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Technique Talk: Playwright Aleesha Nash

Posted by Jackie Mantey | February 27, 2013 12:09 PM

Technique Talk is a weekly online Alive feature that spotlights the process of a Columbus artist. Know someone we should talk to? Send tips to jmantey@columbusalive.com.

After graduating from Otterbein University in 2004, Columbus native Aleesha Nash headed to New York University, where she earned her MA in speech and interpersonal communications.  But it was a project she worked on at the Westerville campus during her undergrad years that inspired the one-woman play that earned her a performance spot at the NYC Emerging Artist Theatre 2013 Festival happening next month. “Yours Truly, Vincent” is based on Vincent van Gogh’s letters to his family and acquaintances during his most prolific creative years. Nash talked to us about why Van Gogh’s story so appeals to her, how she “tricks” herself into writing and who, out of any artist living or dead, she would invite to dinner. Van Gogh, of course, made the guest list.

What kind of art do you make and why?

I am a playwright and performer. My first play is a one-person show called “Yours Truly, Vincent” based on the life and works of Vincent van Gogh, the Dutch Post-Impressionist painter.

My love for Van Gogh started during my second year of college after taking an art history course at Otterbein University. Through reading the 902 diary-like correspondents with his family and acquaintances, I was fascinated with his level of commitment to his craft and his work ethic.  I found myself perplexed at how someone who created as many pieces of art and writings as Van Gogh did, in a short period of time, could be considered “crazy” or suffering from a mental disorder.  So when deciding what story I wanted to share with others,  Van Gogh’s story was high on my list.

The goal of my play is to bring to life his letters written over an 18-year period and recollect encounters with the significant people in his life—family, close friends, and acquaintances.  The audience will experience the compassion and intention behind the life of Van Gogh.

When do you write and why?

I wish I could say that I write every single day before the sun rises, that way it would seem more systematic.  However, I write whenever something comes to mind.  Here in New York City, I use public transportation and during my commute, I jot down my thoughts so I can expound upon them later.  My favorite tool is a program called Evernote.  It helps me to organize my thoughts and this program allows me to access my notes from my tablet, phone or laptop computer.

How often do you write and why?

On average, I write at least four days out of the week. The other days are spent researching, editing and thinking about the next part of the story.  I don’t stress about writing every single day because I do not want to take the fun out of the process.  For me, writing starts with inspiration--so getting out, seeing other plays, hanging out with friends and taking part in new adventures exposes me up to new ideas and new concepts. 

Where do you write and why?

I can find times to write while commuting on the subway but I prefer to seek out coffee shops and cafes in NYC where there are tables, electrical outlets, lots of great coffee, a comfortable seat and fellow creators. I have a cool set up at home along with four different devices to fit whatever my mood is for the moment.  Always being on the move, I find that I can always find a place to write especially in NYC.

What has been inspiring your work lately?

Lately, my work has been inspired by two things. First, the sheer freedom to create without boundaries, and secondly, the realization that the stage is a powerful tool that can be used to inform, inspire, and /or entertain. Simply by sharing stories one can motivate change.

What advice that you’ve found invaluable would you give to a new playwright?

Being a new playwright myself all of this information is fresh and recently tested. One of the best pieces of advice that I received is, “You have everything you need to take the next step.”  I think that one of the challenges that comes with creating original work is that you feel more vulnerable and that leaves you anticipating high levels of fear and rejection.  This level of fear can paralyze you. Paralysis can lead to second-guessing your skill and ability, essentially, prolonging the process of writing. So believing that you have everything you need, NOW, can help you to keep moving. Remember, action informs us!

What do you do while you work?

I love music so I will turn on music in the background and leave it on a continuous loop.

Do you ever experience writers’ block? How do you combat it?

When I experience writer’s block, I find that by getting up and taking a walk, reconnecting with your purpose for the piece you are writing. I also trick myself into my writer’s mindset by putting on what I call my “writing glasses.” These are actually reading glasses but because I am stubborn, I do not wear them as prescribed.  They make me feel and look studious!

Three artists, living or dead, that you would invite to a dinner party:

I would invite Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso and French Post-Impressionist painter Georges Seurat to my dinner party. We would definitely eat dessert first!

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