An Interview with Ronán Noone

Samantha: [00:00:00] Great. I read that you immigrated from Galway. And I’m an immigrant too. I’m an immigrant from Venezuela at like the age of seven. So, I wanted to ask you, how immigrating to America changed your writing style?

Ronán: Yeah, that’s a great question. It really is because it did change it. The Irish are known for being very valuable, maybe talking a little bit too much, maybe telling too many stories. And we love the lyricism of words banging against each other and the music that kind of pops off and sometimes you can fall in love with it. You can even hear it in me now, like I’m just warbling on. It’s like, blah. But Americans have a much more aphoristic kind of phrasing. And you’ll hear it through their sports as well, like when the rubber meets the road or out of left field the tend to have these kind of quick phrases and they, they kind of greet each other that way too. And their [00:01:00] discussions can be in that way. And so I was able to start measuring their lines with my Irish kind of volubility and in a way it’s taught me how to tighten the dialogue when it comes to how characters speak and. How to put words on a page, the geography of a sentence.

Samantha: That’s so interesting. And about like how you go about your process. I wanted to ask, when you go to write a play, and I know it might be different each time because you’ve written several different things and have several different things produced, but do you find that you’re in control of what the characters are going to say? Or almost like they write themselves and you’re kind of a vessel?

Ronán: I need a roadmap of some kind. A very loose Scene structure, a very loose act structure, so I know where I’m kind of going, but first draft is basically allowing the characters who have, you’ve [00:02:00] absolved them into yourself in some way by this stage, it might take a few months, it might take a few years so that once you attack the page, you kind of allow it to just let them speak. And in first draft knowing that you have some kind of end goal, you let them roll. It’s the second draft and third draft where you start crafting the dialogue and that’s when you become aware of how their characters are growing in depth and how maybe you can add edges to it. But that first draft will really tell you everything you need to know and you can develop pieces from there or cut pieces accordingly.

Samantha: So interesting. I’m currently on my third draft of a play. I’m trying to muscle through. So hearing that is really reassuring that it’ll get somewhere.

Ronán: No, absolutely. And good to hear, good. I’m delighted you’re working on a play. It’s not easy, right? And you’re working on it and then. You have to trust that the process that you’re learning now actually stands to you [00:03:00] later on in the process of completing the play or for the next play or the play after that, that you just, and it’s not simply that you’re getting better, it’s just starting to learn how some words bang off each other, how to end sometimes an end word. And dialogue as an actor, you know, ending it with it is not as strong as ending it with some strong noun that can actually give a great kind of finish to an end, end of dialogue. So these things start coming to you as you go along to getting rid of sometimes the pronoun and just going straight in with don’t tell me that. I don’t need to know that. Don’t need to know that. Right. Get rid of your eyes. Sometimes you can get, get rid of a conjunction sometimes like an and or a but or a then, and you can get right in there with a comment that just pushes the actor right through. So.

Samantha: Writing this down, not only for the blog posts, but for me, cause that’s, that’s really, that’s really smart. Again, talking about your culture and your identity… Do you find that like the stories that you’re pushed to [00:04:00] write are rooted in like your culture and where you’re from and almost as if it’s like hard to separate from that?

Ronán: Absolutely. You can’t. You mean, and whether we like it or not, sometimes we’re put into boxes. And those boxes reflect, how other people see us. And maybe we don’t want to see necessarily that, but then we realized that those are the areas they say we have a particular expertise in telling stories from. And so, yeah, I got to dig back into the culture I came from and then marry it to the culture I’m in and then find worlds within those two worlds, in which to tell stories.

Samantha: That goes really well into my other question. This is going, this is great. I’m having a great time. As an immigrant myself, and as someone who’s trying to write, like, I find it hard sometimes to write about my culture, and like, my people, and I fear that it might not be understood by, like, the [00:05:00] general American audience. Have you felt that? And if you have, like, how do you quiet down that insecurity of, like, is it enough for this, like, American audience? Am I telling a story that they also want to hear, kind of, is my question.

