Amanda L. Andrei is a playwright based in Los Angeles. She got her start in the Arts in many ways – through playing the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet in high school, producing her first play at the DC Capital Fringe Festival, graduating through the pandemic from her MFA program, to name a few! Her work includes Black Sky, HECUBA and Helicopter Typhoon Carabo! To Survive and Apocalypse Now, and she’s currently adapting a Spanish Golden Age play for UCLA and Playwrights Arena! Andrei loves creating opportunities for actors that don’t often see their cultural or ethnic background in her industry, and enjoys researching and observing in preparation to write. Aside from the arts, she’s involved with the Liyang Network, an organization that centers around “human and environmental rights, placing a special focus on the Luman people,” as it enables her to give back to her community as a Filpina diasporan. Her advice to young artists? “Have multiple streams of income that don’t necessarily overlap with [their] artistic practice” – and of course, to trust their process. Read on to learn more about Amanda and what makes her an Amazing Asian in the Arts!
Name: Amanda L. Andrei
Heritage: Filipina and Romanian
Hometown: Northern Virginia / Washington D.C.
Current City: Los Angeles
Current project: Lots! Right now the rawest thing I’m working on is a commission from UCLA and Playwrights Arena to adapt a Spanish Golden Age play – I’m currently in the midst of rewriting a first draft.
What are some of your favorite credits/projects:
I love working on any play where I hear actors tell me this is the first time they’ve been able to play a role that matches their own cultural or ethnic background. Most recently, this has been with a few plays with mixed race/multiracial Philippine American characters – specifically HECUBA, a surreal drama inspired by Euripides’ play of the same name, and Helicopter Typhoon Carabo! To Survive and Apocalypse Now, a bizarro retelling of the filming of Apocalypse Now in the Philippines from supernatural and Fil-Am perspectives.
Any advice for young people getting into the arts?
In my experience, I find it helpful to have multiple streams of income that don’t necessarily overlap with my artistic practice. That is to say, I feel fortunate to work in positions that feed my skills of research, facilitation, and teaching and not necessarily writing – I need to save some of my writing energy for my personal projects as well. Don’t get a job that drains you – find ways to make whatever you’re doing also feed into your artistic practice, and make sure to protect your energy and practice. Other advice that is simple, profound, and a guiding force in my journey: trust the process.
How did you get your start?
I feel like I’m still starting! And what’s cool is that as artists, we can all have multiple origin stories. One of my starts is having my first play produced at the DC Capital Fringe Festival. Another one of my starts is graduating from my MFA program in the midst of the pandemic. And yet another start is when I was in high school and an acquaintance (who later became one of my best friends) encouraged me to audition for Romeo and Juliet (I was the nurse).
Do you have any favorite moments in your career that you'd like to share?
It was very cool that one of my earlier plays, Black Sky, a futuristic sci-fi piece about young women in the woods repairing an electrical grid, won the Parity Productions 2020 Prize/Commission, so I have been workshopping that piece with Parity both in New York and online. It also won some honors with Relative Theatrics in Laramie, Wyoming, and the Madison New Works Lab in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It’s been very cool to see all the different iterations of this play with different casts and directors, and how folks around the country are interacting with it in multiple ways.
What have you found is the biggest challenge in your career?
Because of its highly collaborative nature and dependence on other people and institutions, playwriting can feel like a long waiting game. I’m learning how to find autonomy for myself as an artist – how to continue making what I want to make, for audiences I want to engage with, and in ways that are accessible for those audiences. When I started in theatre, I did it for my friends, for the magic of the stage, for the way it brought us all together. Some of my most cherished relationships are from folks in the theatre, even if they no longer practice theatre. I believe this is why I continue on as a theatre artist, in hopes that my works will bring people together, connect them, and flourish in new directions I could have never foreseen, even if those directions are beyond the stage.
Do you have any organizations or non profits you work with you’d like to highlight?
I’d like to highlight the work of the Liyang Network: https://www.liyangnetwork.org/ -- they were founded in 2019 in Mindanao, Philippines, and much of their work focuses on human and environmental rights, placing a special focus on the Lumad people. My mom grew up in Mindanao as a settler from the northern part of the Philippines, and I’ve never been able to visit this part of her homeland. I also want to rectify the displacement that native peoples there faced from other settlers of the Philippines, while still honoring the gifts that the place gave my family for several generations. As a Filipina American in the diaspora, my involvement with the Liyang Network is one way to do so.
Did you have any interesting “odd jobs” you worked at between gigs to pay the bills?
I worked as a historical site interpreter at a popular museum (meaning that I wore petticoats and told people interesting facts about early American history while they waited in line). I’ve also had odd jobs campaigning for a local political candidate, working at museums, and selling beer at a football game in DC.
If you come from parents who aren’t in the arts, what parts of them do you see in yourself that have helped you succeed in the business?
My mom was a journalist, so not quite the arts, but certainly a writer, and her journalistic sensibilities have certainly influenced me and the way I work. My dad also has a wandering sensibility (in the states he worked in finance, in Romania he worked as an international tour guide), and between the two of them, I think they both had big, romantic dreams and welcomed unconventionality, and I think that sense of imagination, wonder, and eccentricity has found its way into my writing and artistic lifestyle.
Do you have any self care practices you do to stay focused and sane? What was your self care routine before the pandemic and how has that (as well as your views of self care) changed throughout the pandemic?
I like activities that are more physical/sensory, so that they can calm down any overthinking. This includes yoga, naps, hot baths, and aromatherapy. I am also a big believer in altars, both to nourish your ancestors and your muses. Caring for yourself also means caring for your ancestors/muses, and vice versa – when you care for your ancestors/muses, you care for yourself!
How do you deal with writer's block?
I take a nap, wander around, or try to otherwise absorb new information (like watching movies or going to another part of town) – essentially, either something to relax or something to make me alert in a different way than simply focusing on the issue with the story.
When you are creating a story, what is your process for putting a storyline together?
I love to generate tons of free-flowing pages, then examine them for emergent structures and themes. I love research: in libraries, in databases, through interviews or fieldwork. My undergrad degree was in anthropology, so I tend to approach my plays like a cultural anthropologist entering a new site and culture, and for me this means plenty of observation, participation, listening, and recording.
To find out more about Amanda, please visit her at:
New Play Exchange: https://newplayexchange.org/users/3459/amanda-l-andrei
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