Zayd Dohrn is an award-winning playwright born and raised in New York City, and the author of our upcoming production Reborning. We had the opportunity to chat with him about his work.
Q. How did you come across / discover Reborn Dolls and Reborning?
A. My wife discovered reborn dolls. We’d just had our first child, and she was looking for baby clothes and toys on Ebay, and came across these incredible pictures. She’s a novelist and journalist, and she started working on an article about real-life reborning artists. We both quickly fell down the rabbit hole and got obsessed, both as artists and as parents. And I stole the idea and wrote a play.
Q. There are strong female characters and the themes of creation/motherhood are very dominant – how did you tackle this as a male-identifying writer? What attracted you to that storyline?
A. Writing plays is all about trying to project yourself into other people, to understand them well enough to write in their voices, to get inside their heads. And characters, by definition, are going to be different from their creator. Sometimes a different race, gender, or sexuality. Other times the differences are less visible or namable, but equally profound. When I wrote this play, I was a young artist and a new parent, worrying about whether I could be a good father, about my own childhood and what damage I would pass on to my daughter. So Kelly and I had a lot in common.
Q. Our producers have been discussing Daizy – ultimate chill guy, or is that just his appearance on the surface?
A. Pretty chill. Daizy has the weird name and the art school style, but he’s actually a well-adjusted guy. Kelly, who might present as a bit more “normal,” is the tortured artist. And part of what Daizy goes through in the play is trying to figure out how he can help this person he loves, even though, on some level, he can never understand what she’s going through. But he tries. Trying turns out to be the main thing.
Q. Daizy and Kelly are both art grads and working artists but with entirely different temperaments. Does Kelly’s almost tortured focus give her art more depth? Or is art about the end result, not the process the artist goes through to get there?
A. All about the end result. There are a lot of different ways to get there, and it can be difficult, but part of being an artist is to subsume the individual struggle, to make something universal out of one’s unique experience. James Joyce says that “the artist, like the God of the creation, remains within or behind or beyond or above his handiwork, invisible, refined out of existence, indifferent, paring his fingernails.” In other words, when we read Shakespeare, we don’t notice his process or hear his voice—just the voices of Lear and Othello and Orsino and Lady Macbeth. The creation is so complete that the artist is made invisible, pushed outside the frame.
Q. Do you think there’s a competition between Daizy and Kelly about their artistic abilities/depth?
A. There’s a friendly competition at first, which Daizy loses decisively. One thing that makes him such a good and decent guy is that he loses graciously, and moves on to trying to help this person he loves.
Q. A lot of the play is about confronting one’s own nature – do you think people are largely destined by our genetic and social makeup? How much ability do we have to intervene and control our own destiny?
A. Well, that’s the question, isn’t it?
Our production of Reborning opens June 21st (with a preview on June 20th) and stars Emily Bett Rickards, Paul Piaskowski, and Lori Triolo. You can grab your tickets here.