Last Fringe teen playwright Sharla Steiman burst onto the theatre scene in Indianapolis with SLAMMED!, directed by her high school theater teacher Ty Stover. The hour-long play blended traditional storytelling with slam poetry techniques. It followed a group of bohemian twenty-somethings struggling to find identity. A senior at University High School in Carmel, Steiman returns to the IndyFringe Festival with her latest script: Aquarium. I had a chance to speak with the budding playwright during a break from a playwrighting workshop she attended at NYU this Summer.
NUVO: When did you recognize you had a talent for playwriting?
Steiman: I've been writing for a long time. It was the thing that came the easiest for me, and I enjoyed doing it the most. Two or three Summers ago, I was actually at a camp in Interlochen. Originally I was taking poetry and fiction, and I hated my fiction teacher so I was like I'm switching. So I switched into playwriting and ended up loving it. And I was like oh this is exactly what I want to do.
NUVO: How involved are you in the theater program at University High?
Steiman: Last year Ty and I co-wrote a play that we put on that fall. It was like supposed to be Edgar Allen Poe stories, and so essentially all I did was I added some of my poetry in there and that tied it all together.
NUVO: How did slam poetry begin to make its way into your writing repertoire?
Steiman: Poetry was kind of the first form of writing that I got into. No one really jumps to playwriting right away; your first jump from poetry is to fiction. So I tried writing fiction. I would just find myself writing all this dialogue. So when I went to that playwriting class, I was like oh this is all dialogue. And then one of my friends at the camp was into slam poetry, and I didn't know what that was. She showed me some stuff. And then I went to Chicago and went to some random poetry slams. I loved that form. I just love the idea of meshing together poetry and dialogue and poetry and playwighting. It's like a heightened way of speaking.
NUVO: What can you tell us about Aquarium at this year's Fringe?
Steiman: Aquarium is very interesting because I had this very loose concept. The first scene is suppose to take place in a dolphin viewing dome, like you know at the Zoo. I went [to the Zoo] for a school trip, and I was like this is such a cool place, I want to write something that has this in it. There is a slam poetry element to it also. In SLAMMED! it was very much like they say "I'm going to do a slam." But in this one you're not saying she's about to slam, they just go into the poetry in their speaking.