Ilana Winterstein - The Open Sessions 5 member

What is your favourite play?
Chimerica by Lucy Kirkwood. It's a cracking piece of writing.

Tell us about your first memory of being in the theatre.
I can't recall my first memory of being in the theatre but I remember the first time I was completely blown away by a play which was Complicite's Street of Crocodiles at the National Theatre. I remember getting goosebumps sitting in the audience and feeling so excited and inspired by how the company told the story. It remains one of the best productions I've ever seen.

Why plays? Have you written in any other forms?
I also write short stories, children's stories and non fiction, but writing plays is my first love. There's something special about the live quality of theatre that is unlike any other form. I love seeing how audiences respond and the fact that no two nights are the same.

How much do you plan your work?
I am not a planner, though there have definitely been times I've wished I was. In the past I've attempted to pin down a story before picking up my laptop but it's never ended well - usually with days spent battling writers block and a lot of deleted pages. Instead, I usually discover the story as I go along and tend to be surprised by who the characters are and how narratives unfold.

They say ‘write what you know' - how much of your life ends up in your plays?
Part of what I love about writing is slipping into other voices and the freedom of exploring different ways of seeing the world, so I don't really believe in the 'write what you know' adage. Although I'm not conscious of putting my own life into my plays, there are probably little bits of me scattered throughout everything I write.

Talk us through how you might spend a day writing... Do you have any habits or superstitions?
A big strong coffee first thing to help me focus and find the words. I try to devote a chunk of time to writing and attempt to minimise distractions, though inevitably manage to distract myself with cups of tea, biscuits, emails, Facebook, staring out the window...

Do you listen to music when you write? If so, what? And do you think it influences your work?
I tend not to listen to music when writing as often the mood will influence my tone. Sometimes this can be helpful but usually if I'm in the flow of things I like it to just be me, my laptop, a coffee and the words.


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