Erin O’Malley, Communications and Engagement Associate for The Sachs Program, recently interviewed writer and performer Cecilia Corrigan (C’ 2010). This is a feature in a series The Sachs Program is developing around alumni and their work in the arts.
Alumni Spotlight on Cecilia Corrigan
What’s a project you’re exciting to be working on right now?
I’m currently developing an adaptation of Moliere’s The Misanthrope with Bedlam Theater Company, which I’ll also be performing in when it goes up in New York. It’s a version of the Moliere play about catty courtiers in 17th century France, reimagined with catty creative professionals in 21st century New York. I’m very excited about it.
I’m also developing a TV project based on Le Balm, the web series I wrote and acted in last year. The new project is a half-hour show that combines some of my favorite genres (murder mystery, family drama, international intrigue, and the darker side of makeup tutorials).
You write, act, and produce. How have being able to do all three impacted the art you create?
My background in poetry and the art world trained me to think more creatively about what’s possible in order to make an idea a reality, and as a result, I’ve been able to learn a lot of these skills through experience. The first short I ever made, Crush, was a totally independent enterprise, and we were incredibly lucky to end up with the talent and support that the project eventually attracted, having started from scratch. Since that project, I’ve continued acting and writing original projects, with Motherland, a play I developed as Artist in Residence at Issue Project Room which went on to be staged at the Brick theater, and Le Balm. My experience with being involved in multiple aspects of a project has really made me appreciate how much of a team effort it is to put together a final product. I love working this way, but as I’ve had more opportunity for support, I’ve also come to appreciate how great it feels to have enough support to be able to focus on one thing at a time.
Who are some of your icons?
I’ve been incredibly lucky in that a lot of the people I’ve looked up to and admired over the years have become my friends, or I’ve had the chance to work with them creatively. Nowadays, I often get a thrill from reading, watching, and being inspired by people I actually know, and getting to fangirl out to them in person. When I was a senior at Penn, we spent a semester studying the TV writer David Milch’s work, which made him pretty iconic in my mind, and then I ended up getting the chance to work with him on his new show! What’s intimidating and mystical about people I’m inspired by from afar isn’t necessarily diminished by closer proximity, but my interest becomes much more about studying how creative people keep themselves going. I don’t agree with the idea that you shouldn’t meet your heroes—sometimes they end up being your mentors or friends. And if they disappoint you, you can get new heroes. I still have my celebrity icons though. For instance, I love Catherine O’Hara so much that when I ran into her in Soho once, I told her so. She cracked up.
How have you grown as an artist and as a person since being at Penn?
I think I’ve grown a lot since my time at Penn; I haven’t gotten any taller, but in other ways. Like a lot of people, I thought I knew who I was and what I wanted when I graduated, and I spent the next few years surprising myself. For instance, I never would have predicted that getting a first book prize for Titanic would lead to discovering I loved performing comedy, which I found out as my poetry readings shifted more and more into stand up. At this point, I feel very clear about what I want for my career and future, and it’s a very different picture than the one I had eight years ago. I don’t think I could have predicted that I’d have so many diverse opportunities to create my work in such a short time: being a writer in residence for my first book of poetry, working in a TV writers room, attending a PhD program at NYU, and working on set as an actor.
What’s in your future (either short-term or long-term)?
I’ll be going into rehearsal for The Misanthrope, which will be going up sometime next year, plus acting and writing a few other projects. More long term, I’d like to keep writing and acting, and for my work to reach more and more people. Someday I’d love to be in a position to support other people’s work by starting a production company. Beyond that I can’t make any promises except that I’ll keep brushing my teeth and walking my dog!