I sat down to tea with the wonderful Bella Pelz today to discuss her inspiration behind her new play “Not____Enough.” The play explores identity, sexuality, mortality, reality, gender, race and our very foundations as human beings. It will be performed this Monday at 6:00pm for the Boston University School of Theatre’s “Sunday and Monday Sitdowns” an annual series of table readings for new plays developed by young playwrights.
E: What was your inspiration behind Not____enough?
B: I was inspired by Alicia Borinsky’s book, Dreams of the Abandoned Seducer. I read it in high school. It was my favorite book that I read in my latin american literature class.It is just like, one of those things that stayed with me and I was re-reading it summer after sophomore year and then just started writing, wasn’t even expecting it to be a play, just started writing because I wanted to write in the style of her work. And then I ended up generating more and more writings and it became a play.
E: What was your process for this play?
B: I started summer after sophomore year, got like maybe, 10 pages done of little sections -laid it to rest for a bit- picked it up again when I was home junior year, did some editing, added some more, picked it up again this fall since I was taking quarter 1 to write it so that way I could submit it to the Kennedy Center. I did most of the editing this fall and got more material based off of workshops which was great because I needed outside of my brain, off the screen and in voices.
E: How do you think when you write? Do you think images, words, colors, do you not even know?
B: I think all of that. There are times when words come into my head or I see something and write about it. In the colors things, there are sometimes where I’m writing and I see colors appearing, just in the sense of “this is the world that is being created from my words.” One of the workshops that we had, Linda [Perla] asked what colors some people saw and they actually said they saw some colors.
E: Whoa! What colors did they see?
B: A lot…red and orange, mango colors. A few people saw some green, like fresh earthy green, like rainforest green. And the part with the institute, people said it switched from vibrant to just a gray.
E: How did it feel to work with Linda Perla as a director?
B: She’s been with me this whole process. She was living with me when I started writing it. She was the one who pushed me to keep writing so I could submit it to the Kennedy Center. Her role kind of changed this fall and it became more of a dramaturgical conversation during my edits and she facilitated the workshops.
E: In the author’s note you ask people to pardon you if the play is not enough of what they believe it should be, remember it’s just a dream, what compelled you to share this?
B: Originally, way back when, this was called “Not Feminist enough/Not Latina Enough” which was a critique of Maria Irene Fornes. And I remember hearing that in Drama Lit and being like I have to have that somewhere in my life. So that was this and I started writing it and I realized that there was more within the play that there could be not enough of. And probably more things that I can even imagine, just a blank space to fill in what you feel. I think it also challenges people to think why something is not enough. Partially also, a personal thing, while I was writing I felt like it wasn’t enough. Sometimes I felt like it wasn’t really a play, I didn’t have enough material.
E: Music is a huge component in this play, what spoke to you about these specific songs apart from their Latinx roots?
Most of them are traditional Mexican folk songs. Songs that I grew up learning, hearing even though I am Puerto Rican. One of the reasons being most of my professors in high school were Mexican. I have had a personal relationship with these songs and for me they reflect tradition in a way that feels a little bit dissonant. They are something we can’t really connect to anymore especially with the character of the Other woman because she doesn’t speak that language [Spanish] anymore. I was talking to Alicia [Borinsky] yeah she’s a professor here. She read my play, she really liked it but she felt a little bit like the music didn’t fit, except it could fit if in the music, there is something off, just like the rest of the play.
In the script, you mentioned that Alicia Borinsky’s book Dreams of the Abandoned Seducer inspired you, was there anything particular that you pulled from?
Not really. There are characters that I have written a response to, like Rogelio. And the institute is an image that I pulled from. It [Not___Enough] was like a readers response but in an artistic way.
What is some advice you can give to young artists on developing their own work?
I feel like anything I have to say has been said already but I guess my first thing is keep writing. When I was in Autobio I could only write 2 pages, maybe 3 if I’m lucky and my peers are bustin’ out a one act. So I felt like I wasn’t as good of a writer. I created a whole play based off of the fact that I only write 2 page scenes. So I think it’s really important to be patient with yourself, and let yourself surprise yourself and know that your shortcomings are actually your strengths. Find people that you trust, I think that is the most important thing, I would have give up on this project a long time ago if it wasn’t for Linda.
Join Bella and many more playwrights during Sunday and Monday Sitdown this Dec. 9 and 10th.