Supporting creative work by women
Sandy Rustin‘s latest play The Cottage is currently on the boards at APAC in Queens. Described as a Noel Coward-esque farce, The Cottage follows Sylvia as she decides to announce her affair to her husband and her lover’s wife. Sandy is also known for creating the musical Rated P (for parenthood) with Dan Lipton and David Rossmer.
Sandy spoke with Works by Women about APAC, juggling motherhood with a creative career and her upcoming TV projects.
WORKS BY WOMEN: Tell me about the inspiration for The Cottage.
I saw a cartoon image in The New Yorker about a decade ago that depicted a woman draped across a chaisse lounge and a man in a tuxedo (bow tie undone) standing above her. It was very Noel Coward-esque. The image sparked ideas for two characters, Beau and Sylvia. I jotted it down and set it aside. Then, last fall, when I sat down to write a new play, I scrolled through past ideas, and rediscovered Beau and Sylvia. And from that, in combination with my love for this genre, The Cottage was born.
WBW: Its world premiere is at APAC. What has it been like working with the award-winning company?
SR: APAC – and specifically (Artistic Director) Tom Wojtunik and (Production Manager) Annie Jacobs – are incredible to work with. Warm, nurturing, encouraging, thought provoking. I can’t say enough good things about my experience with APAC. I give them an A(pac) Plus. (Ew, that was bad).
WBW: You are a writer, actor and mom. How do you juggle it all? What is the best advice you have received about juggling everything?
SR: The best advice is that it’s impossible. There’s never a day where at the end I think to myself, “Well, wasn’t that perfect! I was so good at everything equally today!” NEVER. GONNA. HAPPEN. I think all working parents experience life in waves of focus. Some days I’m able to just be with my kids and fully engaged all day, and I love it. And other days, I’m working all day – and I love that too. Most days, it’s a balance of both and I try to stay as present as possible wherever I am. Most kids today have parents who work. It’s the modern reality of the family structure. I’m glad I love what I do, because I get to show my kids that they can grow up to be adults who love their work.
Also, my husband is a true partner in the raising of our kids. We share the responsibility of work and childcare. So – we have each others’ backs.
And last, but seriously not least, a shout out to Katie, our babysitter. If I didn’t have the confidence that during the hours that I’m not home, my kids were being so well cared for, I absolutely wouldn’t be able to do what I do.
WBW: You have a few TV projects in the works. What is the latest on those?
SR: Most immediately, I am in production for a new series I’ve written and will be performing in for Nickelodeon’s new network, Nick Mom, called Overbooked. And Rated P … for parenthood (the musical I wrote the book and lyrics to) has recently been optioned by ABC Studios for television development.
WBW: What are the challenges facing women in American theater?
SR: I hate to speak for all American women in theater. I think the theater is a wide open playing field filled with mostly open minded, liberal thinking individuals. I have never found my femininity an obstacle, but that’s not to say other women haven’t had different experiences. For me, my creativity doesn’t stem from gender. So my gender has never factored in to how I’ve experienced my profession. Maybe I just mean to say, I haven’t noticed my gender helping or impeding my career. I come to my place in the theater as a woman, with a decidedly female perspective. I’ve never found that to be anything other than my reality.
WBW: What gives you hope for women in American theater?
SR: The world of theater is a shining spot in our society, where rules are bendable, unpredictable, and immaterial. Creativity is the guiding force. So, truly, most anything goes. I think the world of theater is not divided by gender, but defined by humanity. My hope is that women in theater continue to bring their humanity to the stage.
The Cottage runs through November 23rd at APAC in Queens. For tickets and more information, visit APAC’s website.