2016–17 Playwriting Fellow Nicole Pandolfo

What was your first experience with Theater?

My first experience with theatre was going to see the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular at Radio City with my mom on a bus trip from South Jersey which exploded my world when I found out New York City was a place that existed, where lots of things I wanted to be around were happening, and that I could go to if I could get myself onto a bus. That experience both solidified my love of the theatre and my love of New York City.

When did you start writing?

I started writing poetry and short stories in the beginning of high school and my English teacher, Mrs. Howard, told me that I was good at it. I was horrible at sports and as a dancer was always half a step behind (or ahead) of everyone so it might have been the first time someone acknowledged that I had a specific talent. I wrote some embarrassing poems about ex-boyfriends and some short stories here and there and then in college at NYU I took a creative writing class as an elective and again, the instructor pointed out to me that I was good at it and it was then I had to acknowledge a true desire to explore the path of being a writer. I didn’t make my way to playwriting until a year after graduating when my close friend and comic artist genius Kevin Maguire suggested on a whim we take a class together at HB Studio (which he never did sign up for).

Who do you look to for inspiration?

I’m very inspired by the blue-collar hard-working people from where I grew up in South Jersey. Paulsboro is a refinery-town that’s had a rough shake due to the post-industrial blight that plagues parts of our country. What truly inspires me about the people who I grew up around is that despite many odds staked against us, as a community we have a lot of pride and are good, generous people. I find that where I grew up in Jersey, with Philadelphia just across the river and New York City within arms reach, but economic opportunities few and far between, there is a lot to keep you in one place, but also a lot to reveal the possibility of something more. Tina Howe tells me that my gift is how I write about people who are longing and I think that very much has to do with where I grew up geographically.

What are you most looking forward to as a fellow?

I’m so looking forward to getting to know the other fellows and their work and to learn from Diana, Laurence, Michael, and Sheri. Of course it’s also exciting to think about learning from the amazing guests that will be joining us in our sessions as well. I hope to make some really great progress on my plays in the fellowship and to be brave in my writing, generous to the other fellows, and open to learning new things about myself and the craft.

What do you find most rewarding about being a dramatist? Or what do you find most rewarding about the writing process?

For me the most rewarding part about writing is reaching someone else through my work. When someone expresses to me that they recognized something in their own lives or understood something differently about themselves or questioned ideas they have that they thought were fixed because of something I’ve written that makes me feel really good. So much of the process of creating art is wanting to be heard and wanting to be loved and wanting to love and those connections remind me that there is true value in what we as writers are doing.

Nicole Pandolfo recently graduated with her MFA from Hunter College where she studied with Tina Howe, Arthur Kopit, and Mark Bly. She was most recently selected for a 2017 commission with the NJPAC Stage Exchange with Premiere Stages at Kean University. Her work has been developed through the Jerome Foundation, The Actors Studio, the Lark, and NJ Rep among others and she was a finalist for the Edward Albee Foundation Fellowship and the Leah Ryan Fund for Emerging Women Writers. She is a member of The Actors Studio in the Playwright/Director Unit directed by Lyle Kessler. She has had plays published and produced throughout New York City and the United States as well as in Sydney, Melbourne, London, Singapore, Toronto, and more. Thank you to everyone at the Dramatist Guild Fund.


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