Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Two ‘Queer’ Somerville Playwrights Examine ‘The Nitty Gritty’

(Katie Liesener)

(Erica Berman)

Two Queer Somerville Playwrights Examine ‘The Nitty Gritty’

By Doug Holder

You know when two people have a good working relationship. Like any good friendship they finish each other’s sentences; they laugh at private jokes; the chemistry is hard to miss. This is true of Somerville Playwrights Erica Berman and Katie Liesener. These two women are co-producing a play “The Nitty Gritty” that will showcase on June 25th at Cambridge’s YMCA Theater at 7:30PM.

I met the pair at one of my favorite Union Square hangouts Bloc 11 (The other being the Sherman Cafe), on a cool June morning. Both women agreed that for them Somerville is truly “The Paris of New England.” They are constantly inspired by our creative burg. Although they met in Brookline, Mass. their shared Somerville backgrounds gave them an immediate connection.

Liesener said she hopes their play will present a different aspect of the “Queer Conversation.” Both women feel that Gay Theater is often a lot of sizzle but not enough steak. Liesener opined “It is full of glam, glitter, Gay Pride, undressing, but the everyday “Nitty Gritty” of day to day life has not been adequately addressed.” Issues of Gay community, and yes even the use of a dildoe, will be part of the conversation among the different women portrayed in the play.

Katie Liesener was a journalist for a number of years, writing for The Boston Globe, and the Community Newspaper Corporation. Although she thinks journalism is very valuable training for a writer, it sort of straightjacketed her. She said: “I always had to be objective; I couldn’t tell my own story—I could not interject myself into the article.” So she gave up journalism and gained the “Freedom to talk about my own experiences for once,” she said.

Berman, a graduate of Mount Holyoke College and Emerson College, runs the Watertown Children’s Theater, where she currently directs 60 kids under the age of 13in main stage shows. Berman said” I work six days a week. I am involved with the full artistic vision—lighting, costumes, sets, etc… I love it and I love working with children.”

Liesener and Berman count as their role models the playwright Lisa Kron and the Five Lesbian Brothers. Even so their own work smacks of their own original signature.

Liesener who teaches writing at Emmanuel College, said teaching does not detract from her own work. She reflected: “I find that when I teach I rediscover what’s important in writing. I become more aware.”

Both artists are clear that they have to hustle to keep those wolves from the door. Berman also teaches at a private school, and Liesener said she lives cheaply, but quite happily.

As I left Bloc 11 and walked by the café’s window, I noticed the playwrights still talking animatedly, creative sparks flying—I hope they turned the fire alarm off.

*** For more info go to http://thenittygrittyshow.com

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