Alicia Swiz Interviews Calamity West About Her New Play, ROLLING

Jackalope Theatre Company

Would you mind sharing a bit about choosing to use a pen name? How that is a part of your writing process? Or identity as a creator?

The name came to me in a dream shortly after landing in Chicago by way of San Francisco.

How does the name impact my writing process? It doesn’t. My process is working as hard and as much as I can. That’s nameless.

How does it affect my identity as a creator? It allows me to remain anonymous in a really fulfilling way. It separates my private-self and my writer-self.

I read an interview with your alma mater Webster University where you cited being introduced to hip-hop as influential in your first year as a playwright. What song/album/artist was your first taste?

Stankonia. Outkast.

I didn’t come across it until years after it had been released…but in college that was the one that bit me the hardest.

Andre 3000 and Big Boi were my spiritual guides into the world of hip-hop. Through them I found Kanye, Jay-Z, Lupe Fiasco, Missy Elliot, Busta Rhymes, Salt N Pepa, ODB, Wu-Tang, Rick Ross, Young Danny Brown, Lil Wayne (bow down), Kendrick Lamar…the journey is never ending. Hip-Hop keeps me going.

In that same interview, you advised against reading reviews – I feel the same way about comments. What other boundaries or self-care tactics do you practice in support of your creative process?

I pray to God everyday.

Meditate on the temporariness of Everything.
Meditate on the importance of Everything.
Meditate on The Truth that vanity is nothing and Authenticity is everything.

Dedicate myself to supporting and loving everything and everyone around me as best I can.

But at the end of the day the best form of “self-care” I can think of is finding out who I am and staying true to that. Which of course is easier said than done because as a writer I’m constantly having to grow and change to generate the best work I can.

Do you identify as a feminist? Would you say that Rolling is a feminist play?

I am a feminist and am constantly amazed that this question is still being asked by anyone anywhere.

I have to differentiate myself from people who DON’T believe in gender equality?


I’ll do it: I. Am. A. Feminist.
I don’t know how else to be.
I think and see and breathe through that lens – so it’s impossible for any of my plays to not be created through that lens. ROLLING is no exception to this.

Sexual assault is arguably an epidemic in American culture – particularly in the lives of women. What was your research process like with what must have been endless source material?

Sexual assault isn’t an epidemic, it’s a pandemic.

As is the objectification of women,violence against women – physically, socially, intellectually, conversationally…

And while ROLLING was inspired by Sabrina Rubin-Erdely’s disappearance after her article “A Rape On Campus” was retracted, the play itself is not about that article.

The play is a complete work of fiction.

It’s a family drama that explores the inheritance of misogyny.
It explores the unlearning of misogyny.
It explores the difference between public and private misogyny.

When you write, especially when taking on controversial and highly personal topics like sexual assault, is there a concern of the backlash or critical response?

If you asked me that three years ago I suspect the answer would have been “yes.”

But growing up a bit I realize that it doesn’t matter what I write; I’m always going to receive backlash because I’m a young woman who writes in a medium primarily dominated by men. Therefore everything I do is going to be seen as subversive.

So my game plan has become: work and turn off the noise. And that seems to be working okay.

 Is there a particular message you’d like the audience to take away from Rolling?

I would like my audiences to walk away from ROLLING examining their own misogyny with an urgency to eliminate it.

What are some of your favorite things about being an artist in Chicago?

Chicago is grounded.
Chicago is real.
Chicago is affordable.
Chicago is smart.
Chicago is supportive.
Chicago is beautiful.

These things put together make up a perfect storm for creation.

I can’t think of another place I would like to be.

 If you could bring any one person’s story to the stage whose would it be?

Amy Winehouse.

ROLLING premieres February 24th, 2016. Get tickets