The Proteus Project: Invasive Species by Natalie Sacks

Thanks to support from The Sheen Center, Turn to Flesh Productions was able to introduce a new part of the play development process: The Proteus Project.  A step between Monthly MUSE - a place to workshop individual scenes - and our Annual Staged Reading Series, The Proteus Project gives our playwrights the chance to hear their project in full at a music stand reading for a small, private audience.  

Today we bring you an exciting interview with long-time MUSE-r, Natalie Sacks whose Proteus Project: Invasive Species, goes up Thursday, June 28 at the Sheen Center.  

This will end the Proteus Project season for TTF - as we enter into our fifth annual summer staged reading series: "Seeing Shakespeare's Women," featuring Lady Capulet by Melissa Bell and The Fall of Lady M by Michael Permutter.

1) Tell us a little bit about Invasive Species.  What inspired you to write it?There were a variety of different elements that came together to turn this play into what it was. I had just written another sci-fi play, Hey Sexy: An Environmental Parable, that’s a lot more out-there when it comes to the fantastical elements: explosions, portals of fiery doom, people appearing and disappearing out of nowhere. And that was a lot of fun and had some great readings, but it’s hard to get a play like that produced, so I wanted to write a new sci-fi play that was deliberately producible—three characters, one set, and almost no special effects required. It all takes place in the imagination. That’s what most interests me about sci-fi theater, finding the kinds of stories that only make sense being told on the stage specifically because of the constraints live theater has.

Other sources of inspiration: My then-boyfriend (now fiancé) asked me to write a character for him, which once you see Paul and Magdalena’s relationship in this play may make you think terribly of me, but I promise that was just a springboard. I was also at the time living with the creator of the Wolf 359 podcast series, right around the time their mutant plant monster had its rather ignominious demise, and I (as one of the plant monster’s biggest fans) wanted a better ending for it. Plus, this play also channels a lot of growing anxieties I know I feel about our liberal political culture when it comes to figuring out what a truly equal society would look like and how on earth we can manage to get there.

2) How has the MUSE program helped you develop Invasive Species?

I think more or less every scene in Invasive Species has been read at MUSE at least once. I’m the sort of writer who really needs deadlines to get anything done, and it always really helped me to have a place to go where I had promised to have the next scene written. And the best part of bringing scenes in as I was actively writing them was getting to bounce ideas off of people that would turn into later scenes. One person would be particularly interested in the mechanics of some random element of the world and that could later turn into its own scene. We playwrights tend to be a little more siloed than the rest of the theater community when it comes to creating our art, and I love being able to collaborate with others on a play from the very beginning.

3) What's your feeling on GMO’s?
Despite what you might suspect of me after having written this play, I’m very pro-GMO in real life; we have a global hunger problem and GMOs have the potential to solve it, there are no documented ill health effects after extensive testing, and the organic food movement is a very privileged phenomenon. The “super-GMOs” of Invasive Species serve a more symbolic purpose, embodying this sense of environmental disaster directly caused by human actions, which forces us to rethink our position as the dominant species on the planet. That’s where the title of the play comes from, by the way; the super-GMOs aren’t the invasive species, humanity is.

4) What's surprised you about the development process for Invasive Species?
People get so excited about the most mundane elements of this world! How does the plumbing work? Are there negative health effects to receiving all of your nutrients from a single food source? Given that you never see any of these elements of the play directly, it amazes me how much audiences are willing to imagine. Maybe recent epic tv dramas have just increased our collective patience with the tedium of world-building, but I’m super excited when anyone wants to come along on this ride with me.

5) If the apocalypse came, do you think you'd be prepared?  Why or why not?
Absolutely not. I’m the sort of person who lives in their head all the time and has no practical real-life skills. I regularly injure myself trying to make dinner and I walk into door frames. I’m also far too much of a hermit for the sort of interdependent cooperative living I’d assume a post-apocalyptic future would require. Maybe if I were lucky enough to get myself alone with access to a lot of basic resources. Imagine how much writing I could get done!

6) What's coming up for you next?
Nothing else at the moment, but you can always see the next play I’m working on at MUSE!


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