Five Questions for Shannon Sindelar

Shannon Sindelar
Director and co-writer for 31 Down; managing and programming director for the Ontological-Hysteric Theater

1. Where did you grow up and how did you end up where you are now?

I grew up in Everett, Washington, outside Seattle. I started doing theater when I was young and, much to my parents’ initial horror, actually pursued that and ended up in New York at 23. I moved to begin an internship with Richard Foreman, because most of my experiences up until that point had been with realistic dramas and musical theater. I wanted to experience the process of a director who had a serious interest in abstract visuals. I think the biggest impact of working with Richard ended up being his use of sound.

2. Which performance, song, play, movie, painting or other work of art had the biggest influence on you and why?

Zine culture was influential–I was really into it in my early to mid teens. That’s the first time I remember being exposed to the personal essay, and creative nonfiction outside of some forms of journalism. I think also the do-it-yourself nature really appealed to me. When I discovered zines, I started making my own, and that helped me develop my voice as a writer–though in terms of playwriting, very little of it is truly confessional.

3. What skill, talent or attribute do you most wish you had and why?

I’ve always wished I was a little more outgoing.

4. What do you do to make a living? Describe a normal day.

I’m sure for most who work in the arts, normal doesn’t really factor into it, but my days seem to vary a lot. My job entails overseeing the operations and projects of the Ontological and working with the staff, Board and curators to shape the programs and make sure the organization is running smoothly. The day to day involves a lot of correspondence, meetings, contract and grant writing, financial reconciliations, budgeting, etc. Working at St. Mark’s Church, where the OHT is located, usually means there’s also some surprise in the way of dealing with the public on a different level than with most theater audiences. I have a lot of stories.

5. Have you ever had to make a choice between work and art? What did you choose, why, and what was the outcome?

I’ve always chosen art, but at this stage there are varying degrees to which one can be dedicated without being independently wealthy or risk losing their apartment. I do choose to be somewhat stable—there was a period when I was moving all the time, going from job to job, and after awhile, though all the experiences were important, I got tired of being nomadic. I like being a part of a community, and building relationships and taking part in an ongoing dialogue. I think that’s essential for any sector of the arts, but especially for people who work in the performing arts; even though the world is becoming more close-knit with progress in technology, performance largely requires you to be there. Live. As for the outcome, I’m not sure yet; I’m working on it.

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