Playwright, actress and director Dani Stoller calls her latest work, Easy Women Smoking Loose Cigarettes, a love letter to her mother. “The relationships between mothers and daughters are complicated, hilarious, heartbreaking,” says the DC-area artist. “And sometimes you have to grapple with how to support the person you love the most after they do something that directly conflicts with your moral ideals.” When the comedy makes its world premiere at Signature Theatre this month (part of the venue’s Heidi Thomas Writers’ Initiative to support female talents), audiences will experience that dynamic when a retired Jewish mother has to pick up the ashes seemingly falling from her family—a pregnant niece, a daughter with something to hide—and the boy next door too. Here, Stoller (who plans to have an an “awesome dinner” at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington pre-debut) fans the flames.
Why are you glad to be premiering your play at Signature?
Signature is such an incredible place to work. Easy Women is a bit dangerous in terms of its subject matter, and Signature doesn’t pull punches when it comes to diving into edgy work.
It must be exciting to be a part of the Heidi Thomas program. What was your reaction when you found out?
Oh my God, I cried; I jumped up and down; I called my parents. The initiative is so necessary because it is a reminder that women’s stories are needed. And the other women who have had their plays produced through [it] are incredibly accomplished.
Has the NoVA region had any impact on your theater work?
I moved to Fairfax right out of college (I now live in Maryland) because I had fallen in love with the Virginia, Maryland, DC theater scene. It’s so vibrant; it’s a supportive community; there’s room to stretch yourself as an artist; and there are constant opportunities to create great theater.
On that note, what do you want viewers to take away from Easy Women?
I hope that the audience is able to leave with an ability to forgive themselves and others for past transgressions. I hope that they leave laughing. I hope it sheds light on the insidiousness of addiction. And I hope, if they’re able to, it inspires them to call their mothers. // Feb. 18-March 29, Signature Theatre: 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington; $40-$96