Writers Institute

Erin Breznitsky '06

What is it like to see your work as a final product on opening night?
Gratifying and terrifying, simultaneously. It's immensely satisfying to have a joke land exactly where you meant it to, or feel the tension that you'd hoped would happen during a certain moment. But on the flip side, that first show is also paralyzing, because once a performance starts, the playwright is completely powerless. I always try to hide as far back in a corner as I can. I don't let myself breathe again until curtain call.

Unlike a screen writer, you’re involved in the production of your plays. How did you find your interest behind the scenes?
I always knew I was a writer, and I always loved music and theatre (I minored in vocal performance at SU), but it never occurred to me to put those two things together until well after college. I started working in the administrative offices of George Street Playhouse and, subsequently, McCarter Theatre Center. I started writing plays on the side, dropped everything to study at Sarah Lawrence College's Theatre MFA program, and never looked back.

How does your creative writing major interact with screen writing?
The process of writing a play might differ tremendously from the process of writing poetry or prose, but the fundamentals are the same, and those are the techniques I learned at SU and implement constantly in my playwriting. How to create real, rounded characters with distinct voices; how to tell a story with a strong narrative arc; how to listen to language; how to manipulate language; how to read (and listen, and watch) as a writer, as opposed to reading/listening/watching as a consumer; how to give feedback. These are things that every writer should know how to do, no matter the medium. Your instincts do the rest.

What does it mean to you to have been a part of Susquehanna’s creative writing program?
I'm so proud to be an alum of the SU Writer's Institute—it was the exact right program for me as an undergrad, and I wouldn't be the writer I am today without what I learned in my time there. It's been so exciting for me to read about the program's successes and expansions since I graduated in 2006—I feel a little like I found a well-kept secret that the rest of the world is now starting to discover!

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