Ronán: There’s two, two answers to that for me. One is everything is about the craft. So, whether I’m writing for an audience, not an audience, I don’t care. As long as I can see my craft. Improving that the skill set is just because for me, that becomes very much a spiritual thing or something that is working inside me, whereby you start gaining confidence in knowing how to craft a line or develop a character, move a plot along and maybe nothing ever happens with it. But inside you have a skill that a lot of people haven’t, so that in [00:06:00] itself and learning those skills and then putting them on paper, that to me has a Zen kind of motive. The other thing of, in terms of an audience, I rarely think about what an audience wants until later on in the draft process. I need to tell a story.I got to tell the story. This is the story. And then along the way in development, if somebody sees that it has place in the storytelling bank in theaters, and they want to put it up, before that, I’d certainly be looking at it in terms of what kind of audience are we trying to attract who would be interested in this story, but story for first for me, always, and for the craft for me always.And that’s not selfish. That’s just, sometimes it’s a way of protecting yourself in the sense of worrying about how an audience will perceive you, you cannot worry about that. You have to tell your story, be transparent, be authentic and separate the dancer from the [00:07:00] dance. You go ahead and sometimes that might be difficult. Why would you want to put pen to paper unless you want to tell the story yourself, the way you want to tell it?

Samantha: That’s true. That makes sense. I saw an older interview of you from 2015 and you had said something about how America feels like a new beginning, and you’re almost forced to start anew. And after reading Thirst, I noticed that theme coming through. Is that idea of freshness and newness and jumping into , a new place, is that exciting for you to write about? And if so, why?

Ronán: Well, it sounds exciting straight away, right? A new place, fresh, like, that does sound exciting. And I don’t know if you can do it unless you’re here long enough to understand what you go through to become, come to the other side, when you’ve actually put down your roots, made America your home, and America’s invited you [00:08:00] in to do that. I also was interested in the idea that yes, as an immigrant, you can actually see the struggle that you have to go through to become an American and to actually make it your home and to succeed, but that struggle for all the horror stories can you can hear, I can also point to just as many and more stories of people who found it successful and gave them a new life and gave them an opportunity that they may not have had, where they came from. I’m interested in that optimistic bent. Particularly in terms of thirst, because we’re coming in conversation with Long Day’s Journey Into Night that actually might portray, that does portray immigration as having a detrimental effect on a family.

Samantha: Awesome. And then also after reading Thirst, I was so, kind of enamored by the female characters and how strong they are while also showing this sense of [00:09:00] softness and care for not only their country, but for people. So how do you go about writing complex female characters, especially in like the lens of the 1900s, an older time where rules were more stricter for what a woman could be?

Ronán: Yeah, it’s a great question. I bet you you’re finding the same thing. You go back to those you know, and so my grandmother is all over this. I have three sisters, I have two daughters, so I’m influenced obviously by, the way that they look at life. I’m also, you know, I’ve worked in kitchens. I’ve seen how people treat each other. I’ve hung with all my immigrant friends, and you pick up things and actions that they do, small moments that you can then capture, and you find the right place for it. You can put it in a play.


Samantha: Is there [00:10:00] anything you’d want to say about thirst or like about what you hope people get out of this story from seeing it at Lyric Stage?

Ronán: I don’t necessarily. I mean, the play has a, has a ballet of movement in there. The choreography of movement is fascinating. There’s cooking going on. There’s tears, laughter, real cooking.

Samantha: I’m so excited!

Ronán: I know. And just a way to try and do that. And to also say your lines, deepen your character, polish your shoes, carry chicken in, and recite Shakespeare. And deal with another family that you don’t even see her in the other room, but actually controlling your movements, picking flowers and, finding your way to understand what love means. All of these pieces became fascinating to me, and I hope the audience is able to find all of those ideas in this when they come away from the play as well.

Samantha: I think that’s it for my [00:11:00] questions. Thank you so much for meeting with me today. It was so nice to talk.

Ronán: You too, Sam. Lovely. And, good luck with your studies.

Samantha: Thank you!