Stage Writes

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Leda Siskind talks about high school and the therapy of theater

By   Posted 9.5.2019   Announcements, siskind, monologues, therapy, High School

Tell us something about yourself, we wouldn’t get from a bio in a program.

One day, some years ago, I went on an audition for a theatre company and performed two pieces: one modern (a homeless woman from Jane Martin’s Talking With,) the other classical (Miss Prism from Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest.)  As I left the theatre, I wondered what would happen if the two characters I had just portrayed were one and the same woman? I went home and began working on The Liar’s Punishment, my one-act play about a former classical actress now living in a tent below an L.A. freeway overpass. The Liar’s Punishment was performed as a benefit for the Palisades Homeless Task Force at the Pierson Playhouse and at the Hollywood Fringe Festival.  I realized, that as an actress and a writer, I already knew a lot about how to structure a story for theatre.

How did your background in therapy lead you to write All My Distances Are Far? 

I’ve worked as a therapist in many settings – in clinics, hospitals, with homeless teens, and in various school districts.  The characters in All My Distances Are Far are composites of several kids I saw over many years; gender, ethnicity, ages, etc. have been changed for the play.  What inspired me were the kids themselves and how their individual journeys evolved. I placed the play in a school setting because the fall/winter/spring semesters provide a structure on how to view each character over time. I also wanted the audience to feel what it’s like to have a teenager burst into a room and start talking to you, spilling out their soul, their fears and their dreams during a session.  That’s why it is a monologue play – because the audience is part of the therapeutic relationship on stage.

What are the similarities and differences between your work on the stage and those in your practice? 

The Therapist in All My Distances Are Far is probably a younger version of me, or any inexperienced therapist just starting out.  Hermonologues are also addressed to the audience (the unseen supervisor) because she, herself, is bewildered: how do I help all these adolescents?  She also matures throughout the play, as I did doing this work.  I will add that the little “between a rock and a hard place” speech The Therapist gives to explain a toxic parent-child relationship is one that I do use in my practice. And when The Therapist says: “Sometimes, I will hear a sentence or the kid will catch something I said a week ago, and we both lean in, just a little, because there’s been a shift. The anger, the sadness, the shame has lifted up and we both take a breath. And now there’s a bit of hope, of worth, to fight for. And the kid walks out of the room different.” –  that’s still true for me.

Do you have anything to pitch? What’s next for you? 

My new play, The Surveillance Trilogy opens at Theatre 40 in Beverly Hills on September 19thand runs until October 14th.  Performances are Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Mondays at 8:00 PM and on Sundays at 2:00.  The Surveillance Trilogy is comprised of three separate plays about how our country has spied upon – and continues to spy upon – its own citizens. The first play, Until All of This Is Over, takes place in 1953, and is about a ‘lavender’ couple at the height of the Red Scare. The second play, The Havana Syndrome, takes place in 2017, and pits a CIA doctor against a U.S. embassy worker who claims she is suffering from a mysterious ‘attack’ – an ‘attack’ our State Department has yet to identify. The third play, Are You Listening?, is set in the present and reveals how our artificial intelligence devices can turn a family against each other.  It’s been exciting to watch rehearsals and see the actors give life to my words! Stay tuned for the upcoming promo video and come see the show!   


All My Distances Small

by Leda Siskind

90 mins | 4F, 3M

Over the course of a school year, six inner-city high school students are forced to speak with the new school counselor. Through a series of monologues, we meet a diverse group of students including: Ruby, a foster kid who struggles with sobriety as she ages out of the system; Wade, whose Asperger’s poses a unique problem for him when he develops his first crush; and overweight Marcy, an aspiring poet devastated by a cruel prank. Their struggles challenge the experience of the school counselor, who discusses her work in therapy sessions of her own. Beautifully drawn, funny, and heartbreakingly poignant, All My Distances Are Far turns the audience into a silent confidant as each character struggles to make it to the end of the school year.

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