Interviewing Playwrights: Tegan McLeod

In her first project as our Artistic Development Manager, Jane Ryan will be introducing us to some of today’s most exciting playwrights! In our ‘Interviewing Playwrights’ series, Jane will be chatting to various writers about themselves, their inspiration, and their latest projects. First up is an interview with Tegan McLeod, whose play Lunatic 19’s; A Deportational Roadtrip is on at the Finborough this July. 


Tell us a bit about yourself. Where did you grow up and what’s your background? 
I was born at home, surrounded by corn fields, in Iowa City, Iowa. From there my family moved to England when I was six. My sisters and I were the strange American transplants in the Yorkshire Dales right through to the Girls’ High School I attended, where I vowed to adopt a Yorkshire accent and leave all traces of my former twang behind. I went on to read English Literature at St. Peter’s College, Oxford and later earned a Masters in Playwriting and Screenwriting from The Michener Center at The University of Texas, at Austin (where my Southern twang was finally restored).
Tell us about your upcoming production. How did you come up with the idea?
My play Lunatic 19’s; A Deportational Roadtrip is based, shockingly, on a true story. I started writing the play while at The Eugene O’Neill Playwright’s Conference back in 2016 and since then it has been touched by much collaboration, which has made the story stronger and stronger. In short, this play is an examination of the human stories at the heart of the current debate about migration and refugees- particularly in the US and the UK.
Do you class yourself as a writer? Or something else?
I class myself as a writer because I am particularly drawn to language and it’s ever-elusive and transformation power.
“Girls In Cars Underwater”: Directed by Cara Phipps, 2016. Photos by Lawrence Peart (University of Texas at Austin, Department of Theatre and Dance).
What made you want to write?
Both of my parents are writers so I grew up listening to imagined worlds and characters over the dinner table. I began to rewrite my favorite children’s novels in Primary School and slowly found my own voice through a combination of prose, poetry and lengthy monologue writing!
Can you remember the very  first production you went to see?
I don’t remember the very first production I saw but I do remember the first play that made me want to be a playwright: Elephant’s Graveyard by George Brant. I remember being mesmerized by the ensemble cast and thinking: if this kind of magic can exist on stage, I want to be a part of it.
Do you have a day job? If so, what?
I do! I teach yoga, mostly Power Vinyasa, in Brooklyn and love it! It has activated a performative side of myself that I thought I had given up forever as a writer. It also awakens a powerful present-ness through the act of service, which for me, as someone who day-dreams and lives in fantasy worlds for much of my work, is essential for balance.
What’s the worst job you’ve ever had?
The best and worst job I ever held was at a bar named Sully’s Saloon in Louisville where I was a shot-girl. I wrote a play about the experience entitled Girls in Cars Underwater.
What play do you wish you had written?
Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett, always.
“Never Such Rain” Performed at UT Austin (2015), directed by Lily Wolff. (photo by Shannon Kintner)
Where do you write and what inspires you?
I’m lucky in that I can really write anywhere as long as I have my headphones and a good playlist. My most favorite writing environment is a sunny, warm cafe on a weekday morning with my dog and a quietly perspiring iced coffee by my side.
Do you believe theatre is important, and if so, why? 
For me, it is the act of collaboration and social engagement that makes theatre so important; it feels both very raw and hopefully, a little bit dangerous.
Where would you like to be in 10 years time?
On the main stage of The Royal Court or The National, I’m not picky.
Tegan, taken by a friend
Playwright Tegan McLeod was born in Iowa City, Iowa. She later moved to the UK where she went on to study English at Oxford University. She began acting with the National Youth Theatre and her first play Never Such Rain, written at age 18, was a runner-up in the Oxford New Writer’s Festival. Upon graduating, Tegan became one of only two playwrights, internationally, to be awarded a full scholarship to the University of Texas at Austin as a Michener Fellow in Playwriting and Screenwriting. Whilst there, she had numerous productions including the world premiere of her first opera, Rose Made Man, an opera about Trans identity. Her play Girls in Cars Underwater was developed at Center Stage in Baltimore, featured in the Ignition Festival at Victory Gardens, Chicago, and was selected for the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center: National Playwrights Conference. Last year, her play Lover Think Lover was included in The New Group’s Spring Reading Festival. This is her first full length play to be seen in the UK.

Lunatic 19s, A Deportational Roadtrip is on at the Finborough from 9 July to 3 August. Book tickets here! 


Featured image courtesy of the Finborough. 

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