Based on the African fable of Anansi, the play tells the story of a "brave" spider's desire to bring stories into the world and the difficult challenges he faces achieving his goal. Anansi must battle the python, outwit the tiger, protect himself from the hornet's sting, and endure a frustrating encounter with Mmotia, the bad-tempered fairy. In addition, he even has to deal his critical mother-in-law! Throughout it all Anansi thinks himself clever, but in reality, it is only with the help of his wife Osa, who is really the clever one in the family, that Anansi is able to achieve his dream. In this physical, fast-paced, humorous play the message from the Sky God to Anansi applies to us all: when you share stories, you are richer for it.
PLAYWRIGHT CLAUDIA HAAS
TALKS ABOUT "ANANSI, THE CLEVER SPIDER"
Q: WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO WRITE THIS PLAY?
A: I am a huge fan of folktales and love the Anansi stories. I also love the idea that there are Anansi counterparts in the Caribbean and Pacific Northwest and love to speculate about how the stories traveled and evolved. Something tells me I am not done with Anansi yet!
Q: WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE PART OR LINE IN THE PLAY? WHY?
A; Hmmmm, hard one. I love the scene between Anansi and Oseba the leopard. I visualized it as I wrote it. And Mmotia, the bad-tempered fairy, came very easily to me. I would not like to speculate why!
Q: WHEN DID YOU START WRITING?
A: Writing has always been part of my life whether I wrote journals, stories, articles, or what I deem "snippets." There were a few years when, as an actress, I was fortunate to act in original plays and tended to ... ahem ... "edit" even if the playwright didn't suggest it. Now the tables are turned, and I am edited, which actually I love. It's a collaboration and that always jumpstarts my brain.
Q: HOW DID YOU GET STARTED AS A PLAYWRIGHT?
A: I had switched from acting to directing and teaching youth theatre, and originally my plays were written with very specific student actors in mind. I basically wrote plays to challenge, develop or help my students.
Q: WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT WRITING PLAYS?
A: I have a bona fide excuse to talk to myself (creating dialogue!) and lose myself in researching different times, cultures and adventures.
Q: WHAT IS THE MOST CHALLENGING PART OF THE WRITING PROCESS?
A: Each play has a unique challenge. The discipline portion of writing is huge for me. I cannot stare at a computer or a blank piece of paper until an idea comes. I need to move, to talk -- basically be active. Sometimes I get bogged down with "owning" the character. If the character is not firmly entrenched in my head, I cannot create him/her properly. If I am commissioned to write a specific story, I often spend weeks getting a sense of how I can make the story come alive.
Q: WHAT ARE THE MOST IMPORTANT THINGS TO CONSIDER WHEN WRITING A PLAY?
A: I may work differently than other playwrights as my training is all in acting/directing. Because of this, I approach all of my characters as an actor would. What does my character want? What will she do to get it? What stands in her way? How does she overcome obstacles? And therein lies my plot.
Q: WHERE DO YOUR CHARACTERS COME FROM? ARE THEY BASED ON PEOPLE YOU KNOW?
A: They come from everywhere. They certainly have parts of personalities I know and parts of myself are always included. And some of them are how I wish I could be. Because I work with students, I often tailor a role for a certain student.
Q: WHAT DO YOU TRY TO ACHIEVE WITH YOUR PLAYS?
A: For many of my plays, I hope to start a journey of exploration. Maybe after viewing "Anansi," some people will read other folktales and discover Anansi's world and the culture of West Africa.
Q: WHAT ARE YOUR HOBBIES? WHAT DO YOU DO IN YOUR SPARE TIME?
A: I need to have a book by my side at all times or I start to shake. Reading is a great love, and I am so grateful that the printed word has always been a great part of my life. And I cook. For whatever reason, it is a great stress reliever. And then I get to eat! I have a family plus a great big extended family, and I spend as much time with them as possible. And in the three months that Minnesota is not frigid, I walk White Bear Lake.