators.
Applications for the 2018-2019 program will be accepted until noon on May 2nd, and can be found on the DGF website.
It is our pleasure to help spread their unique and promising voices. Now, get to know Riti Sachdeva.
What was your first experience with theater?
Playing Charlie's Angels on the grounds of the Rindge Towers in North Cambridge, MA. On our skateboards, we'd chase down UFO's who were abducting children. If you count ritual as theater, I remember being little in India and utterly riveted by the intersex/transgender troupes who would perform rituals of song and dance at households where weddings and childbirths were going to take place. I didn't actually see theatre in a theatre space til I was at least twenty years old - Guillermo Gomez-Pena and Karen Finley.
When did you decide to become a writer? Is there a writer, show, or piece of writing that was particularly influential on your path?
I've been writing since I learned to write - whether it was short stories, poetry, journalistic articles, essays, letters, plays, etc. "Becoming a writer" is an identity that is required to be taken seriously from the theatre industry. My actual commitment to the discipline of writing precludes deciding to become a writer; the artistic practice and the career path are two different things. Many writers, shows, and pieces of writing have influenced my path, including and not limited to: the performance art of Guillermo Gomez-Pena, Suzan Lori-Parks, This Bridge Called My Back...
How do you describe your work overall? What sets your work apart?
My work layers the personal, political, and mystical; exploring themes of desire, duty, justice, revenge, loyalty, madness; betrayal; through a lens of race, class, gender, and sexuality.
Can you tell us a little bit about the show you've been developing as a Fellow?
I've been working on two plays that are conversation with each other. I've started calling them the Model Minority Plays.
Welcome to the Taj Palace (motel) looks at a couple of down and out types - a stoner motel clerk in his 20's living/working at the Taj Palace, aspiring to become a lawyer and a part-time sex worker passing through on her way to New Mexico. They both have business with the conservative candidate running for State's Attorney. Did I mention Bhagath Singh Thind, the first South Asian to apply for U.S. citizenship in 1929, is hanging out at the motel?
Thank You, Doctor is about a wealthy family that unravels after the father, a doctor, is convicted of overprescribing opioids and attempted murder and sentenced to life in prison. The play explores the family's wealth and hyper-assimilation, what they do to preserve it, and asks questions about secrets, denial, and loyalty. Did I mention Martha Stewart is a kind of guardian angel in the play?
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a writer?
Great Faith. Great Doubt. Great Perseverance." is one of my favorite proverbs. Through my writing, every single time, I re-live this process and lesson. I start out with an idea that excites me; inevitably end up with a draft or three that are shitty; and am driven to make the idea manifest into a form that is true. This process is both harrowing and rewarding. Pain and pleasure go hand in hand, yes?
Get to know more of the 2018 Fellows here.