PWTF Spotlight Series: Meet Stephanie Walters
Welcome to our Philadelphia Women’s Theater Festival Spotlight, where we profile the great people involved in this year’s festival. From the founders to the playwrights and directors, we are going to discover all of the moving parts to this amazing festival that is all about giving opportunities for women in theatre.
Meet Stephanie Walters: Stephanie is Philly’s first Asian-American Playwright and her play will be featured as one of this year’s Staged Readings.
How did you first get involved int he Philadelphia theatre community?
After graduating from Bucknell University, I moved back to the greater Philadelphia area to be closer to my family. Philadelphia felt like my natural habitat; I had lived in London and New York City and found the artistic lifestyle of Philly to really align with my personal artistic goals.
When did you first begin writing?
I began writing in college but in a more devised form. I wrote mother’s immigration story that ultimately became a devised piece, directed by Tectonic’s Andy Paris in the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. That’s how I discovered that there are stories that have yet to be told and they live in the people around us every day. In 2016, PWTF approached Philadelphia Asian Performing Artists with the idea of co-producing a reading for their summer festival. They wanted to showcase a female Asian-American playwright from Philadelphia…and there weren’t any. PAPA had to find a playwright from New York City! It was a crushing moment to sit and think how there truly isn’t a single Asian American playwright, let alone a female voice for the Asian American community. I wanted to help fill that void. That summer, I began to develop the voice that shouts into the void, thanks to classes with PlayPenn and mentorship with other playwrights in the city. The emergence of PAPA and the Philadelphia Asian Theatre Project (PATP) have highlighted both a desperate need and an incredible opportunity for local Asian American actors to explore stories written for them and about their experiences and their cultural heritage by Asian American playwrights.
What do you enjoy most about the writing process?
I love creating the world of the play. Crafting a unique world with unique rules; discovering the norms and the society. I also love to utilize historical or political figures in my work, which (of course) requires research. I love learning more about people who interest me and then bending their truths to build a more creative look at their persona. There are quite a few figures in The Elvis Administration that audiences will certainly recognize.
Which female artist inspires you most?
I am currently inspired by the Riot Grrrls movement. This is another example of using historical events and movements in my work. I was asked to write a short play for The Future is Female Festival in Philadelphia and created a piece using Riot Grrrls as my main spine. I am so in love with this movement, I plan on expanding the piece.
What are you looking forward to most at this year’s festival?
I am interested in hearing all the different voices. It’s an exciting time for women to shout and scream and sing. I am ready to hear my fellow female writers’ battle cry ring through the city.