Check out this write-up about THIN MINTS and boom! from the lovely and talented Alix Sobler.
Ellen Steves thought long and hard about how to write a play about girls when she was coming up with THIN MINTS. “Every play I've ever seen with all women has sucked big time. They are so boring! Why? Because all they do is sit around and talk about guys,” Steves said. “I'm proud to say that THIN MINTS gets an A+ on the Bechdel test.”
The Bechdel test Steves refers to is a simple test that can be applied to a narrative (usually movies) to test whether the work is feminist friendly. In order to qualify it has to meet the following three criteria: It must (1) feature at least two women, who (2) talk to each other about (3) something other than a man.
THIN MINTS, which runs March 20 through April 2 as part of the New York’s Next Series, features an all-female cast portraying Girl Scouts who go to a secluded cabin for a week-long jamboree, using trauma, terror and torture in their determination to ascend to the highest position a Scout can achieve: Bonfire Choral Leader.
Steves developed THIN MINTS in her classes at Columbia. “I started with tiny little snippets of scenes, jokes, images, and would bring them into one of my playwriting classes every week,” she said. “Once I had a rough idea of what the skeleton was going to be, the play kind of exploded.”
Steves, who will receive her MFA in Playwriting in 2017, is no stranger to workshops and collaboration. Her theater company, Boom! theater, began in Seattle in 2010 as a collaborative effort among a group of artists, and, now based in Bed-Stuy, they have produced over 40 works across the United States. Though they started as a generative ensemble, the company is evolving into more of a production company.
“What makes boom! different from other companies is that we are a family,” Steves said. “We’ve been living under the same roof for six years now, growing up together, making mistakes together. It's really the bond between us that keeps our work bold. I've never trusted another group of people more, so I feel comfortable pushing my own personal boundaries of performance.”
Working with the other MFA students has also changed and evolved her writing. “I find it incredibly narcissistic for a writer to think that they have all the answers,” Steves said. “You need people. I got super lucky with my team, because besides being brilliant writers, they all like laughter and snacks, which are my two main motivators in life.”
While classwork and feedback are valuable, nothing is quite as useful to a writer as rehearsal, according to Steves. “Matt Smith once told me that ‘if people keep forgetting the same line every time you run a scene, it's because it's not supposed to be there,’” she recalled. “Once the actors are up on stage, yelling your words to the cheap seats in the back, that's when you really see what's necessary and what's extraneous.”
While committed to her craft and determined to make a statement with her work, Steves considers herself a very flexible writer. “I love to make changes based on the actors' interpretation of the character,” she said. “That’s the beauty of having the playwright in the room. If you do Shakespeare, you're buying off the rack. You work with me, I'm going to create you a one-of-a-kind couture experience.”
Tickets for THIN MINTS are free and can be reserved online here.