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The Distancing Diaries: Playwright Bess Wohl on Homeschooling and Writing Poetry

April 28, 2020 by Suzy Evans
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Bess Wohl (Photographed by Walter McBride)

Welcome to The Distancing Diaries, where we chat with members of the theater community about how they’re staying creative and inspired in the time of social separation. While we can’t go to a show (for now), we hope that by sharing stories from the field, you’ll find comfort, solace, and maybe a few new ideas of how to pass the time. 

Bess Wohl, whose play “Grand Horizons” was on Broadway earlier this season, shares what’s keeping her inspired during quarantine, her favorite cookie recipe, and why she thinks live-streamed events are a great way to connect with theater.

How has COVID-19 personally affected you? 
I’m isolated with my family now, and my kids are being (badly) homeschooled by me. I have learned that I was not meant to be a lower-school teacher, and have the greatest respect for what teachers do. I greatly miss our community and am just devastated by the many losses and absences that this virus has brought. 

What is keeping you inspired during this time?
Poetry is helping me the most. I don’t have the time or energy to focus on anything long, but a poem is the perfect size for me right now. The Poetry Unbound podcast is just the length of time it takes me to shower or do the dishes, and the contact with art refreshes me enormously. 

How are you staying creative?
I’m writing shards of poems, bits of things, and reflecting. 

“Grand Horizons”

How are you practicing self-care?
For me, the little bits of inspiration are my self-care. I’m also texting with friends, drinking tea, eating lots of cookies, stretching my back for a few minutes every morning, and taking the occasional bath at night. 

What is something (or a few things) great that you’ve watched?
This week we watched “The Incredibles” and “Incredibles 2.”

What is something that you’ve enjoyed reading?
“Meditations in an Emergency” by Frank O’Hara. “Each time my heart is broken it makes me feel more adventurous.”

What are you listening to?
We are listening to “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves on repeat. 

Have you gotten into cooking or baking? What’s something that you’ve enjoyed making, and if you can, can you share the recipe?
Toll House cookies from the back of the bag of chocolate chips and those are just the best thing ever. I made two dozen and they were gone in about an hour. Now I’m realizing I need to make them again immediately. 

How do you think people can support theater and the arts community and engage with it during this time?
Give money, watch the incredibly creative livestreams and performances that are popping up and have the courage to come back to the theatre when it’s safe again. We will be there for you!