We have so many talented artists working with us. We thought we would take some time to spotlight them and talk about who they are and what they’re doing.
First up is the amazing and talented Writer/Actress Megan Bussiere. Megan has been acting with NBF since 2011 and has been in 2 features with us, 2 short films, and our webseries. She’s also a playwright and that’s what we are here to talk about today.
• Thank you for doing this. Real quick. Can you give the people reading this a brief introduction about who you are and how you got connected with NBF?
Thank you Sam. My name is Megan Bussiere and I am an actor, writer, and speech therapist living in New York. I grew up in New Jersey, and I was actually doing a short film in New Jersey when a mutual friend told me to reach out to you and audition for your independent feature Red Scare. That was the first project we worked on together, and we’ve done a lot together since!
• You’ve acted in several projects with us so far, but I’m mainly interested in talking about your writing. When did you first start?
I have been writing my whole life… I’ve always kept a journal, and English was always my favorite class in school. I have dabbled with writing non-fiction, essays, poetry, etc. I used to write poems for friends and give them as gifts… a great life hack when you’re poor. Several years out of college I was in between acting jobs, and I decided to start writing my first play. I wanted to merge my speech therapy experience with my love of theatre and writing to write a play about aphasia, which had always fascinated me. This was the start of Talk to Me. I worked on it as a side project for years before I decided to share it. I had a staged reading in New York City in 2017 and then was invited to do another staged reading at my alma mater, Kean University, in 2018. A year later, and we are now gearing up for a full production this June. So it really wasn’t until a few years ago that I decided I wanted to see my work on stage and actually began to pursue it as a career. What’s interesting is that once I made that decision and really embraced that new path, I have been writing non-stop. Joining Mission to Ditmars, a writing group based in Queens, has been a huge help with this transition. Last year at this time I had one play under my belt (Talk to Me) and it had taken me about five years to write. One year later, and I am now working on my 4th play. I have two plays being produced this summer in New York City (Talk to Me and A Period Piece), and a third having its first staged reading in a few weeks (End of the Line). A lot can change in a year!
• What is it about writing that appeals to you as an artist? How does it compare with acting?
Everything about writing appeals to me. Some people say it’s lonely, but seriously all I want to do is stay home all day and write. I am such an introvert at heart! (This also may have to do with the fact that as a speech therapist I talk all day, so I relish those quiet writing moments). And then of course if you are lucky enough to get a reading or production and leave your apartment, you get to collaborate with other artists in the most fulfilling, dynamic way. Hearing people say my words and embody my daydreams is super creepy and also so uniquely divine.
But I would say the major difference form acting to writing is having control over the narrative. There’s a lot of control you don’t have as a writer… like how it is acted, directed, staged, produced, etc. But you have control over the content, your characters, the themes, the conversations you want to happen. As an actor you have control over your performance (even then, you don’t always have control over direction and editing) but you don’t have control over what types of roles are available to you. As a woman in this industry, it is extremely frustrating to want to change the world with your art and to believe that art can do that, but to be portraying characters that perpetuate old stereotypes and limitations. So it is thrilling to me to have a voice at this time, even if I’m not the one on stage speaking the words. Luckily the industry is changing before our eyes (about darn time) so this is an exciting time to be involved in any way… but I am finding that right now I am more excited by what I can create from scratch, so I am riding this wave. I think it’s important to continually check in and ask yourself- What excites me right now? What am I obsessed with right now? And then do that.
• Tell me about your upcoming projects. The when’s, the where’s, the how to get tickets.
You are catching me at the right time, because there are so many ways to see my work this season! First up is a staged reading of End of the Line, a play about otherism in America and our hidden and not so hidden biases. The reading will be held at the Broom Tree Theater in Astoria, NY on Monday April 15th at 7pm. Tickets are free, so I will pass along that information as soon as I have it. Next up is Talk to Me, my play about aphasia, which will have a full production at the Theaterlab in NYC from June 28-30th. Tickets are not yet on sale so I will pass that information along as well. After that, my feminist play A Period Piece will be produced this summer by this amazing female-founded activism-centered theatre group The Shrill Collective in NYC. It’s slated for July, but I will have official dates and more information for you on that very soon. This play is also a finalist in several festivals so there’s a possibility I might have some extra news for you on that front. Fingers crossed 🙂
• Where did the ideas for these projects come from?
