The Playwright’s Playground – The Playmakers CATF 2015: Part 4: Playwright Sheila Callaghan on ‘Everything You Touch’

This Special Edition of The Playwright’s Playground begins ‘The Playmaker Series: CATF 2015.’ In a series of in depth conversations, I speak with the artistic teams associated with the plays at this year’s Contemporary American Theater Festival. Playwrights, and the Directors share revealing behind the scene insights about their inspirations and the development of their new plays.

Meet Everything You Touch‘s Playwright Sheila Callaghan.

Sheila Callaghan. Photo by Jim Baldassare.
Sheila Callaghan.
Photo by Jim Baldassare.

When did you write this play and how many drafts went into what we see on stage today?

I’ve been working on this play since 2010. It started out as a novel, then a musical. Many, many drafts. 

This is a play that looks at the struggle to find an identity and reconciling public and  private personas. What did you learn about yourself in writing Everything You Touch?

Nothing! I don’t write plays to learn about myself… I write plays to ask unanswerable questions of the world and of the people who inhabit it.

Why was the timing important or relevant to you to write now?

The play grapples with the idea of “selling out,” and the compromises one makes when desires a wider audience for one’s work… as I shuffle between playwriting and TV writing, I’m often faced with this exact question.

How did you get started in the theater specifically, and why are you a Playwright today?

I was raised as a middle child and always desired attention, but I was also pretty nerdy and bookish in a lot of ways. Playwriting satisfies both the showman and the nerd in me.

Why do you write? More so why do you write plays and screenplays? (Callaghan was named one of Variety magazine’s “10 Screenwriters to Watch” in 2010.)  How does the process with the two styles differ for you?

I don’t know why I write. I feel like the second I have an answer to that question, I will stop writing. I adore the connection I feel with an audience in a theatre, the limitless storytelling tools available to me on the stage, the focus on aural poetry, and the creative problem-solving that comes with limited resources and budget. With film and TV I enjoy the subtleness and structure, the economy of language, and the ability to explore a vast visual vocabulary. Both realms satisfy me greatly.

If the role of the artist is to tell the truth, what does Everything You Touch reveal?

That artists are liars.

What do you hope audiences take away and think about after seeing the play?

I just hope they walk away thinking. 

Everything You Touch plays through August 2, 2015, at the Contemporary American Theater Festival performing in the Marinoff Theater – Center for Contemporary Arts/II – 62 West Campus Drive, in Shepherdstown, WV. For tickets, call the box office at (304) 876-3473/(800) 999-2283, or purchase them online.


The Playwright’s Playground – The Playmakers CATF 2015: Part 1: Playwright Barbara Hammond on ‘We Are Pussy Riot.’

The Playwright’s Playground – The Playmakers CATF 2015: Part 2: Director May Adrales on ‘Everything You Touch.”

The Playwright’s Playground – The Playmakers CATF 2015: Part 3: Director Nicole A. Watson on ‘World Builders.’

The Playwright’s Playground – The Playmakers CATF 2015: Part 4: Playwright Sheila Callaghan on ‘Everything You Touch.

Sydney-Chanele Dawkins.
Sydney-Chanele Dawkins.

The Playwright’s Playground is a monthly in-depth conversation with local female playwrights and artists in the D.C. theatre community. Female theatre artists make up more than 50 percent of those involved in the theatre, yet the number of female playwrights being produced is dramatically lower. In this continuing Column, I will also interview and introduce DCMTA readers to the many talented playwrights in the DMV area to learn about their writing process, their inspirations, and their motivations.

Sydney-Chanele Dawkins passed away on July 8, 2015, at age 47, after a battle with Breast Cancer.

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Sydney-Chanele Dawkins
Sydney-Chanele Dawkins is an award-winning feature filmmaker, film curator, film festival producer and a theater/film critic and arts writer. She also serves as an impassioned advocate for the Arts as Chair of the Alexandria Commission for the Arts in Alexandria, VA. Fearless. Tenacious. Passionate. Loyal. These characteristics best describe Sydney-Chanele's approach to life, her enthusiasm for live theater and the arts, and her cinephile obsession with world cinema. Her successful first film, 'Modern Love is Automatic' premiered at SXSW in Austin, Texas, and made its European debut at the Edinburgh Film Festival. She recently completed her third film, the animated - 'The Wonderful Woes of Marsh' - which is rounding the film festival circuit. In 2013, Sydney-Chanele produced the box office hit,Neil Simon's Rumors for the McLean Community Players at Alden Theater, Her next producing effort in 2014 is Pearl Cleage's 'Blues for an Alabama Sky' for Port City Playhouse. Programmer for Cinema Art Bethesda and Co Chair of the Film Program for Artomatic, Sydney-Chanele is the past Festival Director of the Alexandria Film Festival, the Reel Independent Film Festival,and Female Shorts & Video Showcase. She is active in leadership and programming positions with DC Metro area Film Festivals including: Filmfest DC, DC Shorts, the Washington Jewish Film Festival, Arabian Sights Film festival, and AFI Docs. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions - [email protected] [Note: Sydney-Chanele Dawkins passed away on July 8, 2015, at age 47, after a battle with Breast Cancer.]


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