Though the stage lights may be dark for the foreseeable future, actors and playwrights from Playhouse in the Park have banded together digitally to produce a special series of monologues on the timely—if a bit broad—topic of hope. For actress and playwright Torie Wiggins, months of being cooped up indoors served as an inspiration for her monologue, “Hope Deconstructed,” a lighthearted, playful piece performed by Ernaisja Curry for Playhouse in the Park’s online series. We caught up with Wiggins to talk quarantine projects, creative inspiration, and what it means to draw hope from within.
Tell us a bit about your background as a writer and performer.
I came to Cincinnati to attend UC [CCM] for Theatre; I’m originally from Atlanta, Georgia. I moved to New York City after graduation to be an actor, but I’ve always been a writer—which I’m only now realizing. Crazy, right? I stayed in New York for 12 years, performing in various ways and doing voice-over work. I wrote and produced a solo show that I performed there, and cowrote another. I’ve always loved writing my own work, because no one knows my type better than me. I did television, film, sketch comedy, and theater while I was in New York, and came back to Cincinnati to perform, initially. Then Cincinnati became my artistic home.
Walk me through your creative process when it came to writing “Hope Deconstructed.” Where did you draw inspiration for this particular monologue?
It’s funny, because when I was asked to write about “hope,” my mind went to a very literal place. I couldn’t get hope as a concept out of my mind. I also really wanted to write something light and funny, because I figured we would need it during these uncertain times. So I literally just started writing about my thoughts on hope—what the word means to me, how I process it, and how I embody it.
Where do you seek hope during a time like this? In other words, what have these past few months taught you about hope? Is it, like you write in “Hope Deconstructed,” something that we’ve been getting all wrong?
At a time like this, it feels like I can only seek hope from within. That’s what these past few months have taught me about hope. When I first wrote the piece, our focus was on the pandemic. So much has transpired since then…stuff that can really challenge anyone’s sense of hope. So when you can’t find hope out in the world, you have to search from within, or you won’t have any at all. Like the character in the monologue, you have to believe until you _believe it.
You’ve also recently worked as a full-time instructor at Miami. What has it been like to connect with your students throughout the COVID-19 cancellations?
I just ended my full-time position at Miami University, but this last semester that was half online really taught me a lot about ways to connect with my students. A lot of my students were concerned about losing that connection once I was no longer at the university, but moving to virtual instruction really helped us envision ways to stay connected when we are apart.
How has “quarantining” impacted any projects you’ve been working on? Has this time given you space to create and find inspiration? Or have you found yourself running into creative blocks?
I have been forced to create and find inspiration over the past few months, because a lot of projects I was slated to do were cancelled. But if I don’t find ways to stay creative, I’ll lose my mind. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t run into creative blocks, because I can’t detach myself from what’s happening in the world. I try to use it all in perspective, so that when I look back at the things I created during this time, I’ll remember how it all affected my creative perspective.