Acclaimed writer, Sigal Samuel, is a LABA Fellow with many influences. Her newest play “Four [Women] Entered Paradise,” is premiering at MOTHER: Power on March 16th at 7:30pm. The play looks at what happens when the four matriarchs enter paradise, a twist on the famous Talmudic tale about four rabbis. Sigal took a moment to tell us about her influences and the new play.
Q: In one word, describe your work?
Q: What is your primary medium or style of work?
A: The written word — from fiction to journalism to playwriting.
Q: What influences your work?
A: My work owes a lot to Jewish texts, from the Talmud and Midrash to S.Y. Agnon and Yona Wallach. Contemporary philosophers, feminist artists, and queer theorists also play a major role.
Q: Any advice for aspiring writers?
A: In the immortal words of Dorothy Parker: “The art of writing is the art of applying the ass to the chair.”
Q: How long does it take for you to “pen” a new project?
A: It depends on the project. Playwriting, for me, is usually a fast process; I once wrote an entire one-act on the bus from Brooklyn to Montreal. But I’ve also just spent much of the past three years writing my first novel. So, there’s a range.
Q: How has being a LABA fellow informed your current work?
A: My new play, “Four [Women] Entered Paradise,” would never have come into being without LABA. One of the program’s study sessions provided the text that served as the initial jumping-off point (Eve’s first lover was not Adam, but the snake? Who knew!) and one of the fellows provided the setting by drawing a connection to the mystical garden known as the Pardes (thanks, Siona Benjamin!) in her own work.
Q: What have you been able to take away from being a LABA fellow?
A: For me, the Beit Midrash or study hall has always been a culture laboratory — a place where Judaism’s rich literary tradition inevitably sparked off creative ideas. But, studying in yeshiva settings, I always felt that I had to either sneak those ideas in covertly, or else go home and follow up on them in the privacy of my own notebook. That’s why participating in LABA, where those projects are actually the express purpose of the text study and not some weird unintended spinoff, has been such a positive experience.