Marisa Wegrzyn

For years, Marisa Wegrzyn survived on “dead-end temp jobs, Texas Hold ’Em, and scratch-n-win lotto.” Now she can officially add “playwright” to her roster of trades.

As the winner of the 2009 Wendy Wasserstein Prize, Wegrzyn, 28, collected $25,000 for Hickorydickory.

The intimate and bloody family epic debuts February 1st in a staged reading at New York City’s Second Stage Theatre.

With the prize money banked, Wegrzyn (pronounced Wegger-zen) has officially stopped looking—or at least stopped thinking about looking—for another office gig to support her writing habit. “I got laid off in June, but every time I think about finding another day job, I get depressed,” says Wegrzyn. “So for now, no. Not gonna do it.”

The Wilmette native began writing in earnest after winning a playwriting contest as an undergrad at Washington University in St. Louis. Though the Wasserstein Prize ceremony in New York last December was all kisses and top-shelf cocktails, Wegrzyn’s previous encounter with Gotham City was hardly warm and fuzzy. In 2007, critics excoriated Wegrzyn’s The Butcher of Baraboo, having (predictably) a field day coming up with meat metaphors to savage the Second Stage show (it premiered at Steppenwolf’s First Look festival in 2006). “It was brutal. And I’d like to put it behind me,” Wegrzyn says. “Going back to Second Stage with Hickorydickory, it feels like a fresh start.”

Hickorydickory departs from Wegrzyn’s earlier works (among them Diversey Harbor and Killing Women, which premiered at Theatre Seven of Chicago, where Wegrzyn is a founding member) in its unbridled foray into magical realism. The characters have “mortal clocks” embedded in their hearts, timepieces that foretell the precise moment of their owner’s death.

“I think people are hungry for fantasy that’s not whimsical. So the concept is magical, but the execution, I want that to be absolutely real. Which means lots of blood and guts,” says Wegrzyn.

Indeed, whimsical Hickorydickory is not. The playwright herself is similarly lacking in starry-eyed sentiment. “I’d never move to New York,” she says. “My friends, my family—everything I love is here. Plus, I can go back to my folks’ every two weeks to do my laundry.”


Photograph: Taylor Castle

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