Sitting in a hip Harvard Square café on a quiet Saturday morning, Max Mondi and Cassie M. Seinuk chat about theater over mugs of hot tea. But make no mistake: This business duo’s attitude is far from the haughty air of the stereotypical, snobby artiste. Instead, the two playwrights’ conversation is marked with friendly smiles, laugher, and praise for new, upcoming theater productions.
Last August, Mondi and Seinuk co-founded Interim Writers, a Cambridge-based artist collective that seeks to help talented local playwrights. Interim Writers hosts bi-monthly readings at Cambridge's Democracy Center, giving playwrights the opportunity to see their work come to life and receive audience feedback. All readings are free and open to the public.
The collective shows plays “in any stage of development,” Mondi said, as they focus more on “the process [of writing] rather than the final product.” Where a poem or piece of fiction can simply be read over by an individual in its early stages, “a play needs voice; it needs to be performed,” Seinuk added.
As playwrights themselves, Mondi and Seinuk realize the importance of a writer seeing and hearing her piece performed on the stage, complete with help from a director, actors, and -- most importantly -- an audience.
Audience is a huge part of theater,” Seinuk said. Mondi agreed that “talkback” between the work and the public is exactly what a work-in-progress play needs to aid its development.
Mondi and Seinuk have been delighted with the audience turnout at their readings. At the very first reading, the co-founders were thrilled -- shocked, even -- to meet complete strangers who came to watch and give their input to help the featured plays.
“I looked around and didn’t recognize everyone [in the audience], so I said, ‘Hey, Cassie, do you know these people?’ and it turns out, neither of us did,” Mondi said. Today, some people from that pool of strangers have become regulars at the bi-monthly events.
With writers, directors, and actors all coming together to make readings possible, Interim Writers is all about fostering connections within the community -- and Mondi and Seinuk couldn't be happier with the reception their idea has received in Boston. Seinuk described this area as a “great city for theater,” full of “young, talented people,” especially from the multitude of liberal arts colleges in the area.
The duo classifies their venture not necessarily as a company, but as truly more of a cooperative or academic institution. While their events run out of the Democracy Center, their office space is anywhere with Wi-Fi and a laptop -- usually a coffee shop like their favorite café in Harvard Square. Seinuk said that they've thought about bringing in another person to help run the business side of Interim Writers but have held off since she has “a background in marketing, and Max has great networking skills.”
Interim Writers strives to showcase work “that’s different, that’s trying to do something new,” Seinuk said. Mondi added that the pair loves featuring writers “eager to get their chomps” and who are still “figuring out the craft.” While the readings so far have featured playwrights, Mondi stressed that Interim Writers is open to “any and as many artists possible.”
The collective will hold their next event, “Have You Read? May,” on Friday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m. at the Democracy Center. The event will showcase the first act of Mondi’s newest play, You Deserve Me, and the second monologue from a series by Monica Raymond that tells the story of the Odyssey from the perspective of the Sirens. Raymond’s first monologue from the series was read at a previous Interim Writers’ event and has since been published.
“Plays have life after Interim Writers,” Mondi said. He and Seinuk also noted that Raymond is still working with an actor whom they set her up with for her first reading -- proof of the lasting connections and success that come from bringing communities of artists together to produce and workshop plays.
As Interim Writers events continue to be successful, Mondi and Seinuk are looking to expand their programming. Seinuk, a graduate student at Lesley University, is working on a syllabus for a short course on adaptations through Interim Writers, while Mondi has begun thinking about programming that goes “beyond theater.” Events could include “lectures by experts, fundraiser events, and open mic nights,” he said. One event in particular that the pair thinks would generate a crowd -- which they've named "Mortified" -- would feature writers sharing work they wrote as angst-ridden teens -- "you know, when you were disenfranchised and hated everything,” Mondi said.
But even as they eye the future with the promise of new creative ideas in addition to the growth of their regular readings, Seinuk wants everyone to remember Interim Writers’ motto: “It’s casual!”
If you're interested in writing, performing, or directing plays with Interim Writers, you can contact them here.
Photos of Mondi and Seinuk at "Have You Read? December" (middle) and actors (L to R) Melody Madarasz, Rachel Kurnos, James Crosby, Austin Auh, Tony R. Rios, and Meg Di Maggio performing at "Have You Read? February" (bottom) by Jeffrey Mosser
About Allison -- I am a journalism and creative writing student at Suffolk University. Politics, poetry, photography, and fine art are my passions. You can find me scrolling through the top stories on CNN, dreaming of exploring the cities featured in the New York Times travel section, inventing elaborate stories about strangers who sit across from me on the T, and wandering aimlessly through the streets with my camera. Twitter: @allytgurl
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