With Talk to Me, I was inspired by my experience in graduate school at Kean University, interning at the aphasia clinic. I met truly inspiring people who had lost the ability to communicate the way they once had. Aphasia is not well known and very misunderstood and it affects more than 2,000,000 Americans. I wanted to raise awareness about aphasia and give those who inspired me a voice and a means of support.
With A Period Piece, I was inspired by so many things… my own personal education and research into hormonal health that I was already doing to improve my own health… and mostly conversations with women. Lots of conversations with women about menstruation, pregnancy, miscarriage, mental health, and specifically female health. Historically, women have been grossly underrepresented in health studies because our hormonal cycles could potentially affect results. This is a huge blindspot, and it has resulted in women trying to follow health advice intended for men for years, just like we are trying to live within a work structure designed around the male circadian rhythm.
My newest play End of the Line, resulted from my own personal research into understanding racial oppression and my own white privilege. It’s one thing to say you’re not racist, but many people struggle to say that they’re privileged. And that really interests me. I also find that people are extremely uncomfortable talking about privilege, which means that crucial conversations don’t happen and we are unable to fully connect and evolve. I wanted to write about four commuters on a train that each have their own judgements of each other. I wanted lines to get fuzzy and I wanted people to side with one person in one moment, and another person the next. And I wanted people to leave talking about race.
For my next play, Forever Mom, I’m going back to the start and writing about something more closely related to the field of speech pathology… about an adult man living with disabilities, and the challenges that come with fading community support and an aging caregiver.
• I’ve produced about 18 projects now with NBF. It hasn’t been easy, but I have never attempted to produce a play (yet). What are some of the challenges of doing that?
I am so in awe of you, Sam. I truly don’t know how you do it! So I said that everything about writing appeals to me, but producing… that’s been a challenge for sure. I think at some point I literally googled “how to do a play.” Luckily I did a lot of theatre growing up and my mom actually helped run a non-profit children’s theatre company. So I literally spent my childhood stuffing envelopes, building and painting sets, striking sets, and listening to my mom handle business calls and ticket sales on the phone. So maybe something sunk in along the way, but producing Talk to Me has truly been a learning experience. The challenges for me have been asking people for help and finding time to do everything that needs to be done. My career coach Tessa Faye has been a tremendous help every step of the way. It is so valuable to have a person that you can talk to and brainstorm solutions with.
For a play specifically, I think the main difference is that all of your work culminates in basically one day (opening night) where everything needs to happen. I would imagine it’s like planning a wedding. You have to plug away at the tasks and trust that when the day arrives you will find a way to let go and have fun.
• What are some of the benefits of it?
The thing I love about theatre is that you go, you have an experience, and then that’s that. You can analyze it in your mind afterwards but you can’t pause, rewind, zoom in. Your experience is influenced by the person next to you as much as it is by what you see in front of you. The energy in the room is always exciting for a live performance. Seeing people’s reactions, talking to people afterwards… those are some of my favorite moments from the readings I’ve had.
• What are your hopes for the two plays?
I would love to see them go on and have many performances, with different casts, different directors, different audiences. A personal dream of mine is to be published, so that these plays could reach a larger audience.
• Any other projects in the pipeline?
I am currently working on my latest play Forever Mom, and aside from that, I’m actually working on a film adaptation of A Period Piece. I should interview you next to get some tips on writing those. We actually always talk about collaborating on a writing project of some kind and one day it’s going to happen.
• Any final thoughts you’d like to share with us?
That’s it for now! If you’d like more information about the upcoming production of Talk to Me, you can follow us on facebook/instagram/twitter: @talktometheplay. And the best place to keep up to date with all of my projects is http://www.meganbussiere.com. Thank you so much for chatting with me 🙂