Zayd Dohrn has lead a colorful life. As the son of former Weather Underground radicals Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, he started out his early childhood in hiding until the age of 4. Now, as an adult, Zayd has become a successful playwright and screenwriter. His plays, including "Sick," "Magic Forest Farm," and "Reborning," have been produced and developed across the country, including at Manhattan Theatre Club, Berkshire Theatre Festival, MCC, Marin Theatre Company, The Public (SPF), Naked Angels, South Coast Rep, The Vineyard, Southern Rep, Kitchen Dog, The Lark, New York Theatre Workshop, and San Francisco Playhouse.
He earned his MFA from NYU and was a Lila Acheson Wallace Fellow at Juilliard. He received Lincoln Center's Lecomte du Nouy Prize, Theatre Masters' Visionary Playwrights Award, the Kennedy Center's Jean Kennedy Smith Award, and the Sky Cooper New American Play Prize, as well as residencies and/or commissions from Ars Nova, Alchemy Theatre, Dallas Theatre Center, The Stella Adler Studio, and the Royal Court Theatre of London.
He is currently writing screenplays for American Film Company and Vox3 Films, a television series for HBO, and is a member of the WGA and the Dramatists Guild. His latest play, "Outside People," directed by Evan Cabnet, is currently playing at The Vineyard Theatre in conjunction with Naked Angels. "Outside People" is a darkly comic new play that tells the story of a young American man, "Malcolm" (played by Matthew Dellapina) who falls in love with a young Chinese woman, Xiao Mei (Li Jun Li). But as his eyes open to the subtle social, political and economic forces that inform their relationship, he must confront his complex place in this foreign culture, the friendship that brought him there, and his own deepest fears and desires. "Outside People" will play through January 29 at The Vineyard Theatre in NYC's Union Square (108 East 15th Street). Click here for tickets!
For more on Zayd be sure to visit http://www.zayddohrn.com and check out the trailer of "Outside People" below!
1. Who or what inspired you to become a playwright/screen writer? Reading/seeing the work of my favorite writers over the years, and wanting to be a part of that club. Or at least part of the same general profession as brilliant people like Tony Kushner, Caryl Churchill, Spike Lee, David Simon, Edward Albee, Joel and Ethan Cohen, Martin McDonagh, and Stanley Kubrick.
2. Who would you like to work with that you have not? Jeanine Tesori, Anne Kauffman, Scott Ellis, Sam Gold, Alex Timbers, Thomas Bradshaw - some are friends, some I've never met. But I've admired all their work for a long time.
3. What made you want to write "Outside People" and what do you hope audiences come away with after seeing the show? I've spent a lot of time in China over the last few years, and I wanted to write something about the weird feeling of dislocation I always get there. It can be really exciting and inspiring to find yourself in a new context, but it's also disorienting and lonely. And I don't think it's a feeling that's specific to China - the world is changing so quickly, we're all in a constant state of culture shock these days. And I guess I hope audiences come away with a feeling that they've visited an unfamiliar place, and that it's made them think differently about themselves.
4. What excites you about having this cast bring your work to life even more? It's incredibly exciting. The characters in this play are really culturally specific and maybe unfamiliar - a Chinese girl trying to find a new life in Beijing, an African girl who grew up in China, a Chinese man who spent many years in the States becoming "Westernized" - but our actors are so good, and so vividly human, I think audiences will feel like they know these people.
5. What do you get from teaching that you don't get from being a writer exclusively? I get to interact with other writers, and to think about writing as a craft in a way that's social and not just in my head. And I get to be constantly inspired by my students and colleagues.
6. What made you decide to spend part of your time in Bejing and part here in the US? What does this split give you creatively and personally? My wife, Rachel, spent a lot of her life in Beijing, so when we met, I started tagging along. Outside People is the first time I've written specifically about China, but being out of place has always been fascinating to me. There's something inspiring about detaching yourself from familiar contexts, and feeling, at least for a little while, like an outsider or an exile.
7. As the son of former Weather Underground radicals Bernadine Dohrn and Bill Ayers, what was it like to spend your early childhood in hiding? How has having such well-known parents helped you? What challenges, if any, have you encountered as a result? Yeah, it's a lot like traveling. Being underground lets you see the world from an outside perspective, and also gives you a sense of the persepective(s) the outside world might have on you.
I don't know if my family being well-known has helped me or hurt me, but my parents have certainly helped in all sorts of incredible ways.
8. What have you learned about yourself from being a playwright/screen writer? I like to make stuff up.
9. What's the best advice you've ever received? I can't remember a single piece advice anyone's ever given me. It's too bad, because I need some.
10. If you could dream about anyone while you sleep, who would it be? My two daughters, Dalin and Light.
11. Favorite way to spend your day off? Favorite way to stay in shape? Swimming.
12. Boxers or Briefs? Boxer briefs.
13. Favorite website? www.adbusters.org
14. Superman or Wonder Woman? They're both kind of vanilla. Can I go with the Black Panther?