Name: Sofia Alvarez
Hometown: Baltimore, MD
Current Town: Brooklyn, NY
Affiliations: Bennington College (BA, 2007), Juilliard (Lila Acheson Wallace American Playwrights Program, 2011), Second Stage Theater (Friend Art, 2016), South Coast Repertory Theater (Between Us Chickens, 2011; Amos & Boris, 2018), Ars Nova (Playgroup 2013), Primary Stages (Dorothy Streslin New American Writer’s Group, 2011 – 2014) , New Georges (JAM alum 2011; Affiliated Artist), The Tank (Writer’s Group 2017),
SPACE on Ryder Farm (Alumna 2013, 2015, 2016),
NYU (Department of Dramatic Writing, Adjunct Professor)
Q: How do you self-identify?
A: Third Generation Spanish American
Q: Tell me about your screenplay for To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before.
A: This novel came my way by way of my agents when I was in production for my play, Friend Art, at Second Stage in May of 2016. I remember being in rehearsal and being emailed the novel and asked if I might be interested in adapting it. I read it and immediately fell in love with the funny, smart, and warm story. I flew to LA to pitch for the project, got the job, wrote it in the next few months and it filmed that summer—which is all pretty fast for film! I had no idea the reception the movie would receive before it came out. It’s been very exciting.
Q: What else are you working on now?
A: This winter my play, Nylon, will be produced at TheaterLab in New York starring Sheila Vand and directed by Knud Adams. The project is the pilot production of the Blockchain Theater Project—a new theater company I am starting in partnership with Nicola Korzenko dedicated to producing new plays primarily with funding from crypto-currencies. Nylon is a play that I wrote a few years ago. It was initial inspired by my reading of Doris Lessing’s The Golden Notebook. There is a section in the book where Lessing lists descriptions of stories she could write in one sentence. I challenged myself to write a one-sentence story and then base a play upon it. The sentence I came up with was, “A woman has coffee with a man she used to love after marrying a man she doesn’t.” The first act came out pretty quickly after that, but became about so much more than that sentence—though that is undeniably the catalyst. Nylon is one of those plays that has had a hundred readings but has never been produced. In the past few years, as I have become more successful in TV and Film—it was important to me to maintain my foothold in the theater but I also realized I couldn’t keep waiting for permission to put up my work. The idea to self-produce Nylon came first, but the idea for the BTP quickly followed when I realized how many of my peer playwrights had that play that had been workshopped continuously and never produced. The idea for the company is that every outgoing playwright will nominate three plays to the be the next production on their way out, Nicola will select from this list and we can keep producing plays indefinitely, changing the “gatekeeper” with each show. After all—who knows better what plays are ready to go up than the playwrights themselves?
I am also working on the screenplay for the US adaptation of the Spanish movie, Promocion Fantasma (Ghost Graduation) to be directed by Jeff Tomsic.
Q: What have been the defining moments of your journey as a playwright?
A: When I first moved to New York in 2007, I was looking for any job in the theater I could find and ended up working in the Blue Man Group Costume Shop and then as an assistant in the theater department at CAA. I was writing plays this whole time and applying for anything I could that had open submissions. After a couple of years and a ton of rejections, I was back-to-back accepted into the Royal Court Young Writers’ Program in London and also Juilliard. Those two affirmations at the same time were huge boons to both my confidence but also my identity as a playwright—they told me that no matter what happened, this is something I should pursue and could do for a living which made me less afraid of working straight up money jobs (nannying, waitressing) and focusing the majority of my time on writing.
Q: Who have been your playwriting mentors and heroes?
A: My history of theater professor in college, Kathleen Dimmick, introduced me to the work of Maria Irene Fornés which I found life-changing. I became obsessed with Fefu and her Friends and directed a production of Mud for my senior thesis. While working at CAA I was very inspired by the plays of Gina Gionfriddo and even though I was her agent’s assistant she was always very encouraging of me as a writer. In London, I worked part-time for Christopher Hampton which was a dream come true. He also encouraged me as a writer and offered to read the play I was working on for the Royal Court. Because he is prolific in the genre this is also where I first became interested in adaptations. At Juilliard, Chris Durang, Marsha Norman, and Tanya Barfield were invaluable resources. Plus all of my classmates and peer playwrights who I still find myself learning from continuously.
Q: What advice do you have for Latinx playwrights at the beginning of their career?
A: Be yourself and don’t conform to anyone else’s idea of who you are supposed to be. Always be writing and have a sample you are proud of ready to send the next day if someone asks you to read something. And keep challenging yourself so you don’t get bored.
Q: What else should we know about you?
A: I love to cook and bake and have made three wedding cakes! I would love to write a cookbook one day about my family’s annual Christmas Eve dinner that includes recipes from our Spanish, Italian, and Polish heritage as well as some from the Greek neighborhood in Baltimore where my great-grandparents settled when they came to the States and where my father still lives.
***For more on Sofia Alvarez, see:
- Follow Sofia Alvarez on Twitter
- “Meet the Baltimore native and screenwriter of Netflix’s To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” – Brittany Britto (Baltimore Sun)
- Sofia Alvarez discusses To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before with Jordan Carlos – OnWriting: A Publication of the Writers Guild of America, East
- Interview with Sofia Alvarez about Amos & Boris
- “I Interview Playwrights Part 209: Sofia Alvarez” – Adam Szymkowicz