Fertile Ground Portland

A Festival of New Works Blog

Playwright Interview #5 – Rachel Tusler January 3, 2011

NAME: Rachel Tusler

PROJECT: The Dark Things

The Dark Things is presented by PDX Playwrights and plays at 9pm on Sunday, January 30 at Hipbone Studio (1847 E. Burnside).  Tickets are $7 at the door. More info here.


I grew up in Eugene, studied Literature and Theater at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and have happily resided in Portland for the last 4 years.


1. A Writer I Admire Is . . . Lynda Barry

2. My Writing Style Can Be Described As . . . Grand Guignol Meets Margaret Wise Brown

3. The Portland Theatre Company I’d Most Love To See This Show Produced By Is . . . A vacant lot next to a Portland bar.

4. The Celebrity I Would Most Like To See Star In This Play On Broadway Is . . . Tom Waits as The Thing, with makeup by the team from Pan’s Labyrinth

5. A Portland Theatre Artist I Admire Is . . . The whole team behind Roadhouse: The Play

6. I Am Terrified Of . . . Tigers

7. I Am Obsessed With . . . Tigers

8. The Book Currently On My Nightstand Is . . . Middlemarch by George Eliot

9. Three Adjectives That Describe This Play Are . . . Disturbing, Dystopian, Dirty

10. In the Indie Art-House Biographical Film Of My Life, I Should Be Played By . . . A tiger.  The one that got Roy.


1. Tell us about your Fertile Ground Festival play.

It’s twelve years since the war against the vicious Dark Things was won, but the air is still filled with smoke and the stench of death. A group of young people face their initiation into adulthood: Sam wants to prove he’s a real man, Thea wants to trick the others into thinking she’s one of them, and Ross just wants to cause trouble. But will they survive their initiation into society? And what abominable acts will be required of them to do so?

2. How did this story come about?  What inspired it?

I started with a vivid picture of an imagined world: a dystopian society still in ruins since the end of a recent war. I was interested in exploring some political ideas: the construction of masculinity, the enforcement of gender roles, and the process of creating oppressive societies. I was also interested in how a fantastical setting, graphic acts of violence and a stylized ritual could be used to explore those ideas.  A lot of different media influenced this play, including: graffiti on the street, the obscene messages in my junk mail folder, and TV commercials. I was also influenced by scholarship on Greek theatre, ancient initiation ceremonies, and the construction of race in the United States.

3. Talk about your writing process.  (How do you write?  When do you write?  What gets you writing?)

Always in the evening, often in long sessions, usually on my computer.

4. What is the most exciting/inspiring piece of theatre you’ve seen in Portland?

Too many to name . . . I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve seen at Portland Playhouse, much of what’s been produced at IFCC, Hand2Mouth, and many others. I’ve also been very affected by particular shows in the last few years: The Pillowman at PCS, and Eurydice at Artists Rep. I like theatre experiences that feel transformational—even if what you’re transformed to from the beginning of the play is from a somewhat coherent person into a total fucking mess.

5. What are you up to these days when you’re not writing?

I’m the Development Associate at Oregon Children’s Theatre; I also like reading books, seeing plays and concerts, visiting vintage and antique shops, hanging out at bars with friends, going to the zoo, perusing cookbooks.


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