PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Greg Pierce, Playwright of Slowgirl

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12 Jul 2012

Greg Pierce
Greg Pierce
Photo by Monica Simoes
Meet rising playwright Greg Pierce, whose Slowgirl is currently inaugurating Lincoln Center Theater's Claire Tow Theater, the new home of LCT3.


Lincoln Center Theater's new rooftop space, the Claire Tow Theater, recently got off to a rousing start with the world premiere of Greg Pierce's play Slowgirl. The work was an unusual one for a young American playwright. First of all, it wasn't set in a well-appointed apartment in Manhattan or Brooklyn. The intimate drama takes place in the home — shack, really — of Sterling, a middle-aged man who has retreated from the world to live in a rural, heavily forested part of Costa Rica. He receives a rare visitor in his garrulous, outspoken niece Becky, whom he hasn't seen in nearly a decade. Becky is also in retreat from civilization, having just undergone a traumatic event in high school. The play opened to warm reviews, introducing Pierce to theatregoers. (The Landing, his new musical with composer John Kander, had a developmental reading earlier this summer at Vineyard Theatre, which will fully produce it in 2013.) Pierce, however, doesn't need any introduction to the theatre. It's in his blood.

Have you been to Costa Rica?
Greg Pierce: Yes. I was down there working on another project. I went down there with the director and spent some time. That was the inspiration for the play, really, my walking around different places in Costa Rica and thinking up a story that took place there.

Did you two go down there because you thought it would be a good place to write and work?
GP: He owns some property down there and he's a surfer, so he was sort of familiar with the place. We wanted to get out of New York and get somewhere new.

Was his place anything like the house in the play?
GP: Not really. I started with that and as I started writing Sterling's place just got much more spare and stripped down and monastic.

Željko Ivanek and Sarah Steele in Slowgirl.
photo by Erin Baiano

I've never been to Costa Rica. What are things like down there?
GP: We were in this one, very jungly area. There weren't many people around. I was amazed at the wildlife I'd never seen, the amount of different-looking flowers and animals.

Did you encounter any of the animals that are mentioned in Slowgirl?
GP: I did. I definitely encountered an anteater. I saw some interesting snakes.

The idea for the play just occurred to you after hanging out there a while?
GP: Yeah. When we were working on this project, it was very sort of charted out and structured. I was very interested in writing a play that was without that — just jumping in and writing it and going line by line and seeing what came out; trying to tap into something more subconscious. So I did that with this play. I wrote it and then cut away until there was a play there.

So, was the first line you wrote the first line in the play?
GP: Yes, exactly. I decided on an uncle and a niece. The niece walks up and says, "Uncle Sterling? Uncle Sterling?" And that's how it started.


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