Q What is the main theme that the play explores and how does this production present it?
A The main question is, “Can two people sustain a relationship that lies right between friendship and lovers?” You have your friends, and you have your lovers, and you’re something in the middle. And so the question is can you stay in that relationship where you aren’t really friends and you aren’t really lovers? If so, for how long, and if not, why not? That’s what we explore in the production.
Q What was the playwriting process like for this play?
A For this class, we met twice a week for two hours each time, so it was a lot of class time. And so most of the process was in that class for me. You’re just writing the whole time, then you bring it to class, you choose actors in the class to read your scene, and then you keep writing. So it’s very open-ended, you get to decide if it’s the week when you want people to read yours or not. And then after that class ended the process changed, we had a few rehearsals, read parts of the script and then talk about them and I ask the actors if they like it or not, if it’s weird to them or not, or what they think we should change. The crazy thing about this process is that the actors that play the two main parts have known their characters for just as long as I have. They read the first scene I ever wrote with them.
Q Do you personally relate to the play’s storyline?
A It is a really personal play. It is inspired by the diary of a woman named Frances Willard, who is someone I read about in a class my sophomore year titled “U.S. Lesbian and Gay History,” and it was a really important text to me. It’s beautiful, strange, haunting and confusing. This woman is writing about how much she loves this other woman without even realizing that she is talking about love.
Q Why high school as a setting?
A I didn’t want to write a play about people older than 17. I don’t think you can honestly write that well about a theme that you haven’t really wrapped your head around yet. I’m still in the middle of college. Also, in high school, you are so in your own world. You don’t even really know that there are places beyond your own high school. You are a lot more raw, more sensitive and even more vulnerable.
Q What inspired the title of the play?
A I actually didn’t come up with the title of the play. My girlfriend did. Lips are sensual and evocative, but chapped lips are not. They’re raw and sometimes gross, and you should take care of them. I guess in some way that’s what it feels like this play is about — something beautiful and nice but also so raw that it hurts.
Q Why did you choose the image of a girl lying face down on a beach as the poster for the play?
A The play involves supernatural and communicating with the dead, and it’s also all about being a girl. There are no male characters. So I wanted to have a picture that was feminine and a little spooky, because you can’t really tell if she’s dead or if she is just lying there. To me, a beach symbolizes the idea of being on the threshold, being on the edge. I see the girls in this play as being on the edge of childhood and adulthood because they are now in the terribly awkward moment when you are 17 and you think you are grown up but you are really not.
Q What effect do you want the play to have on audiences?
A I want people to empathize with these two girls who are going through something so terrifying, exciting and awkward at the same time, but I also want audiences to laugh with them. In a way the play feels like a character study because it mostly consists of just these two girls. You don’t meet their parents, their siblings or other people at their school. They’re acting in the school play but you don’t meet the director of the play, for example. I want people to see, through these girls, how complicated sexuality is, and how it is absurd to think that any person even knows what’s going on inside themselves, and how scary it can be to learn something about yourself. I want people to remember that you can really be a stranger to yourself.