Playwright Elizabeth Doss Creates A 'Severe Weather Warning'
“I think a lot of plays… even if it’s just a question that you’re asking, you’re always sort of writing from inside your own mind, so in some way it’s autobiographical,” playwright Elizabeth Doss says of her new not-exactly autobiographical play Severe Weather Warning. “But [for] this play in particular… I was thinking about old friends that I’d had, and sort of the loaded history that emerges.”
Severe Weather Warning isn’t a play about Doss’s own life, but it was inspired by thoughts and questions she was having about herself and other women her age. “There’s like an age we all hit... around your mid- to late-thirties, where you’ve made certain kinds of decisions and you have to take stock,” she says. “And you’re sort of looking around at other women and trying to figure out if the choices you’ve made make sense for you. So I think that’s the pressure cooker that this play is sitting inside of.”
The play centers around four women – childhood friends – who gather at the Texas coast for a weekend getaway. “And it’s sort of like all of the problems, all of the… choices that they’ve made in their lives kind of come to a head in a particular moment, and there’s a storm on the horizon,” Doss says. “I wanted to make a play that was sort of structured like a storm.”
“Yeah, I mean, it gets wild,” says director Jenny Lavery. “But it starts out with a lot of pregnant pauses and awkwardness, and then as the night unfolds and dinner sort of refuses to get made, the women are forced to make certain choices that allow them to be way more free and expressive than they might otherwise be. What I love is that because they start out sober and then they end up not sober, we see who they are [in] present day but we also see them reverting to the roles that they used to play during childhood. And I think it’s always fascinating to look at how far we’ve come but also how much we’re still the same.”
An actress herself, Doss wanted to create a play with rich characters to portray, even though she’s not appearing onstage in this production. “I think I thought about these characters as people I would want to play,” she says. “But I wanted to hear other women inside those roles. It’s so satisfying to watch them make choices with your text, you know?”