Playwright Interview: Angela Cerrito

Written by Ashleigh Gardner

June 19, 2017

Welcome back to Performer Stuff’s new series that celebrates our playwrights! We feature an interview with a playwright who features their work on, asking them questions about their inspirations, their process, and the craft of playwrighting. Our series continues with playwright Angela Cerrito. (Find her monologues here!)

1. What or who (or both) inspired you to become a playwright?

I came to love playwriting by accident. I admire the work of Cheryl Navo who is a local playwright in my area. I enrolled in a playwriting course taught by Nate Records with the intention of challenging my writing muscle. I remember thinking, This will be good exercise for my novel writing. I don’t even have a single idea for a play. As soon as I signed up and ordered the book, the idea for my first play popped into my head. I feel so fortunate to have had the opportunity to learn from Nate and Cheryl and all of the writers in that class.

2. What themes, images, or relationships appear most frequently in your work and why?

Identity plays a major role in my books and plays, self-identity as well as the identities projected upon us by society, family and social groups. Why? That’s a bit more complicated to answer. My work usually starts with character. Aside from my novel The Safest Lie, I never set out to write about identity. It just happens. Perhaps because the subject is complex and often feels urgent. Or perhaps I’m drawn to the topic of identity because I’ve lived abroad in Asia and Europe.

3. Tell us about the play that you are proudest of having written.

The play If They Come Tonight is about Irena Sendler who was a spy in the Polish Resistance and the mastermind who organized the escape of over 2,500 children from the Warsaw ghetto. I was honored to meet Irena in Warsaw while researching my novel The Safest Lie. The novel is from the point of view of a young girl who is rescued and only shows a sliver of Irena’s experiences. If They Come Tonight features the night of October 20, 1943 when Irena’s apartment was raided by the Gestapo. After the raid she was arrested, sent to Pawiak Prison and sentenced to death. In time, Irena herself was rescued. I’m most proud of this play because of the collaboration with the high school drama teacher, Mr. Michael Ward, and his students who took on the first production.  I learned a great deal and their input and advice continues to shape my work today.

4. If you could have written one play in the history of theatre, which would it be?

Rather than the history, I’d like to write one that is sure to be in the future. When I read a really great book, a book that invites me to live in that fictional world, to become the main character, a book that stays with me for months and years, I always imagine that I could write the play. One such book is Shine by my friend Candy Gourlay. It’s a fantastic book with a great setting, an intriguing character and a mysterious plot. It’s won tons of awards and has a lot of buzz, so I’m sure it won’t be long before someone adapts it for the stage. Though I must admit I feel a tug in my gut whenever I re-read it and see the scenes in my mind. I want that someone to be me!

Ashleigh Gardner received her AA in Theatre/Drama/Dramatic Arts from Valencia College and her Bachelors Degree in English Literature and Masters Degree in Literary, Cultural, and Textual Studies from the University of Central Florida. She is a playwright, an actor, and’s Editor.