“The characters know what they want to say,” talking to Maia Matsushita

The Fire This Time Festival is already underway! If you haven’t checked it out, you can do so, in NYC, right now. This Obie Award winning festival features stellar work from new and more established African American writers, and many of the events at The Kraine on East 4th Street are free.

I talked to Maia Matsushita about her new play For the Right Reasons.



You majored in cultural anthropology; how does that discipline influence your work? 


I did major in cultural anthropology. I am so glad I did as I feel it has influenced how I think about people and how I write about people. I focused on ethnographic research and ethical research methods including participant observation. What that meant was the I spent a lot of time observing different groups and cultures and learning what I could from being a separate but present observer. I think that this has infiltrated how I see the world and how I observe groups and cultures in my daily life. It also is a method of observation free from judgement–and I think it is so important not to judge your characters.


Do you feel like your characters are entities that are independent of you or is it more like you’re guiding and directing their choices and actions?


I usually feel like when writing a conversation, it flows pretty naturally. I feel like the characters know what they want to say!


The play starts with a whole lot of stuff that happened before the play starts, Janet, the mom, is in the hospital, Lila is coming home from school, and her friend Benjy appears in such a normal fashion that it seem suspicious and peculiar. How do you like to reveal that back story, and how does it inform the character development?


I like to reveal backstory through conversation, mostly through explosive conversation. I love creation tension-based comedy. 


How do you balance exposition and character development with action and plot?


It is so hard to balance exposition. I think its the number one thing I struggle with. I just try to get everything to come out through conversation but not in a a tell-y way!


I’m super intrigued by the killer cat. Is it a domestic cat or something larger? 


Domestic cat! Cats are dangerous! 


Do you have cats? Do you consider yourself a cat person?


I do not have cats. I have a little dachshund poodle mix and he is perfect!

You can find Maia on twitter @imaia24

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