Welcome to the DGF Fellows Spotlight.
This series of interviews put the spotlight on individual DGF Fellows and invites you to take a behind-the-scenes look at our program.The 2020-2021 class of fellows was asked a series of questions exploring where they’ve been, what they’re up to now, and what they hope for the future.
We thank you for following this series and supporting the work of these talented writers. We conclude the 2020-2021 Spotlight series with the following interview with DGF Fellow, Aya Aziz.
What was your first experience with theater?
I want to say it was seeing Hamlet with my grandfather at the Lucille Lortel theater when I was five years old. Both my grandparents were veterans of Broadway. Papa stage managed big musicals and Nana was an actress who had toured with Paul Robeson and worked regularly with Harold Clurman. That night I marveled at Hamlet’s madness, despite my own madness from being unable to make sense of what in the hell was going on.
But Hamlet wasn’t my very first experience with theater. The first was at my nursery school where nuns had dressed me in angel wings and I had reenacted the resurrection of Jesus. I remember. Or I think I do because the day holds importance to me. That day Nana relayed her thoughts on the show to my mother and gave me my first review after Jesus ascended.
“Sarah, your little girl doesn’t have what it takes to be a compelling performer.”
“But she’s only four.”
“Doesn’t matter. You can always tell who’s got it and who doesn’t. Especially with children.”
When did you decide to become a writer? Is there a writer, show, or piece of writing that was particularly influential on your path?
I’ve always enjoyed telling stories, I’ve always had peculiar experiences, and I’ve always exaggerated those experiences while sharing them. I discovered dramatic writing when I realized it was one of the few activities appropriate for people with a tendency towards exaggeration.
I discovered I could perform my writing when youtube introduced me to the sensational Sarah Jones and her one woman show Bridge and Tunnel.
How do you describe your work overall? What sets your work apart?
I like to play. My work is often musical, deeply personal, and sometimes, when I’m able to get out of my own way, I get to lean into the absurd. Thankfully, these days tapping into a sense of absurdity doesn’t take much.
Can you tell us a little bit about the work you’ve been developing as a Fellow?
Eh Dah? Is a musical I’ve been developing over the years with Director Arpita Mukherjee that examines feelings of alienation and belonging in a family forced apart by borders, economic inequity, and conflicting interpretations of what it means to be free.
What do you find most rewarding about your work as a writer?
I feel most rewarded when the characters I’m writing take me by surprise. I think imagination is integral to our ability to make radical change and I want to make stories that widen my sense of what’s possible.