CATCHING UP WITH….Judith Leora

Judith Leora is a New York-based playwright, and the Managing Director of New York Madness.  She is an integral part of Madness, providing a grace, charm and levelheadedness that any organization would appreciate.  Humor and smarts too!

Judith is a founding member of the 15th Floor Writers Collective. Her full-length plays include broken, The Cookie Fight, Monkey-hearts and Bottomfeeders.  Recent one-acts include Burrito, Class of ’88, Warming the Bench, and Quickie Date.

We asked Judith a few questions, and her answers are, like her, enlightening.

What does theater mean to you?
I love theatre because I’m thrilled when I hear the truth.  The world is profoundly unfair.  Things do not work out that well for most people.  But there is something innate in us which always seems to think that the world is supposed to be fair.  That there is an ideal we can attain.  And we are continually shocked when we miss the mark.  I think most people live in the space in between these two ideas.  How happy we are usually depends on how well we adjust to this dissonance.  That’s what I write about.  Most of the time, the truth is just acknowledging how complicated reality actually is.  And there’s something exhilarating about being in the same room with the performer when you hear it.  I don’t get that same connection in other mediums.

Where do you find your inspiration for plays?
Often it’s what’s going on in the world or something random that happens in my new idea ends up being a combination of both.  I recently got stuck in a TGIFridays in upstate New York the day after Hurricane Irene, and the experience triggered an idea for a play.  I’m continuously obsessed with the intersection between sex, money and religion in this country. It helps that our country is equally obsessed with these same things, although we constantly pretend that we’re not.  My last full-length The Cookie Fight (or What’s Your Idol?) was inspired by the Enron debacle and the recent financial crisis.  If fascinates me that people can make incredibly selfish decisions, which hurt members of their immediate community, yet because there is money involved, these decisions are not considered ethical or unethical; its’ just business.  I’m originally from New York, but I’ve lived in many other parts of this country, and I think the supposed “moral” divide between the so-called red and blue states is an extremely interesting tension to explore.  Writing from the perspective that one viewpoint is valid and one is invalid is both reductive and non-dramatic. What is dramatic is the human element.

What’s next for you?
I have two plays I’m rewriting and a first draft I’m working on, so I’m actually trying to spend most of my time writing, which is not easy in New York:  too many shows to see!  Outside of continuing to working on Madness for this season, I also have a reading planned in December for my play Monkey-hearts and a short play, Friend-Whore, in the Theater++ New York Technology Theater Festival in January 2012.