Meet a Pew Fellow-in-Residence: Interview with Playwright and Director Tina Satter


Tina Satter, 2019 Pew Fellow-in-Residence. Photo by Michael De Angelis.

Our “Pew Fellow of the Week” series focuses on the artistic lives of our Pew Fellows: their aspirations, influences, and creative challenges.

Based in New York, playwright and director Tina Satter is a Fellow-in-Residence who begins her one-year residency in Philadelphia in July 2021. She spoke to us about her plans for the residency, how her athletic career influenced her approach to theater, and how the pandemic may have given her more freedom in her practice. This interview was transcribed from an audio recording and edited for length and clarity.

Satter’s experimental theater productions reflect diverse textual, formal, and aesthetic influences to illuminate the stories of female and queer characters. As artistic director of Half Straddle, an Obie Award-winning theater company based in Brooklyn, Satter has created ten original full-length plays, which have toured nationally and internationally. Her most recent work, Is This A Room: Reality Winner Verbatim Transcription, earned a spot on The New York Times’ "Best Theater of 2019” list, has toured internationally, and will begin a run on Broadway later this year.

Tina Satter Q&A Block 1

Tina Satter Q&A Block 2

What are you looking forward to most about your residency here in Philadelphia?

Very much getting to know the city more. I’ve only had little stints there doing work for several days at a time over the past several years. But it seems fantastic, and I’ve heard it’s fantastic, so just getting to be in Philly and really taking in what that city is.

And then I have a few good friends there, so I’m truly looking forward to spending time with some of these friends and some people I don’t actually know as well, and now I’ll finally get to, I think, have coffees with them. The people and getting to know the city are definitely what I feel truly so excited about.


How do you think or hope your practice might evolve during your residency here?

I think and hope just that new people, who I can’t even know who they might be yet, will inform and maybe be a part of what I make. What that might mean literally is that I’ll be in early stages of several pieces and that new collaborators or the new energy of actors and other people are part of an early process of work. That seems really exciting to me.

I love the people I’ve gotten to work with in New York and hope to continue to do that. But when I thought about that question, like, oh wow, there could be these new collaborators or early participants in work that are in Philly, that seems really, really cool and exciting and something I feel very lucky to hopefully get to take advantage of.


What music are you listening to? Which books are on your bedside table?

I have a book on my bedside table that’s called My Meteorite by Harry Dodge. Harry Dodge is an amazing artist, and he’s also partners with Maggie Nelson. Maggie Nelson’s last book, The Argonauts, excerpted some of Harry Dodge’s writing. Maggie Nelson’s book was incredible, and then Harry Dodge’s text that Maggie collaged into her work was super, super cool. And it seems that Harry Dodge now has a whole book of what that writing was, which is a kind of a memoir-y reconsideration of family. Harry Dodge was adopted, and he’s a queer trans man. It’s sort of a beautiful exploration of a midlife reckoning, specifically with Harry’s finding his birth mother at a certain point in his life. So far, it’s just kind of heavy. I haven’t gotten that far. I really like it, but I’m not reading the same way I was, and it’s kind of heady. It almost reminds me of Henry James, who I love. I have to really read each sentence a couple of times, even though it’s kind of just personal memoir.

My good friend Sanae Yamada is in two bands. One’s called Moon Duo, and then she has a solo project called Vive la Void. She’s this really cool musician, and she did the score and sound design for the last show I made, Is This A Room. So I’m really into her obviously. This past year, she’s been experimenting with these drone sounds. I have just been listening to those a lot when I’m trying to write or get in a mood. They’re so evocative. I haven’t been just sitting around listening to music, but when I’ve been working or in my office, I’ve been listening to Sanae’s really cool drones. They just set such a mood.

Tina Satter Q&A Block 3

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