An Interview with Haitian-American Playwright Nancy Fenelon Regarding Her Play Stones in the Water

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This November is going to be an exciting month for playwright Nancy Fenelon. The Black Lady Theater will launch “Stone in the Water”, a play set in 1970s Haiti written by Fenelon, produced by Omar Hardy, and directed by her colleague Sherese Parese.
Playwright Nancy Fenelon Stone in the Water
Kreyolicious: So you have a play coming out in November called Stones in the Water. Did it originate as a play?
Nancy Fenelon: Sometimes a piece of writing can start off as a screenplay get turned into a film. Even an undergrad thesis can get turned into a novel. I’m very excitied about it. From the very beginning I always envisioned this piece as a play.

Kreyolicious: Okay, some of us have heard the saying about the Stones in the Water and the Stones in the Sun that reflect the haves and the have-nots. Is that one of the points you wanted to bring across?
Nancy Fenelon: Yes it is. When I was deciding on a title for the play I wanted it to be connected to a Haitian phrase that I thought represented that divide, that struggle; and also the internal push and pull of loving ones country yet moving to another. I also thought of the phrase “The Stones in the water don’t know the pain of the Stones in the sun”, in a more literal sense. If we think about the process that stones go through as they’re being pushed and pulled through the water, it’s intense. And then think about what the stones go through on land, being out in the open and exposed to the heat and other elements, that’s intense as well. So no matter where you are (America or Haiti) you’re going to go through something.

Kreyolicious: So comedian-writer is part of the cast as well. How exciting?
Nancy Fenelon: I’m excited to have him as part of the cast.
Nancy Fenelon Stones in the Water
Kreyolicious: How did your collaboration come about?
Nancy Fenelon: I met Papa jean and his family a few years ago through a mutual friend and mentor of ours around theater and writing. Since then we’ve been friends and supporting each others work. He’s part of my creative family. In the early stages of my play, Papa Jean played one of the characters in two separate stage readings. He embodied that character so well that when my play was chosen for a production at The Black Lady theatre, I knew I wanted him to play the part.

Kreyolicious: A lot of creatives tend to fight self-doubt, while some are very confident in their work throughout the creative process. What was your confidence level like when you were crafting Stone in the Water.
Nancy Fenelon: I think that for me, self-doubt and confidence are always fighting for space. I have come to realize that they each play an important role in my creative process. One reminds me to be humble and the other pushes me and gives me strength to step out of my comfort zone. Before I wrote Stones in the Water, when I was in the outlining stages of it, I struggled a lot wondering how could I possibly capture all I wanted to say. But when I finally began writing, the words just kept flowing and I was sure that I had something good.
Nancy Fenelon Stone in the Water Haitian-American play
Kreyolicious: Did you write any other plays prior to this?
Nancy Fenelon: Yes. A few years ago I had two plays performed in New York City festivals. One called “The Fireplace”, and the other “The Red Book”. I also have several plays waiting to be brought to life.

Kreyolicious: Did your educational background contribute to who you have become? I know that sounds logical, but there are people who will tell you that their collegiate path didn’t guide them, or it just derailed them.
Nancy Fenelon: Yes, I believe my educational background has contributed to who I am. I believe that all my experiences help shape me in life and as a writer.
Nancy Fenelon Stone in the Water play
Kreyolicious: Did you make a playlist while you were writing?
Nancy Fenelon: I don’t have a specific playlist for writing but there’s always low music playing in the background that’s for sure. Usually whatever’s on my iTunes, which is a broad range of genres.

Kreyolicious: What can audiences going to see the play expect?
Nancy Fenelon: Audiences can expect to be surprised, connected and challenged by this piece.

Kreyolicious: You ever felt pressured to pursue a non-creative career?
Nancy Fenelon: I actually have pursued another career. I’m a licensed teacher and have been involved in education for over a decade. In many ways, it has helped me creatively. Although, I recently left full-time teaching in order to have more time to pursue my writing. But, there’s always that balancing between making sure you can take care of yourself and having time for your craft.
Nancy Fenelon Stone in the Water
Kreyolicious: You been to Haiti?
Nancy Fenelon: Yes I have, twice. In 2013 and 2014. It was amazing.

Kreyolicious: Where do you see your career as a playwright going?
Nancy Fenelon: I see my work being produced and shared in the wider playwright community. And having the ability to create space for different voices and stories.

Stone in the Water will be be showing from Nov 8-10 at the Black Lady Theater on Nostrand.

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