Meet ‘Raggedy And’ Playwright David Valdes Greenwood

Pride Films and Plays has two world premiere productions on our season this year! And I thought you would enjoy hearing from David Valdes Greenwood about his life in the theater!Be the first to see this exciting and ground breading comedy by ordering tickets here. Performances begin March 10. Purchase tickets hereRaggedy And runs March 10 to April 10 at Rivendell, 5779 N Ridge.

  • What inspired you to become a writer? Are you from an ‘arts’ family – was their pressure to do other work?

David Valdes GreenwoodNo one in my family was a writer but we were an arts family in one way: my Grandmother was church organist and choir director, and we all sang. We also all loved books, the kind of family in which everyone had the maximum number of borrowed books allowed at a time by the library.

There was certainly no great embrace of my writing when it first started. I was the first to graduate from college and they all thought it was insane that I wanted to go to grad school, especially for writing. My grandmother insisted I return to my small town in Maine to get a real job and take care of my mother (who was never very good at managing her life), but I didn’t. I got my MFA and became a writing teacher, and still squeaked out money to send my Mom.

My mom wasn’t really proud of my writing as a playwright because it seemed foreign to her, but when I wrote books as well, she could relate. Books were tangible and could be in her room. To appreciate my plays, she would have needed to leave her apartment and go to a theatre (in a city, no less), and there was no chance of that.

But the seeds of me playwriting do stem from a family member: My Aunt Jean had tickets to see The Fantasticks at the Waterville Maine Opera House and no one else would go, so she asked if I wanted to. I was all of 9 or 10 and I will never forget it. The moon was reeled in on a fishing rod and I thought it was the most magical thing ever to create a world in such simple ways. It’s one reason I never write plays with fixed, realistic sets: I love that idea that theatre is about transformation.

  •  Was there a moment which gave birth to the play we now know as Raggedy And? And how long has it taken from that moment to opening night?

My college roommate transitioned as an adult, and we had a lot of conversations about what the experience has been like, both for her becoming a woman but also a woman of a certain age. I knew nothing about the topic but I threw myself into learning about the experience because she is not a writer and had commented how, growing up, there was nothing for her to see of lives like her own. I started the first draft of Raggedy And in 2013—and here we are three years later.

  • It seems like ‘trans’ issues have exploded around us – how has that impacted how Raggedy And is perceived?

It’s been interesting; over this span of time, society has become far more exposed to trans issues and people than it was when I started the writing. The Caitlyn Jenner coverage impacted the world that the characters in the play navigate as a basic level of exposure was now the social norm. At the same time, the generational divide of the queer characters in the play—between what younger and older people feel, experience, and value—has become much more vocal and is now part of the public debate. In the play, Ondi’s desire for self-definition bumps up against not only cisgender expectations but the politics of the genderqueer and a-normative young people in whom she can’t see herself.

  • How has your experience been working with the PFP team of Chicago artists?

It has been a joy to see a team so committed to the full diversity of our world being honored on the stage. When I wrote a play with lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans characters all included, as well as characters of different races and ethnicities, I was determined to make this a world I recognize (as a mixed-ethnicity gay Cuban) but never get to see on stage—but I also knew it might doom the play to going unproduced. Pride Films & Plays proved me wrong.

When I spent time in Chicago for rehearsals, it was wonderful to see what a terrific team is at work. Cecilie knows how to ask good questions—I actually re-wrote the final scene in response to one of them—and how to steer actors toward their richest work. The cast has been dedicated and generous, and I’ve loved seeing the colors they bring to each role.

  • Do you have other projects across the country that people should watch out for?

I just had a workshop of my play The Mermaid Hour in Charlotte, but there are still several things ahead this year. You can see a staged reading of my play Vow Keepers, in which an older couple time travel to stop their wedding 40 years before (think of it as Dr. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf) on June 6 at IATI Theatre in New York and, this fall, Boulder Ensemble Theatre will open their season with a full production of my drama Full Code, about seconds chance at life and love for a man in a coma, his wife, and his “work wife.”

  • What keeps you going during dark times as an artist?

Playwriting can be a desert of very long dry spells, and even at its best comes with very little financial reward, so the love of writing alone has to be a kind of sustenance. But I’ve been writing plays for twenty years and have now seen plenty of evidence of how just when things seem over, a play will find a home, and people will share a play without me even knowing. To have four different plays finding different homes this year is a reminder that as long as the work is going out, it’s never lost, even when I can’t see what will come of it. And then, of course, when a play of mine does make it to the stage, the lasting reward is the joy of seeing the audience connecting to the work, engaging the ideas, and carrying it home in their memories.

  • Anything else we need to know?

The first professional play I ever saw was 30 years ago this spring, a production of Heartbreak House at the Huntington. How the world has changed since I that all-white, all-straight cast moved me with their story and made me want to write plays. I couldn’t have pictured Raggedy And then, or imagined that a story like this would find an audience. I hope it inspires the next playwright to capture the world of their future.
Top: David Valdes Greenwood

Middle: Katurah Nelson (L) as Clem and Delia Kropp as her wife Ondi.

Bottom: Manny Ortiz (L) as Jayden and Averis I. Anderson as the object of his affection Ben in Raggedy And. Photos by Paul Goyette.


Raggedy And