FUKT: Interview with Playwright Emma Goldman-Sherman

“FUKT” is a new dark yet uplifting comedy about owning the past in order to get on with the future.

“FUKT” is a new dark yet uplifting comedy about owning the past in order to get on with the future. Written by Emma Goldman-Sherman, the play begins previews Thursday, October 27 at The Tank in NYC; opening night is set for Thursday, November 3.

“FUKT” starts out as a one-woman show where Emma explains why she changed her name but she is soon joined by Barbara and Bobbie, two strong characters who steal the spotlight. Quarreling, demands, zombies, and a striptease ensue as memories and perspectives collide. The chaotic, playful, and personal story ultimately encourage viewers to move the “FUK” on from trauma.

“FUKT” is a Bay Area Playwrights 2020 Finalist, Unicorn Theatre 2020 Finalist, and one of the top 10 most highly recommended scripts on The New Play Exchange. It was developed with New Circle Theatre Co., Dixon Place and 29th Street Playwrights Collective at the Dramatists Guild Foundation.

Emma recently discussed this play via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you discover your talent for writing and what was it about plays and the theater that most interested you?

Emma Goldman-Sherman (EGS): As an abused child, I was accused of telling stories when I was trying to tell the truth. This led me into an obsession with storytelling. I was an awkward traumatized child. My mother’s solution to that was acting, ice skating and voice lessons. My childhood was all about performing for the adults in my house to make my trauma go away.

MM: How did your childhood influence FUKT?

EGS: I saw Peter Pan in the round at the Playhouse in the Park in Philadelphia. To save TinkerBell’s life, I clapped my 5-year-old heart out while seeing everyone else clapping. I felt that communal experience as a kind of real healing magic. I’m always trying to create transformative moments to push the culture forward. I write out of frustration and fury, especially these days when the culture has been losing so much ground, even moving backwards. We need more plays that speak authentic truths. I had to write FUKT when I realized how rare it is for survivors to ever be believed.

MM: Was it difficult to write about such personal topics?

EGS: Yes, I wrote most of it on the subway, so I wasn’t all alone. It also helped me write unconsciously while another part of my brain was checking for my stop. I wrote it fast because speed makes it hard to censor oneself. I’m really good at opening a vein and trusting myself to write something useful. Later I see what works and revise. I arranged to hear it almost immediately because I didn’t want to get cold feet about it. Hearing it with friends helped me understand what it wanted to be.

MM: How tough was it to infuse comedy into a play about such somber themes?

EGS: There’s a reason it’s called comic relief – we need comedy! I would never ask anyone to sit through such dark material without humor. I also wrote in zombies, a striptease and music. I knew I wouldn’t want to sit through a show like this unless it was unusually enjoyable. I made lists of possibilities and picked my favorites. I’m a very outside-in writer. I like giving myself a challenge and then seeing how my unconscious grapples to problem-solve.

MM: What’s your favorite part of the play and why?

EGS: I have two – there’s a moment when the audience gasps. Of course, I love that. And the zombies are another favorite part because they’re a great way to externalize internal experience, and it works really well.

MM: What other projects are you working on right now and what themes might you like to explore in future works?

EGS: I’m working on a musical called Tanya’s Lit Clit which was commissioned by Experimental Bitch. It’s a comedy about the history of medical misogyny with ballet and burlesque. And my adaptation of two raper culture Bible stories, Tamar (The Two-Gated City) will be podcast by EmptyRoomRadio.com. Both pieces are about characters whose voices are not heard by a dominant patriarchal culture. I’m also working on two pieces for young audiences about dealing with grief and why we have emotions and what they’re good for.

MM: What’s the best thing about working in the arts and what has been the highlight of your career thus far?

EGS: The best thing about working in the arts is the ability to create cultural change. My highlights always have to do with audience responses. Many people have felt inspired to speak up for the first time after seeing my work. A student of mine had an order of protection against an ex, and they both saw Antigone’s Sister (on separate nights). Afterwards he sent her an apology and never bothered her again. Another highlight was hearing from a very important gatekeeper that my work couldn’t be programmed because it was too challenging for its sponsors. That helped me understand why I have been silenced often and for so long.

MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

EGS: The first thing any oppressor asks for is our silence. The freer we are, the more we can share our stories, the less oppressed we will be. So my ultimate goal is to destroy cultural oppression by helping people find their voice. I run www.BraveSpace.online so no one has to write alone.

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FUKT runs October 27 – November 13 at The Tank (312 W 36th Street). Tickets and info at www.thetanknyc.org