DC-by-way-of-Brooklyn playwright Dani Stoller’s original play Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes is a female-forward work coming to Signature Theatre in Shirlington from February 18 to March 29. Stoller’s piece is part of the Heidi Thomas Writer’s Initiative, which presents world premieres by female playwrights with female directors. We chatted with the up-and-coming playwright to get the lowdown on the play directly from the source and to learn more about what it’s like to work with other talented women in theatre.
On Tap: In your own words, what is Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes about?
Dani Stoller: It’s actually a love letter to my mom. I think it’s also about the ways that we go about getting pleasure, the kind of risks we take and the consequences of the routes we take to getting that gratified – either in terms of the attention or the sex we want.
OT: How much of it was informed by your family, relationships or personal experiences?
DS: Originally, a friend of mine wanted an adaptation of The Scarlet Letter and I was like, “I’m going to try and write that.” But it had already been done by some really great writers. So, I decided to try my own version, and we had been talking about affairs. Not that I would ever recommend anyone having an affair, nor do I condone it, but there’s a lot of thoughts that my mother has on sex and intimacy that are very far removed from mine. Specifically, how can you support your child through something that you are so vehemently against [in a] moral space? It initially started as a reconciliation between two lovers, between the husband and wife. It wound up really being about a reconciliation between a mother and her daughter, because they have to understand one another in order for them to fully get healed in that way.
OT: What has it been like working on this play as part of the Heidi Thomas Writer’s Initiative?
DS: It’s so cool. They do one new world premiere work by a woman every year, directed by a woman, which I think is awesome. I feel really, really blessed about the director we got – Stevie Zimmerman. She’s amazing. We interviewed a bunch of women and she just kind of just fit the bill on all levels of what we were looking for. I was just like, “Yeah, I think that this woman will kill it at the helm of this very odd little piece.”
Stoller’s Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes runs at Signature Theatre from February 18 to March 29. Tickets are $66. For more information, visit www.sigtheatre.org. For more on Stoller and her work, visit www.danistoller.com.
Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave. Arlington, VA; 703-820-9771; www.sigtheatre.org