Anne Negri Talks About Writing “With Two Wings”

Chicago-based+playwright+Anne+Negri+stands+in+front+of+the+set+of+her+show+%22With+Two+Wings%2C%22+which+was+produced+by+NEIU%27s+Stage+Center+in+June.+

Photo by Mary Kroeck

Chicago-based playwright Anne Negri stands in front of the set of her show "With Two Wings," which was produced by NEIU's Stage Center in June.

This summer, Stage Center Theatre at NEIU produced “With Two Wings.” The play is about a boy, Lyf who has to choose between leaving home and learning to fly, or staying with his parents who cannot fly because of disabilities. One day, Lyf meets a stranger, Meta, who is learning to fly. Meta’s twin, Taur, is a bully who ultimately helps Lyf realize what rules he really needs to live by.

Chicago-based playwright Anne Negri sat down with the Independent to talk about her most popular children’s play.

 

Independent: Where did you get the inspiration to write “With Two Wings?”

Negri: I had never really written plays before. I always felt like I was a creative writer when I was younger, like elementary and middle school. In high school it was always like papers and research things and I kind of lost that creative side for a little bit. Then I went to graduate school at Arizona State University…. I got my MFA in Theater for Youth so we were reading all these plays that are written for young people. Some of them were so great and so awesome and some of them were not very good at all…. I thought, ‘Okay, if I even wrote a mediocre play, it would be better than some of the stuff I had to read. So why not just try it and see….’ [“With Two Wings”] is actually inspired by my own personal life in some ways. I know it’s such a fantasy story, but my older sister has a learning disability and for a while she was married to a man who also had a learning disability and they had a son, who’s my nephew, my only nephew, and he does not have any learning disabilities. So, while I was seeing him, kind of growing up and kind of realizing things about his parents or that he was surpassing his parents in certain ways, it was just this kind of moment for me where I was thinking, ‘Well, what would that be like for a kid where he’s going to surpass them in certain intellectual ways by the time he’s in fourth or fifth grade?’

 

Independent: Have you ever seen a production of your play and felt the production wasn’t what you had envisioned?

Negri: Yes. I think earlier on, my dear friend did the Pheonix Theatre Fringe Festival production. She had a lot of undergraduate students who were very, very young and a couple of them really got their characters and a couple of them, I was like, “Oh, I didn’t mean for that to be said like that.” But I found that really helpful. I wasn’t really aggressive in the process because I knew it was a play in development and that when I saw something earlier on, and would say, ‘That’s not what I was going for,’ I would say, ‘That’s on me.’ It’s my job to try to figure out – not to fool proof the play or anything like that – but to figure out how to convey through the dialogue or through the stage directions or the interplay between the characters how I get that emotion to come across or that particular way to say it…. Now that it’s published and I feel like it’s in a place where I really like it, if I have a good relationship with the director, or potentially the actors, I will say something….

 

Independent: Is there a character that you connect with personally?

Negri: I love Meta because I got to put so much of my own personality into it. She’s kind of vivacious. She’s kind of like Ellie from “Up,” if Ellie had lived. (Sorry if you haven’t seen “Up.”) She’s like young Ellie. I do love that character.

 

Independent: Is there a particular moment in the show that you find particularly special?

Negri: I don’t know. There are intense moments that I really like. I like the climactic moment when the Mom and Lyf have their big showdown. I like the imagery of the father and son flying in the air together and the father faltering. That came a little later in the process…. I really liked the theme of your parents being fallible.

 

Independent: Do you have any particular hope of what you would want audiences to walk away with after seeing the production?

Negri: I like this play because I think there are those exciting things for young audiences to hook into with the friendships, and the way friendship happens and flying and the excitement of the action and all those things and somewhat [the] relationship with parents. Though I say with child audiences [the] two short scenes with the parents is where the wiggling starts. So I kept those scenes short. But it is an exciting play full of action and the flying and I really think it taps into that childlike imagination with the fantasy world. I like the play because I think a lot of families who come to it, you know, have some moms crying, because it is that whole process of letting go and dealing and grappling with finding things out about your parents and if you’re going to accept that and move forward…. I hope it’s a play for the whole family, essentially. I want it to be. So there’s something for everyone. It’s not making jokes that kids don’t get. It’s not going over their heads to make the parents laugh, which is something that is very important to me when I write, that it’s not just like having parents snickering at a little pun or some sort of innuendo while the kids are [confused]. That to me is offensive. Although there can be different parts of the play that appeal to different age levels and every level of maturity.

Anne recently finished working on a new play titled “Girls Who Wear Glasses, ” which was produced by Childsplay in Tempe, Ariz. To stay tuned on where Anne’s work will be performed next, you can connect with her at facebook.com/annenegriplays.