Who: Ana Nogueira
Stopped: Outside the HERE Arts Center
Your play, Empathitrax is having its world premiere at HERE right now. How do you feel?
AN: Oh my god, it’s so bananas. This isn’t just a play of mine; it’s the first full production of a play I’ve written. It’s so exciting. It’s like giving birth. And it’s also terrifying and vulnerable at the same time.
I’ve also seen you perform Off-Broadway. Have you always been a writer as well as an actress?
AN: No. I went to college for theatre. I always wrote for myself—it was something that I enjoyed doing—and I was always interested in creative writing, but I felt more drawn to acting. It wasn’t until about five years ago that I actually completed a full script, and I think that was the key. A lot of people start writing a screenplay or a pilot, but when you can go through the whole painful act of creating the entire thing, I think that’s when you cross a line and say, “Okay. I can do this.” And, “I can do this even when it stops being fun; even when the ideas stop coming naturally and I have to push back.”
How does your acting background inform your writing?
AN: I love writing dialogue. I think that the flow of conversation—how a conversation can change on a dime or fall apart, how natural it seems and how it can define the plot—is something that comes from being an actor. [When you’re acting], you’re inside of the conversation—it’s about the experience of the individual characters coming into conflict with one another. That’s what I write about and what I love.
Empathitrax is about a couple that takes a pill that will allow them to feel what the other is feeling. Where did you get that idea?
AN: I had the idea for years but didn’t put pen to paper. [Then I ended up writing it] really quickly, which is pretty rare for me. I usually write slowly and painfully, but this sort of tumbled out of me. I think that there were tons of things that influenced me over the years that all went into this play unconsciously. It was years and years of collecting information that exploded into this play.
Does writing your own work help you overcome some of the lulls that can come with being an actor?
AN: So much. That’s why I started writing. Five years ago I’d just wrapped up a job and had some money saved up. I was unemployed and had all this extra time, so I felt like creatively, I had to do something. Now, writing has become this incredible thing that I can always come back to in between acting gigs. At the moment, it’s keeping me more busy than acting! Also, the first screenplay I wrote, I imagined myself as the lead—I was writing as a way to create my own roles and to act more. But now, I just love watching other people perform things I’ve written so much more than I expected to. I find so much joy in seeing actors take the material and turn it into something else.
Empathitrax, directed by Adrienne Campbell-Holt, is playing at HERE through October 1. Visit here.org for tickets and more information.