As live, in-person theatre returns to the greatest city in the world, we're spotlighting the NYC theatre artists who make it all happen. Today's spotlight is on writer and performer Xandra Nur Clark, whose show Polylogues runs through October 9 at HERE.
What do you do in the theatre world?
I am a playwright and actor with an additional background in journalism. I love creating works of theater at the intersection of performance and journalism. Community-building is at the heart of every project of mine.
What’s one part of your job that might surprise people?
Writing a play isn’t always a solitary endeavor, even though it’s often portrayed that way. My director Molly Clifford came on board a year after I started work on Polylogues and has been developing it with me ever since—for almost four years now! Ongoing dialogue around a play with a collaborator you trust is incredibly rewarding and was integral to the making of Polylogues.
What was the last live production you worked on before the theatre shutdown?
This production of Polylogues that was initially scheduled for April-May 2020! It was just three days before our first rehearsal when we and Colt Coeur decided to postpone it.
What was your quarantine hobby?
You know, it’s funny, I think the downtime actually gave me more creative brain space to imagine and write new things. Without the pressure of having to create a “product,” I had room to process and explore. I wrote two new plays and outlined a television series—my first! Outside of writing though, I did take Russian polyphony singing classes with a teacher Zooming in from Russia! It was amazing. I sing in a Ukrainian folk choir in non-pandemic times, and this was a fun outgrowth from that.
What was the first show you saw back?
Pass Over. We sat in the front row. It was unforgettable. One of the ushers even let us ring the bell to bring audiences to their seats before the show started. It was the perfect reentry to theater.
What’s a new or returning show you’re not involved with that you’re excited to see?
Dana H.! I was planning to go the day Broadway shut down, so I never got to see it. Multiple people who saw it said I should see it, because of the way headphones and interviews are used in that play, similar to how I’ve been using them in Polylogues. So I’m excited it’s returning.
What aspect of your job are you most excited to get back into?
More of this—being in collaboration with teams of artists, and sharing work with live audiences. Yes, I made use of the time in hibernation, and in some ways I think it was healthy for me to reset in somewhat isolation, but I want to make with other makers, and I want to build intimate community in real time and spaces. Being in the theater at HERE Arts Center to work on this show with my director, the designers, and the producers of Polylogues has been soul-filling in a way I had almost forgotten about. And looking into the eyes of real live audience members while performing this show has been absolutely thrilling. I’m feeling lots of gratitude and cherishing every moment.
What would you tell people to encourage them to come see Polylogues?
Polylogues is a community and a conversation for everyone—of any background and any age; it’s not just for those who practice nonmonogamy. Whoever you are, you will find yourself in Polylogues. If you are polyamorous, queer, or genderqueer—your stories are represented with care, breadth, and specificity. If you are monogamous, straight, or cisgendered—your stories are here as well. The conversation Polylogues offers is especially relevant now—perhaps more than ever—as we all radically rethink what intimacy looks like for each of us and how to build connections safely and intentionally.
Directed by Molly Clifford, Polylogues runs though October 9 at HERE (145 Sixth Avenue, Manhattan). For more information and to purchase tickets, visit: https://here.org/shows/polylogues/. Livestream and on-demand viewing are available from October 3-13 via Stellar.